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Green caterpillar with horn on his arse.

 
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I captured this guy today on a cottonwood tree.  He's over an inch long and has a spike on his back end.  

The picture is taken on a large cottonwood tree leaf, so it makes him look smaller than he is.

Anyone recognize this guy?
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TOMATO HORNWORM

DESTROY DESTROY DESTROY DESTROY DESTROY!!!

Feed directly to your chickens or whang with a brick on a hard packed ground surface

They can be tiny and in a few days grow to thicker and longer than your thumb.
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A few days more eating
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Caterpillar, pupae, moth
 
r ranson
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Looking at the book, he's more likely a Smerinthus cerisy or Eyed Sphinx moth.  He eats willow and poplar.  There was lots of willow near where we found him.  No tomatoes.

I'm going to keep him and see what kind of cocoon he makes (so long as I can figure out what he eats).  He's the right shape and colour to be a wild silk moth... don't know if he is or not.
 
r ranson
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Although he does look suspiciously like that tomato worm.  I don't think we have them here.  I might have to ask the guys at bugguide.com for help.
 
Deb Rebel
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Hope you're right. I've found the tomato horn worms that small, before they ate half a tomato plant in one day while I was distracted.

Keep us posted. If where you found it (whatever plant or leaf) had been partly eaten, you can assume it will eat that.
 
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It seems to be a Smerinthus cerisyi. It's usually found on poplar and willow.
 
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Quick note: if you do find a tomato hornworm and it has a lot of little cocoon like things on its back, DO NOT DESTROY, those are beneficial braconid wasps that feed on hornworms and while emerge to rain vengeance upon many hornworms
 
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There are many species of Sphinx Moth - please don't kill them unless they are on your tomato plants.  I move them to Devil's Claw plants, the only non-tomato-relative plant that Tomato Hornworms will eat.  I think they are cute and the moths are beautiful, so I don't like to kill them.

https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/taxonomy/Sphingidae
 
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And a beauty at that.

Smerinthus cerisyi
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smerinthus_cerisyi
 
Deb Rebel
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I'm afraid I've had too many hornworm issues and the only time I see something looking like that I have a gorgeous tomato plant it has eaten half of and turned into something the size of thumb. This year I had my peppers predated as well. So that's  my first reaction--I've not seen anything else like them elsewhere and smaller.

I do like 'hummy moths' the little ones Tyler Ludens shared a picture of. They like my dianthus.
 
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Yes, Tyler's photo is of a White-Lined sphinx, and they also adore anti-cancer periwinkles in Florida. Since the tomato hornworm is a specialist, many needless deaths could be prevented if people were educated. Smerinthus cerisyi on poplar (including cottonwood) are also doing anti-cancer (anti-viral?) according to their particular physiology: spring poplar bud exudates are highly methylated, and this methylation indeed links to cancer chemistry in humans.
 
r ranson
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I found him a friend.  Any thoughts on how to keep them alive?  I put them in a pickle jar with cheesecloth on top.  I put a selection of leave from near where I found them.  They like the cottonwood best.  I was thinking to give them fresh leaves each morning and clean out the old.

 
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We (all these authors in the head) suggest more air than a jar. A screen cage was used in Florida approx. 16" x 16"with a removable top. Cottonwood leaves still attached to the stem placed in a jar which has been sealed with cotton, etc. to keep the larvae from falling into the jar.

On another note, Florida crackers simply crush the eggs of tomato hornworm when found on the underside of leaves, latex gloves or not. This is the "labor intensive" (joke) price one pays to boycott pesticides. Akin to Mexican peach pickers, one can get so good at it that the leaf of the crrshed eggs can still perform photosynthesis.
 
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These are the two sites I use to identify caterpillars when I find any that I don't know on sight.

discover life caterpillars

caterpillars in pictures

So many of the "horned" caterpillars look similar, and they can vary in looks region to region, you just about need a guide book to be sure on most of them.

Redhawk
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:There are many species of Sphinx Moth - please don't kill them unless they are on your tomato plants.  I move them to Devil's Claw plants, the only non-tomato-relative plant that Tomato Hornworms will eat.  I think they are cute and the moths are beautiful, so I don't like to kill them.



