What’s a Gardener to do?

I seem to have a dilemma.  I went out to the garden this morning and noticed a caterpillar on one of my tomato plants.  Turns out it is a Tomato Hornworm, I can’t believe I have never seen one of these.  Even more then that, how did it get this big without my noticing it?   So I figure it’s already this big, how much bigger can it get?    Surely it will cocoon soon or at least not do too much more damage.  So when I got home this evening I look at said culprit and there it is.  I’m not positive but it looks bigger and more leaves have been eaten.  So here in lies my dilemma, to kill or not to kill.  It just seems wrong to kill this caterpillar, okay I know it will only turn into a moth, but I don’t think I have the heart.   I guess I can just hope it will not eat my entire plant, because that would hurt my feelings.

Tomato Hornworm in the Morning


Tomato Hornworm in the Evening

Tomato Hornworm moth Image from Jerrysplantsonline.com

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16 Responses to What’s a Gardener to do?

  1. Tony says:

    Hello Char, First I would like to say nice blog. Second, the only way to get rid of this pest since you don’t want to kill it (but I would) is to put on a pair of gloves and remove it by hand, then take it as far away from your garden as possible. This horn worm will just take over your entire tomato plant and not only destroy the leaves, it will soon bore through the tomato. Sorry to say but it’s true.

    • Charlotte says:

      Hi Tony, Thanks for the info. I did finally go out and snip the leaf the caterpillar was on and throw it into the woods in the back of my yard Hopefully it won’t find it’s way back.

  2. meemsnyc says:

    It is a dilemma. It is a cute little fella, as destructive as it is. Is there any way you can move him elsewhere? It turns into quite an ugly moth. Yuk.

  3. Meredehuit says:

    I share the same feelings for all things living… I can’t bear to squish anything. I have a covered garbage disposal that I use for green refuse from the garden that I don’t compost. I put the little critters in there where they can munch away to their hearts content.. and then the garbage man takes them away in a big truck every Friday morning.

  4. I would have a hard time squishing that caterpillar, too. They are so big….:/ maybe a relocation. Also, thank you for visiting my blog. I just responded to your question about the esperanza … i hope it helps. Have a good day.

  5. Hi Char,
    I just found you from Susan’s blog listing some new FL bloggers. So glad to welcome more FL bloggers. I’m glad you snipped the leaf and relocated your hornworm. Your tomatoes will love you for it. I haven’t had but two on my tomatoes EVER but I squished them for the sake of the plants. Then a couple of weeks ago I had one on my pentas and I let it chew away. There were enough plants there for it to get nice and fat and it wasn’t so noticeable.


  6. Our last garden was plagued with these leaf-chomping, frass-generating, beasties. Hate them, hate them, hate them. Even though they are beautiful in their own sort of way, they’re also rather creepy. It’s just not natural for any caterpillar to get that huge! However, we now have the perfect solution (although we seem to be sans hornworms at the moment). Chickens! They’ll eat anything that wriggles 😛 This year they were our preferred organic control measure of choice when we had an outbreak of cabbage loopers in the lettuce patch. You’ve never seen happier chooks. Maybe I can lend you a chicken or three to help get your hornworms in check! 😀

  7. kimberly says:

    Hey, Char! Love your blog. I’m really torn about these cats…they’re actually very cool looking but they devastate the garden. I don’t have them currently as I don’t typically grow veggies. This winter, we’re going to venture into the veggie world, so we’ll see! As for your garden, I think you should take up Clare’s offer and utilize a chicken to keep your cats under control!

  8. Wendy says:

    horrendous. Really horrendous. I hate these things. I posted about the one I found a few weeks ago. I have recently taken a set of photos that will horrify you (or at least it did me – but I’m faint of heart when it comes to hornworms) – will post soon.

    • Charlotte says:

      I can’t wait to see your post. I am glad I didn’t decide to wait and see how much damage on caterpillar could do.

  9. Wendy says:

    oh, and btw, it CAN just about eat your plant!!

  10. Ami says:

    Hi, Charlotte: I found 13 of this cat on my Datura metel (Devil’s trumpet). They finished all the leaves in two days!!! Luckily, now the leaves are growing back, but next time, I may relocating them far away before they finish another one of my plants 🙂

    I discovered your blog from Susan’s Central Florida Gardener site (http://centralfloridagardener.blogspot.com/). Welcome! I also live in Florida, and started a blog early this year to record my garden progress in my new home. It is lots of fun, both gardening and blogging! Welcome to stop by my garden someday 🙂


  11. Catherine says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of those. I rarely see caterpillars in my yard. Things that I don’t want to squish go into the yard waste where, like another poster above mentioned, it can eat what it wants and then is taken away.

  12. Susan Myers says:

    Hi Char,

    Oh, those BIG guys will devour a tomato plant in no time. Good thing you moved him elsewhere. I’m like you, I don’t like to squish caterpillars even when they’re moths, but I won’t let those guys attack my tomato plants. Glad to have found another Florida gardener. Good luck with your garden.

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