While picking tomatoes in my garden,
I came upon this curious, albeit grotesque, creature.
He was hanging from the underneath side of a tomato plant.
(Of course I ran back to the house to get a macro lens....
he was worth an up-close look!)
Thinking that this might be a tomato hornworm, I did a little research....
only to find that this creature is actually a tobacco hornworm.
Although the two look very similar,
the tobacco hornworm has red horns on its rear end,
while the tomato hornworm has black horns.
Its body is divided into sections that each have an eye-like marking.
It is curious, though, that the tomato hornworm
is most common here in the North,
and the tobacco hornworm in the South.
The tobacco hornworm is the caterpillar of the sphynx moth.
What I found most striking about this large caterpillar
were the white egg-like structures attached to its body.
These are cocoons containing the pupae of the braconid wasp.
These pupae mature and digest the body of the hornworm.
Once fully mature, the braconid wasp will spend its time
hunting and eating the hornworms.
So, although rather macabre in their parasitic ways,
these cocoons are quite beneficial to our gardens.
Always looking for organic ways to deal with pests, I
found that planting marigolds around your vegetables will
greatly reduce the amount of hornworms you have.
Next year I will most certainly plant marigolds in my tomato boxes.