What Are Tomato Hornworms (Manduca Quinquemaculata) ?

As their name suggests, hornworms have a small “horn” protruding from their back end. This distinguishes them from other caterpillars, which don’t have this feature.

The tobacco and tomato hornworm are stout-bodied and can grow 4 inches long. While their coloring varies slightly, both types of hornworms are primarily green with white or yellow stripes running along their sides.

Hornworms are the caterpillar stage of the hawk moth, and both tobacco and tomato hornworms turn into this giant, nocturnal moths.

Hornworms are ravenous eaters that can quickly strip a plant of its leaves and cause significant damage. They can destroy a crop if they are not stopped in time.

In addition to feeding on tomatoes and tobacco, tomato and tobacco hornworms will also consume pepper, potato, eggplant, and other solanaceous crops. Tomato and tobacco hornworms are particularly destructive to their namesake plants.

When feeding, hornworms can spread plant viruses, which is another problem they cause in addition to the damage they do to crops.

The tomato hornworm is one of the most destructive pests that can infest tomato plants. They can quickly strip a plant of its leaves, and their ravenous appetite for the plant’s foliage means they can cause significant damage in a relatively short amount of time.

To make matters even worse, they can create holes in the fruit by chewing on it, rendering it unmarketable.

You must look for adult moths to keep your garden healthy and free of pests. These insects can lay eggs which will hatch into larvae that can wreak havoc on your plants. You can save and keep your plants healthy by eliminating the need for pesticides.

Get a jump on the season by starting your caterpillar colony early. This way, you can have them ready to go when the weather is right for them.

Larvae hatch and feed at different rates, so you can customize the timing to match your needs. For example, if you want to have them ready for a specific event, you can adjust the feeding schedule accordingly.

Cocoons overwinter, so you don’t have to worry about them during the cold months. This means they will be ready to go as soon as the weather warms up again.

Warm weather means shorter larval periods – more hatching, eating, and spinning in a shorter time frame! This is perfect for those who want to have a lot of caterpillars ready to go at once.

You can take many measures to protect your garden from the damage caused by moths. In the late spring, keeping a sharp eye out for them is the most critical thing that can be done.

When living in warmer climates, take precautions to prevent your plants and vegetables from being consumed by pests because they may have more than one generation per year.

How to identify tomato hornworms (Manduca quinquemaculata)?

The tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) is a common pest of tomatoes and other plants in the nightshade family.

Easily identified by its large size (up to 4 inches long) and distinctive coloring, the hornworm’s body is bright green with white stripes running down its sides.

At the back end of the hornworm’s body is a black “horn” protruding from each side. Tomato hornworms are often found on the underside of leaves, blending in well with the foliage.

Tomato hornworms are voracious eaters and can quickly decimate a tomato plant—the caterpillar strips off the leaves of the plant, leaving behind only the leaf veins. If left unchecked, a single tomato hornworm can destroy an entire plant.

The tobacco hornworm has a black “horn” on its posterior end, while the tomato hornworm has a red “horn.” The tobacco hornworm has diagonal white stripes running down its sides, while the tomato hornworm has V-shaped markings.

Caterpillars of both species are voracious feeders and can quickly defoliate a tomato plant. Both species pupate in the soil and emerge as moths.

The tobacco hornworm moth is brown with transparent wings, while the tomato hornworm moth is dark gray with white markings on its wings.

Hornworms are the larvae of a sphinx moth. They are large (up to 4 inches long), green, and have horns on their heads. Hornworms can be easy to spot as they move slowly across the ground, looking for food. Once they find food, they will start eating immediately. Hornworms pupate quickly, usually within two weeks, and emerge as moths.

Hornworms can benefit your garden as they help transform your garden with beautiful caterpillars. However, if you have too many hornworms, they can quickly strip your plants of leaves.

The pupa, two inches long and dark brown, is formed 3-4 inches into the soil by full-grown larvae. A sheath for the mouthparts projects from the head of the pupa and curves downward like a pitcher’s handle.


Caterpillars come in all shapes and sizes, but the tomato hornworm is one of the most destructive. These large caterpillars can quickly strip a tomato plant of its leaves and fruit, causing severe damage to the plant. Hornworms are yellow or white with black stripes and can reach up to 4 inches in length.

