Tomato Worm, or What?

tobacco-horned-worm

What’s eating my tomato plant? You know, of course. I thought I did, too, but as it turns out, I didn’t.

Day after day, my tomato plant had more stems without leaves. I kept looking for the culprit but couldn’t spot him. And then when most of the leaves were gone, I found one small green worm with the familiar white stripes and horn on his backside. I couldn’t believe he did all the damage, kept looking, and found his siblings, two of them.

By this time, the tomato plant was almost stripped so I decided to let nature take its course. But… I began to wonder — Where did those tomato worms come from, and what do they become? Since the usual routine requires pulling the little suckers off and a lot of green gore, I figure very few of them make to butterfly stage. But my curiosity was engaged and I had to find out. (I’ve written a lot of nonfiction for kids so I’m trained… when I say I had to find out, I mean, I had to find out.)

So I did a little research.

And the results were surprising! If you want to do your own research, check this out?: http://www.colostate.edu/Dept/CoopExt/4dmg/Pests/tomato.htm

A tomato worm is green, the exact shade as the tomato plant, has eight stripes, and a dark blue or black horn. They mostly eat tomato plants but some other plants as well… mostly veggies. And, they turn into…. drumroll, please… a creature commonly known as the hummingbird moth.

But, the worm on my plant has seven stripes and a red horn. This creature is not a tomato worm. It is a tobacco worm! And, furthermore, its diet is not limited to the list given in my research. After devouring the tomato plant he moved to my nearby, very healthy, petunia! And then he became slimy green gore!

tobacco-worm-on-petunia

But the most amazing thing I found in my research – another drumroll please – You can order hornworms from Amazon! And some other stuff, see below — Who knew!


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