Tobacco Horn Worm Attacks!

August 4th, 2008

Updated June 4, 2012: Thanks to Bart to correctly identifying as Tobacco Horn Worm. Text corrected

I was out in my garden, and I noticed that a few of my tomato plants were nearly stripped bare of their leaves. I had noticed a few branches like this the other day, but couldn’t find the perpetrator. Well, I finally found the bugger — a rather large tobacco horn worm

Stripped Tomato Stalk

Stripped tomato branch

Rather than simply plucking the large caterpillar from the vine, and “removing” him from my garden, I had to do a photo shoot with him first. I’ve been quite fortunate in the past to not have to deal with many of these worms, and the ones I did were usually invaded by wasp parasites.

Tobacco Hornworm

Tobacco Horn Worm, backend

I didn’t realize at first that the horned part of the caterpillar is not their head. They have some incredibly convincing eye spots and markings to make it appear like they’re something you don’t want to mess with.

Tomato Hornworm

In fact, their head is the other end, which is much less intimating. They’ve got three sets of legs or feelers up front that help them to navigate the branches of my poor tomato plants.

Tobacco Hornworm

Tobacco Horn Worm, full body shot

Overall, their body stripes and coloration really make these attractive creatures. This particular fellow did a number on 2-3 of my tomato vines, but I’m hoping that they’ll rebound, despite already being a little bit behind this year. Does anyone else have any experience with the horn worms, and know how to keep them away in the future?

17 Responses to “Tobacco Horn Worm Attacks!”

  1. Alycia Says:

    Horn worm — sounds like some magical creature that Hagrid smuggled into Hogwarts. 🙂

  2. guitarfish Says:

    Um, yeah, it is. Just like my magic bean plants, which I’ll climb into the clouds!

  3. Kim Says:

    I don’t think they are a bad thing. Here’s one I found a few weeks ago:

    They don’t eat too much, I’m sure something will come along and find it a tasty snack… or use it for a home like mine.

  4. Kim Says:

    btw that horn does make you think twice about going near it, does it? Great pictures, too!

  5. Phillip Brown Says:

    They look terrifying blown up like that.

  6. A Walk Around the Garden-- Guitarfish Says:

    […] we still have a number of tomatoes forming, so hopefully they’ll come around eventually; horn worms not withstanding. Unripe […]

  7. guitarfish Says:

    Kim, your picture is great. Unfortunately, the guy in my garden wasn’t impeded by wasp eggs, so he really did make a mess of some of my tomato plants. Thanks for the comments!

  8. lolly Says:

    Great shots – all of those little eye spots are really something.

  9. Allie O Says:

    We have a LOT of experience with the buggars! Florida is their vacation spot (like everyone else’s) so we seem to have more than our share. 🙂 Our children pick them off and throw them in the pond… unfortunately, our fish don’t like to eat them and they can swim! So now we give them over to the executioner (3 year old) who takes care of them before tossing to the fishies. Good luck! Don’t give them an inch! They’ll eat a mile’s worth of tomatoes.

  10. guitarfish Says:

    Thanks for the comment Allie. I definitely found out the hard way what they can do to tomatoes. We had one of our worst years ever this past year for tomatoes, partly due to the worm.

  11. Kate Says:

    I just found one of these horrific creatures on one of my tomato plants. It was a sight to see. I definitely was not going to touch it, so I hit it several times with a garden home until I knocked him off. Then I kicked him far away from my plants.

    Hope PETA doesn’t harass me…..

  12. Rick Says:

    This afternoon I picked peppers and everything was well. This evening I went to water and found two pepper plants almost totally denuded. They even ate a hot pepper. They did not touch the tomato plants. I put them (3) in a bucket with tomato leaves that I pruned and will wait for the wasps to finish them off.

  13. marry stirrup Says:

    i had the same problem this morning. yesterday, my tomato plats were florishing. this morning, al of the leaves were stripped bare and 10 to 15 of the horn worms were starting to eat my eggplats.

  14. l. mASON Says:

    Has anyone ever had these worms strip their Penta plants, (flowers)? Earlier in the season they stripped them in one day. The plants rebounded.
    This morning I looked out and they are back. So faar have picked 8/9 off the plants. They are green and brown. Are these the same worms? What kills them.

  15. Benjamin Says:

    Wow they can get REALLY big. I found one just now and my dauther cut off the tail. It looked like it was poison in there……

  16. Bart Says:

    You have the wrong species! The caterpillar in the photos is a tobacco hornworm, not a tomato hornworm.

    See for example,

  17. guitarfish Says:

    Thanks for the proper ID, Bart! I’ve corrected the references in this post.

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