The moths are impressive. Unfortunate that their children are so voracious. I can attest that they will also strip cauliflower down to sticks.  I've sometimes wondered if putting a cheesecloth bag over the most-tempting plants would suffice to keep these moths at bay, since they're so large.

Something got all but one of my tomato plants this year, and they were started a bit late... that one survivor, NOTHING chewed on. Nothing even taste-tested it. Not hornworms (we have lots of the moths), not grasshoppers (which were a plague this year and denuded the potato plants right next to it), not cutworms, not mice -- nothing. I wanted to save seeds because this seems a useful trait, but it also bloomed late and is just now setting its first fruit! and we already had a partial freeze (scorched about half the plant) so I dug it up and put it in a bucket so I can bring it in at night. It's not happy, but still hanging on... now if it'll keep going long enough to mature at least a couple fruits...

 
Deb Rebel
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Rez Zircon wrote:

Tyler Ludens wrote:There are many species of Sphinx Moth - please don't kill them unless they are on your tomato plants.  I move them to Devil's Claw plants, the only non-tomato-relative plant that Tomato Hornworms will eat.  I think they are cute and the moths are beautiful, so I don't like to kill them.



The moths are impressive. Unfortunate that their children are so voracious. I can attest that they will also strip cauliflower down to sticks.  I've sometimes wondered if putting a cheesecloth bag over the most-tempting plants would suffice to keep these moths at bay, since they're so large.

Something got all but one of my tomato plants this year, and they were started a bit late... that one survivor, NOTHING chewed on. Nothing even taste-tested it. Not hornworms (we have lots of the moths), not grasshoppers (which were a plague this year and denuded the potato plants right next to it), not cutworms, not mice -- nothing. I wanted to save seeds because this seems a useful trait, but it also bloomed late and is just now setting its first fruit! and we already had a partial freeze (scorched about half the plant) so I dug it up and put it in a bucket so I can bring it in at night. It's not happy, but still hanging on... now if it'll keep going long enough to mature at least a couple fruits...



Rez, go through your plant and see if you have any suckers. Get a fluted bottom 2 liter soda bottle (bottom half flares inward slightly, makes grabbing onto it easier) and carefully cut at the bottom edge of the flat upper part. Then cut the lower fluted part at about middle of the curving inwards part. Be neat. Take label off upper part. Rinse and let dry. Find a pot that will fit in there and give some headroom. Fill pot with some good grade presoaked soilless potting mix, a little worm castings if you have. Do not use compost for this. Cut your sucker, strip to 2-4 leaves-think conservative. Dip in some cloning medium (one cheap aspirin crushed and dissolved in a cup of room temperature water), stick your finger to near bottom of pot then put your cutting in and firm it in. Put the bottle top over the bottom. It should fit over nicely. Put in bright but not direct light. Check to keep damp but not overly soaked. It should take and grow you an identical clone of your tomato plant. I would say start several. When it is growing new leaves nicely, take the soda bottle cap off but leave the cover on for a few days. It needs to adapt. When you take the top off, pay attention to it for a few days that it doesn't pout or wilt. If it does right away put the cover back on for a few more days, and water it a little when you put the cap back on. (that's partly a sign it doesn't have enough roots yet). You can uppot that a few times over the winter, and take more suckers if needed to start smaller new plants, to keep it alive until it can go out again. That's a fantastic trait and worth effort to keep a part of it alive long enough to get fruit and seed. You might also want to bag blooms and do the fertilizing yourself with a q-tip and rebag the blooms until fruitset. That way you know what the parentage is going into your seed. If you were close I'd visit you and beg for a few suckers to try to keep it alive. This may be very much worth all this work, else I wouldn't suggest it. Please consider it.

Edit to add: I found a hornworm yesterday, very late in the season. It was very cold and they hadn't eaten much yet but it was removed to a funeral with extreme prejudice.

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not too big yet, side
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head end
 
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The best organic control is thuricide which is a bacteria that only kills the larval stage of moths on your plants. It is effective very quickly. I've had them in my greenhouse eating so voraciously that I can easily hear them eating.
 
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Morning all.  My observations of tomato hornworms are that they indeed love tomatoes. And flowering tobacco! (Nicotiana Alata) .  No hormworms in my central Ontario garden this year.  Picking bugs, esp hornworms and potato beetles are ICKY!

