I gasped when I saw this creature on my tomato plant.
Even though it looks alien-like, it did not beam itself down from a flying saucer and land in my garden for a quick lunch. It is a common, born-on-the-planet-Earth, tomato hornworm.
I caught this big fella noshing on a baby green tomato. Not only do tomato hornworms enjoy tomatoes, but they also snack on eggplants, peppers and potatoes. They eat the leaves, stems and parts of immature fruit… and can defoliate a plant in a matter of days.
Upon closer inspection, this pinky-size worm is quite fascinating. He looks like he has human mouths and eyes up and down his body. I couldn’t bring myself to kill something so oddly beautiful, so I relocated him to a nice spot in the woods instead. Although, that’s probably the same as killing him since he won’t have a food supply in the woods. If he makes his way back to the garden, I’ll let him feast as a reward for his tenacity!
The tomato hornworm has a natural predator – the braconid wasp. It lays its eggs inside the hornworm. As the eggs hatch, they eat their way out, which kills the hornworm. If you see a hornworm covered with white larvae (see bottom photo), let nature take its course. After the wasps hatch, you’ll have plenty of natural protection from future hornworms.