The best way to protect your tomato plants from these hungry caterpillars is to handpick them from the garden as soon as you see them. This may require patience, but it is the best way to keep your plants healthy and productive.

Adult Moths

Adult moths are giant, hairy insects with four to five inches wingspan. They are mottled gray-brown with yellow spots on the sides of their abdomen, making them strikingly beautiful. Their large size and hairy bodies can scare away potential predators. T

heir antennae are very sensitive, allowing them to detect food from a long distance. Adult moths are nocturnal creatures, active at night when they can use their keen sense of smell to locate food sources.

During the day, they hide in dark places like under rocks or in tree bark. When night falls, they emerge to feed on nectar from flowers or the juices of fruits and vegetables.

Some species of adult moths even feed on the blood of animals! While they may seem frightening, adult moths are harmless to humans.

The life cycle of tomato hornworms

Tomato hornworms go through four stages in their life cycle: egg, caterpillar, pupa, and moth. The female moths lay their eggs on the leaves of tomato plants, and the eggs hatch a few days later.

The newly hatched caterpillars begin to feed immediately and continue to increase. After a few weeks, the mature caterpillars drop off the plants and burrow into the soil.

They remain in the pupal stage over winter, and they emerge as moths in spring. The moth’s mate and lay eggs, starting a new generation of caterpillars.

The second generation of caterpillars continues to feed until late summer or early fall. They then pupate in the soil and remain dormant through winter. In spring, they emerge as moths and begin the cycle anew.

Damage caused by tomato hornworms

Tomato hornworms can rapidly defoliate plants and produce droppings that are either dark green or black and are very obvious.

Tomato hornworms that are older are capable of eating several leaves in addition to the fruit. As they grow larger, there is a corresponding increase in the amount of defoliation.

The final stage of the caterpillar, known as the pupa, consumes almost as much food as all of the earlier stages combined. If you notice any warning signs, you must take preventative measures as soon as possible to save your plants!

How to Prevent tomato hornworms?

During the summer, it is essential to inspect plants for tomato hornworms at least twice per week.

Tomato hornworms are a common pest in gardens and can cause significant damage to plants. There are several ways to protect your plants; here are some of the most effective ways to protect your plants from tomato hornworms.

modify the environment

The best way to prevent tomato hornworms from devastating your garden is to remove weeds and till the soil after harvest.

Encourage healthy plant growth and discourage pests with the proper water and nutrients.

If you see signs of pests, act quickly to remove them before they cause too much damage.

Hand Picks hornworms off plants

Another great way to control hornworms is to pick them off by hand. This may seem daunting, but it’s pretty easy to do. Inspect your plants regularly for signs of damage or infestation. If you see a hornworm, pick it off and dispose of it.

If you want to keep your plants free of hornworms, you must be vigilant in removing them as soon as you see them. Tomato hornworms are easy to find because of their large size.

Drop them into soapy water to kill them. This is the most effective means of managing them. You can easily keep your plants free of these pests with no harsh chemicals.

Natural enemies can help manage hornworms

Fortunately, there are some simple and effective ways to control the population of these destructive pests. One of the most effective methods is introducing natural predators into your garden. Ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps effectively control hornworm populations.

Using pesticides

If pesticides are used, choose a product labeled explicitly for caterpillars on tomatoes and follow the directions carefully. Bacillus thuringiensis (“Bt”) is a biological insecticide effective against many caterpillars, including tomato hornworms. Insecticidal soap can also be effective if sprayed directly on caterpillars.

Many strains of Bt are available; consult your local garden center or Extension Service office for recommendations on what strain is currently most effective on hornworms.

Residual insecticides

Residual insecticides kill harmful and beneficial insects, so only one application is necessary.

Broad-spectrum pesticides are longer lasting, making them a more efficient choice.

Pyrethroids are some of the most common types of residual insecticides and are known for their effectiveness.

Residual insecticides can be applied to indoor and outdoor areas, making them a versatile tool in pest control.

Be sure to read the label carefully before use and follow all safety precautions to avoid harm to yourself or others.

