Tomato Hornworm with Rice-like Eggs
These hornworms really chap my hide in the summer time! I can have beautiful, healthy tomato plants one day and then see them reduced to green lace a few days later because of these ravenous culprits. Hornworms have a voracious appetite!
Tomato Hornworms are 3-4" long green caterpillars with diagonal lines on sides, prominent horn on rear end. They are the larvae of 2 large moths: the Hawkmoth and the Sphinx moth and overwinter in the soil in the pupal stage. Adult moths appear in late spring and lay single, pearl colored eggs on the undersides of plant leaves that hatch in about a week. Larvae feed on foliage for about a month before they enter the soil and pupate. They can be difficult to spot as coloring matches plant. Look for them on the undersides of leaf-stripped branches. They can easily be hand-picked and destroyed or if infestation is severe, use Bt (Bacillius thuringiensis) dust.
Braconid wasps will kill these caterpillars by implanting rice-like eggs on their backs and Trichogramma wasps parasitize the eggs. Ahhhh, another example of the great "Circle of Life."