Trouble in tomato paradise

As I was gathering tomatoes today, I noticed some were partially eaten. I didn’t think much of it until I noticed some little black specks underneath one plant–definitely caterpillar poo. Uh oh. Shortly thereafter I was face-to-face with a Tomato Hornworm.

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I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in real life, only in pictures. I do like bugs, and it was actually kind of cute. I’ll admit that my first thought was to just live and let live, especially because these caterpillars eventually become hummingbird moths, which are pretty cool. But then I saw another one. At that point I headed into the house to find out what to do about them. Apparently it doesn’t take very long for a bunch of hungry hornworms to destroy a tomato plant. The best thing to do is pull them from the plant and drop them into a bucket of soapy water. This is easier said than done, as the little suckers hang on to the stems pretty tightly. I was terrified of squishing one, which would have been really gross. I was able to coax a couple of them off with sticks, and for the others I just cut off the small leaves or branches to which they clung and threw the whole thing into my bucket.

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So far I have found six, and I have a feeling there are more; I plan to check again soon. It is pretty amazing how well a three-inch caterpillar can hide on a little tomato plant. But I will not give up my tomatoes without a fight.

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