I planted a lot of zinnias this year and  because we are getting an extended warm season, they are many many monarchs and other furry moths floating onto the zinnias to feed. Also saw a hummingbird moth this year! Thank-you to those that plant host plants for our insect populations!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Our chickens love the tomato horn worms we toss to them, we have other horn worms but they don't bother our food plants and thus are welcome to eat what they need.
We currently have three varieties of Humming bird moths that live on our land along with many butterflies.
We consider all living things have the right to live their life and the only ones we deal with are those that create issues with our food supply or are a threat to our lives.
Even those that we have to destroy are given an apology and explanation of why they have to go.

 
r ranson
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I've been keeping my two new friends in a shallow container with a large window cut out of it and some extra fine cheesecloth protecting them from escaping.  Of the leaves I give them, they eat the cottonwood and the willow.  I give them fresh leaves each day and clean out their poop (of which there is a lot).  Yesterday they were both laying on the bottom of the container instead of hanging out in the leaves, and were lethargic.  And yet, there was still leaves eaten and poop.  I hope they are just resting after a huge supper and not dead.  
 
Bryant RedHawk
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As long as they are getting enough moisture and air they should be fine and you just caught them in the food coma that happens every day.

Most caterpillars do this routine; chow down constantly until they can eat no more, then they look comatose until their systems have digested upon which point they poop and start eating again.
One thing you need to do is monitor their growth, as they get towards the size of the caterpillar in Alice in wonderland, you will want to put in some sticks for them to make their cocoon on.
The chrysalis will be their home as they go through the change into moth (about 30 days for most).
 
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Deb Rebel wrote:That's a fantastic trait and worth effort to keep a part of it alive long enough to get fruit and seed. You might also want to bag blooms and do the fertilizing yourself with a q-tip and rebag the blooms until fruitset. That way you know what the parentage is going into your seed. If you were close I'd visit you and beg for a few suckers to try to keep it alive.



Yeah, anything that starving grasshoppers won't touch is a miracle If someone wants to come to Billings Montana (well, Laurel, up the road a few miles) and rescue it, it's all yours!

I'm not sure what qualifies as a sucker vs a branch -- do you mean the kind that have a bit of a knob at the base rather than being smoothly joined? It has both.

This tomato has a honkin' big root and a stiffly-upright branching habit. I think it's probably a beefsteak hybrid -- it's had a few of those fused beefsteak-type flowers. So it may be a sport. The good news is, I have more seed, but the bad news is I can't find my chart that lists which plant came from which seed -- could be from any of several commercial packets,, or saved-storebought. Next year I'll plant one of each, leave 'em to their own devices, and see if I get another that nothing chews on.

I was just in Laurel yesterday and there's no potting mix of any sort to be seen. I was actually looking for grass seed (had to raid Walmart, Tractor Supply, and Ace Hardware to find any at all!), but the shelves are already winter-bare of planting stuff. (Might be some in Billings, but not going that far til I can get my truck's leaking radiator fixed. Which might be a while.)

What I have to hand:
-- contractor's sand, the kind they put in sandbags and sell at Home Depot.
-- Burpee "natural seed starting mix" -- finely-ground coconut coir. It sucks up water well, and drains well, tho it doesn't hold shape at all so is tough to transplant (really needs peat pots. I have some styro cups, easy enough to poke holes in.)

I don't drink soda so I'll have to raid Walmart's trash for pop bottles.

The next nearest garden is about 200 feet away, usually downwind, and with buildings between, and far as I've seen the bees from down below don't go that far, and I don't see bees coming from that direction either. So pretty doubtful I get any external pollination.

 
Deb Rebel
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The knobby base is the kind you want.

You can use garden dirt, just shy of 2/3, coir just shy of 1/3, and a bit of sand. I have a spouse that drinks soda and I hoard his bottles... he complains until I do a good run and use up a lot of my starter cloches.

I have a non-like for peat pots as roots do NOT grow through them as well as claimed and they don't break down like they should. I have dug out intact peat pots looking almost brand new after a year in the ground. I use recycled drink cups from a church group so they get another use at least. I donate some baked goods to one of their fundraisers in return for saving some cups for me.

Just make sure your potting mix is well soaked up, 24 hours. Then provide good drainage (my cup pots get holes poked in bottom with old bamboo skewer) but don't let it dry out. Not until it's done well for  few days in open air, coir and peat both like to be water repellant if they get too dry.

