Tomato Hornworms: What Are They and How to Get Rid of Them

Common throughout North America, the tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) is one of the most destructive pests of tomato, potato, pepper, eggplant, and tobacco plants.

What are Tomato Hornworms?

The tomato hornworm is the larval stage of the five-spotted hawk moth, Manduca quinquemaculata. It is feared by vegetable gardeners because it can destroy tomatoes and other plants in the nightshade (Solanaceae) family.

How to Identify Tomato Hornworms

Likely to be the largest caterpillars you’ll see in the vegetable garden, tomato hornworms (3-4 inches long), are green with seven diagonal white strips and a black or red horn projecting from the rear.

Life Cycle of Tomato Hornworms

Overwintering occurs in the soil as dark brown pupa. Adult moths emerge in late spring, mate, and deposit spherical green eggs on the underside of leaves.

Tomato vs Tobacco Hornworms

Often the tomato hornworm and the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta, are mistaken for one another. Both worms look quite similar and target members of the Solanaceae plant family.

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