Tomato Horn Worm

Manduca quinquemaculata

Tomato Horn Worms are very hard to see
as they hang in the shade underneath foliage.
But this one, covered with white cocoons of the predatory Braconid Wasp,
is easily seen against a background of ripe tomatoes.
Buy Braconid Wasps Here.

Also seen to the left, is its ornamental yellowish tail "horn",
from which it gets its name. 
If allowed to mature, the Horn Worms may exceed 3" in length.

It's very difficult to find the two Horn Worms in the top of this photo.
It's much easier to spot evidence of their presence in the bottom 3 photos:

On the left are dark green pellets indicating a Hornworm above.
In the middle is a stem missing some leaves; another Smoking Gun.
On the right is a wilted leaf hanging by a nipped stem, which leads the eye
to the white Cocoons and their otherwise camouflaged host nearby.

Leaves are their normal diet,  
but this Tomato Worm was caught munching on a Green Tomato.
Even though it looks healthy,
it may be doomed by Wasp Eggs already laid in it.

It must continue to eat if any Wasp Larvae inside it
are to mature and come out to spin cocoons.
But it will never spin its own cocoon to become a winged adult
and lay eggs to propagate its species in your Garden.

In this photo, just to the right of the bottom Wasp,
can be seen the dark half-moon of a Wasp nearly chewed free.
And just below the same Wasp, can be seen the dark head of a Wasp
through the translucent end of its cocoon.

I noticed two individual Wasps get separate but identical reactions from the Worm when they took flight from its "Horn". As they crawled up to the tip of the Horn, the Worm made a sideways thrash of its head,
that in a split second formed its body into a horseshoe.
It appeared that the Horn was extremely sensitive.
I marveled that this undermined victim
had the strength to perform this powerful reaction.

These two Horn Worms are in the final stages of predation. At left is a dead specimen which is turning brown.  On the right can be seen open-ended cocoons, indicating that their 1/4" occupants have emerged and flown away to mate and victimize more Tomato Horn Worms. The microscopic exit holes made by the emerging larvae, can be seen on both Worms.

Buy these tiny Predatory Wasps for your own Garden.

The mature Caterpillar bores into the soil to complete its life cycle.

Here the Adult Moth has just emerged while another is ready.

A closeup of the Emerged Moth
which will fly and mate at night to perpetuate its species.

"The Creator can make a winged Moth or Butterfly
out of a crawling, chewing Caterpillar.
And He can make an Angel out of you !" - N.H.

"Who so ever"

We would like to know what laid the dozen copper-colored eggs neatly on the center leaf.


We counted 145 Cocoons in this Horn Worm photo.
There could easily be another 60 unseen.

We wonder if they all had the same Mother,
and if they all emerged from the dedicated hole
from which their egg was injected.

If you remove the Horn Worms with attached Cocoons,
and put them in a glass jar with no lid, they will die.
But the predatory Wasps will emerge and fly away
to prey on other Horn worms in your Garden,
and reproduce to protect your Tomato Plants next year.

When you see stems with leaves missing,
remove the stems so you know future leafless stems are
new damage with Horn Worms nearby.

Note that most of the Horn Worms seen here
are really Tobacco Horn Worms, which have 7 diagonal stripes,
instead of the 8 found on Tomato Horn Worms.

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