While I was watering yesterday I noticed a few small holes in the younger leaves of a pepper plant. I found this little guy hanging out on the underside. After a closer look I found another one on the pepper plants and two on my eggplant. They were all tiny so the damage was very minimal. I’m glad I found them early! This is the second time this year that I’ve found these on my peppers. The first time I didn’t notice them until they were 2-3 inches long and had done a good amount of damage. Life was busy and I wasn’t paying much attention to my plants. I found six big ones that day but nothing more until now. So what are they? They’re tobacco hornworms. They have seven diagonal lines. The tomato hornworm has sideway V-shaped lines with the point of the V going towards the head. That was the easiest way for me to identify them but there are other differences. The tobacco hornworm has a horn on the end that is usually reddish and curved. The tomato hornworm’s horn is usually black and straight. If you look at the photo closely you’ll see the egg that it hatched out of near my thumb nail.
It’s easiest to just pick them off and squash them or put them in a bowl of water. I brought my girls out to see the big hornworms so we opted for the bath for them. Stepping on them would’ve been too much especially for my oldest who is sad when she finds a dead roly poly bug. I explained that hornworms are bad bugs for our garden but still a bath seemed like the least traumatic way to get rid of them with the girls there.
If you find one that looks like this, leave it alone. Those white spots are the cocoons of a parasitic wasp. The cocoons will soon hatch and the wasps will lay eggs on other hornworms. These wasps don’t sting and are great helpers in controlling the hornworms.
It’s a good idea to take a close look often at the leaves of your tomato, pepper, eggplant and potato plants so that you can find them while the damage is minimal. They are hard to spot even when they’re big. They can clean the leaves off a plant quickly so it’s something to be on the lookout for when you start seeing leaves with nibbles.