Biological Controls

They can cause significant damage to crops and gardens as they eat leaves and fruit. Hornworms can be controlled through parasitic wasps, which lay their eggs inside the body of the caterpillars.

The larvae of the wasps then eat out through the skin and spin cocoons on the caterpillar surface. Adult wasps later cut out circular lids.

Encourage Natural Predators

One way to control hornworms in your garden is to encourage natural predators. Birds love to eat hornworms and other garden pests, so consider adding a birdbath or birdhouse to your backyard. You can also attract beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings, which prey on hornworms, by planting nectar-rich flowers.

Rotate Crops

Rotating your crops is an easy and natural way to reduce the pupae population in your garden. Planting your vegetables in a different location each year will make it harder for hornworms to find their favorite food sources. Additionally, rotating your crops will lessen the number of eggs in the soil.

Till Soil Annually

Tilling the soil every year is one of the best ways to prevent hornworms from causing damage to your garden. By destroying the worms before they have a chance to lay eggs, you can avoid dealing with them in the future. Roto-tilling in either late fall or spring is an easy way to accomplish this, and it will give you peace of mind knowing that your soil is free of worms and their eggs.

Make Your Repellant

One of the most effective natural controls for tomato hornworms is a homemade repellant made from garlic, chili peppers, and water. This repellant will keep tomato hornworms away and discourage other pests such as aphids, whiteflies, and cabbage loopers.

Mix 1 minced garlic clove, one teaspoon of crushed chili peppers, and 1 cup of water to make your repellant. Let the mixture sit for at least an hour, then strain it and add it to a spray bottle. Apply the repellant to your plants every few days or as needed.

In addition to using a repellant, you can also take steps to attract natural predators of tomato hornworms to your garden. Ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps effectively control hornworm populations. You can purchase these beneficial insects from many garden centers and online retailers.

Use Companion Planting

Companion planting is a natural way to get rid of tomato hornworms. Basil and borage planted close to tomatoes improve their flavor while discouraging hornworms. Marigolds release a chemical into the soil that deters many pests, including hornworms. You can also try planting asparagus near your tomatoes to keep hornworms away.

Parsley, Dill, Mustard, and Marigolds also make great companion plants for removing tomato hornworms.

What Causes Tomato Hornworms?

The larvae of the sphinx moth cause tomato hornworms. The moths lay their eggs on the underside of leaves, and the larvae hatch and feed on the foliage of plants. In North America, they commonly feed on tomato plants, but they can also be found on potato, pepper, eggplant, and tobacco plants.

The adult moths are nocturnal creatures with wingspan of 3 to 4 inches. They are dark-colored with white stripes running along their abdomen. The female moths will lay hundreds of tiny eggs on the undersides of leaves. Once hatched, the caterpillars can grow up to 4 inches long and are bright green with white stripes running along their bodies. They have a black “horn” on their rear end, where they get their name.

Tomato Hornworms vs. Tobacco Hornworms

Tomato and tobacco hornworms are both common pests of tomato and tobacco plants. These voracious eaters can quickly strip a plant of its foliage, leaving it weakened and vulnerable to disease.

Both types of hornworms have a green or black body with white or yellow stripes running down their sides. Tomato hornworms are slightly smaller than tobacco hornworms and have seven diagonal stripes. Tobacco hornworms have five diagonal stripes.

Hornworms can be challenging to control because they can rapidly strip a plant of its leaves. Handpicking them off your plants is one option, but this can be time-consuming and difficult if you have a large infestation.

Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, is a biological insecticide that can be effective against hornworms. Bt is available in liquid and granular formulations and must be ingested by the pest to be effective.

Do tomato hornworms bite or sting?

Hornworms are not dangerous to humans. They may look ferocious, but they are, in fact, gentle creatures. The horn-like projection is not sharp enough to pierce the skin, so handling a hornworm is not dangerous. However, it may be uncomfortable for some people.

How long do hornworms live?

Hornworms have a relatively short lifespan of 3-4 weeks. However, they can cause a lot of damage during that time. There are two generations of hornworms per year, and each one goes through its entire life cycle in just a few weeks.

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