Sphinx Moths – aka – Hummingbird Moth In My Garden (Really Bad News)

It’s mid-summer, if your tomato vines haven’t been attached by hornworns so far this summer consider your self lucky. Be on the lookout, it is time for them to arrive in your garden.
If it matters to you there are really two different hornworms commonly called tomato hornworm. The most common is really the Tobacco hornworm larva and is generally green with seven diagonal white lines on it’s sides with a curved red tipped horn. True Tomato hornworms have eight V-shaped marks on each side and their horn is straighter and blue to black in color. Hornworms are the larvae of hawk or sphinx moths, also known as hummingbird moths. Tobacco hornworm are generelly the most commonly seen of the two, but both can be found and may even be present on the same plant.

Tomato / Tobacco hornworms are the largest caterpillars found in most gardens and can measure up to 4 inches in length. The prominent “horn” on the rear of both gives them their name.

Due to their size and appreciate these garden pests can quickly sometime almost over night, defoliate tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers. Occasionally, they may also feed on green fruit. Gardeners are likely to spot the large areas of damage at the top of a plant long before they see the culprit. Hornworms are often difficult to see and find because of their protective coloring. They are not much for the heat of direct sunlight, they tend to feed on the interior of the plant, out of sight during the day and are more easily spotted when they move to the outside of the plant at dawn and dusk.

Control of horn worms:
* Handpicking. The large size of hornworms makes it easy to get hold of them. Once removed from the plant, they can be destroyed by snipping them in half with shears or dropping them into a bucket of soap water.
* Rototilling your garden, turning up the soil after harvest will destroy any pupae that may be there.
* Biological. Bacillus thuringensis, or BT (e.g., Dipel, Thuricide), is also considered very effective, especially on smaller larvae. You may want to spray your plants with BT to control these pest even before you see plant damage they have caused.

Natural enemies, such as the parasitic wasp that lays its eggs on the hornworm’s back, are common. If found, such worms should be left in the garden so the emerging wasps can parasitize other hornworms.
* Insecticides labeled for hornworm control can be used, products containing carbaryl, permethrin, spinosad insecticides. Read the label carefully before using any insecticide and carefully follow all instructions in their use.

The Bad News is there’s more than 10 or 15 different tomato diseases, bacterial and virus that can effect home gardener tomato crops.

Blossom end rot

Powdery mildew


The Good News is most tomato diseases, bacterial and virus infections can be easily treated if properly identified and treated in a timely manner.

Iowa state university link is for those of you that garden in the northern 1/2 of the U.S. and the University of Texas link provides information that most often effect southern state tomato gardens.

No matter where you live both sites have a huge amount of useful information on Identifying and treating tomato diseases. Don’t be discouraged or intimidated by the sheer numbers of tomato diseases. I’m pretty sure you will not suffer from all of them this year. in fact, insect control very well maybe your biggest problem in a home garden.

Iowa State University Contains Pictures, description, Control and Treatment of tomato disease, bacterial and virus infections.

Texas A and M University Contains Pictures, description, Control and Treatment of tomato disease, bacterial and virus infections.

Insect control just like disease control starts with properly identifying the insect(s) that are causing your problems.

Adult potato beetle

Potato beetle larva

Colorado State University link will help you identify and control some of the most common tomato insect pest.

Texas A and M University link will help you identify and control some of the most common tomato insect pest.

University of Kentucky College of Agriculture contains a lot of useful information on identifying and control of the Colorado Potato Beetle. This insect pest will attack Tomato’s, Egg Plants and Peppers as well as Potato’s.

Not from the U.S.A. Leave a comment telling us about your home town and country

Why is common sense so uncommon?
Don’t be Shy. Leave me your comment(s)

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15 responses to “Sphinx Moths – aka – Hummingbird Moth In My Garden (Really Bad News)

  1. Pingback: Gardening With Your Purple Crayola And Big Chief Note Pad | Town & Country Gardening

  2. I had no idea this was the larva of those moths! We love to watch them in the yard when they show up. I might not share this info with our son since he absolutely adores moths. He might not let me pick off the hornworms. =)

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    • πŸ™‚ the only good thing about tomato worms is that seldom will you find more than 1 or 2 on a plant and are easy to control removing them by hand. Hehehe, seeing Sphinx Moths in or near your garden is not a good thing.

      Happy gardening

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  3. My husband and I just kept killing the caterpillars until they stopped coming. My theory is, the moth lays her eggs pretty close to where she hatched.

    As a child I loved the hummingbird moth. I had no idea this was the moth that laid tomato worm eggs. My grandmother used to take us outside at night to watch this moth, it looked so much like a bird, we couldn’t believe it was a moth. I almost miss them, but I don’t miss what their offspring did to my tomato plants. I have never found an adult on this property.

    When we were little, we’d hunt the worms in the evening. My grandpa taught us how to find them by ear, they do make quite a bit of noise. This was an activity that kept us out from under Gramma’s feet while she did the dishes and rested with the newspaper over her face. If we got a lot of worms, we might get taken to the 4 Corners for an ice cream bar or a Pepsi before Harrison closed up for the night.

    Thanks for this trip back to my childhood.

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    • Thanks for taking time to visit my little blog and for your comment(s)
      Grin πŸ˜‰ Yes that’s true, if you sit quietly, and listen, really listen to what your garden is saying to you. You can hear the worm(s) and grass hoppers chewing on your plants. Or the click sound made by a grasshopper when he jumps from one place to another.
      Happy gardening

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  4. Wow beautiful caterpillar! Too bad it causes such problems for gardeners. Goid luck!!

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  5. We planted basil and a few other herbs, not on purpose, next to our tomato plants. And then I read on another website that planting basil near tomato plants keeps the hornworms away because of the smell and gas particles it gives off. Not really sure if there is a truth to this but so far, we have no hornworms.

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    • Re yoywysi thanks for your visit and your comment(s)
      Yea companion planting really does work. And as a added benefit you get fresh basil for your kitchen and table.
      Happy gardening

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  6. So far my tomato plants have been lucky…

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  7. got an ouch on slice them in half. πŸ˜€ nice tips though. Happy gardening

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  8. Never a dull moment!

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