That is impressive about the grasshoppers. Pepetuating that tomato plant may be very worth it.

I need to go search today to see if I have any more hornworms. I'm so close to season end I don't need one of those little green (deleted) shutting down a loaded plant on final squat and give forth tomatoes.
 
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Yeah, I've seen that with peat pots -- that's why if it's going to be a permanent planting, I tear the bottom out first. If it's something I'll dig up in the fall anyway, then I leave it intact -- easy way to keep the roots contained, as they generally don't penetrate either. Only exception I've seen came from "Bonnie's Plants" -- got a lemon balm from there (via some local retailer). The peat pot started deteriorating around the bottom almost immediately, and a few months later that peat pot has just about vanished into the dirt. Downside is it radiated water so bad I couldn't keep the plant watered (it wound up as a house plant til I can decide where to put it, since it's invasive) and had to stick it inside a plastic pot -- so I can actually see its condition. Way different from most peat pots. Anyway, I have lots of used styro cups; they get repurposed for all sorts of things and are easy enough to cut as needed.

That water-repellancy is why I don't like most commercial potting products -- what are they made from, plastic??! but this Burpee stuff can be bone-dry and still sucks up water instantly, no need to soak. And the surface gets dry, but underneath it stays damp. I was impressed. -- I have pretty good garden dirt; garden was once a corral tho hasn't had horses in it in decades.

Grasshoppers seem to eat everything but grass. I keep telling them if they'd just mow the lawn we'd get along fine! I like the little buggers, and they're fine fish bait, but they need to stay out of my garden!!

 
Deb Rebel
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I've peeled my share of Bonnie Pots too and I tend to peel the entire pot.

I used a biological on the grasshoppers this year and it really did cut the numbers down. It passes through the population as live ones feast on the sick ones that died and it infects them too. Massive reduction this year. Not total but almost standable.

Nothing seems to stop a hornworm though but catching it in the act, and making it into hornworm pate' or feeding them to chickens. I did notice compared to the first picture that the tomato ones have brighter crisper side markings and a solid green head. The OP's picture the worm has two yellow lines on the head. I found a picture of a Catalpa worm, aka catfish candy, with predator cocoons. Hornworms can get similar, different predator. If you see a catapillar or worm looking like that, don't destroy it, it's brooding natural help for destroying their numbers.



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Catalpa Worm with predator coocoons
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More catalpa worms, no green and spike still icky
 
Rez Zircon
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Holy monster caterpillar..!!

Fun with parasites of all kinds:
http://dailyparasite.blogspot.com/
 
r ranson
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the amazing people at bugguide.net have declared my caterpillar to be

Arthropods (Arthropoda) » Hexapods (Hexapoda) » Insects (Insecta) » Butterflies and Moths (Lepidoptera) » Silkworm, Sphinx, and Royal Moths (Bombycoidea) » Sphinx Moths (Sphingidae)



I'm still not sure if they will make silk for me, but the word silkworm is in the descriptor, so there is hope.


Life Cycle
Usually pupate in soil, though some form loose cocoons among leaf litter.



Does that mean, I should dig at the base of the tree if I want to find cocoons this winter?
 
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what wild caterpillars make silk?  Can we use it for clothing.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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first look in the loose forest litter around the tree trunks, then just below the surface of the soil you would find the hole where they burrowed just a couple of inches to pupate.
 
Rez Zircon
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The Tomato Absolutely Nothing Chewed On is still alive in its bucket, not terribly happy but starting to grow some new shoots (the old had too much frost damage to mess with) and still has that one lonely little green fruit. But I think I've discovered why nothing so much as taste-tested it:

It's the stinkiest tomato alive. It's oily to the touch, and the smell is much stronger than normal, and doesn't wash off easily. Tomatoes all have that "tomato smell" but not like this.

Seems to me that could be fairly easy to select for. What it does to the fruit quality remains to be seen. It was a good bloomer but got started too late to accomplish anything before we had that early hard frost.

I wonder if it is sufficiently concentrated to use as a wash to protect other plants? (like how you can use weed tea as insect repellent). it's obviously not real volatile -- you don't really smell it until you touch the plant, and then it's with you all day like it or not.
 
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