27 July 2008

Destructive, determined and disgusting

This is the larval form of the Five Spotted Hawkmoth (Manduca quinquemaculata), known as the Tomato Hornworm due to its habit of eating tomato leaves and fruit.
Tomato hornmworm
They're quite hard to spot as their camouflage is so excellent. Once spotted they are equally hard to remove. They have a quite revolting texture - if you can imagine trying to pick up a wriggly green jelly baby which is clinging grimly on to the tomato plant you might come close to the way it feels to try and pick off one of these caterpillars. They grow pretty big, too - here's the caterpillar with my hand for comparison. This one is pretty much fully grown. There were two feasting on the tomato plants this morning.

Tomato hornworm and hand
Sorry about those pictures. Here's a completely unrelated one of the cattails (Typha latifolia) up at the pond to take the taste away.

Cattails at the pond


Lucy Corrander said...

That is extraordinary.

I thought it was interesting but not disgusting before I saw it against your hand.

I'm still not sure about 'disgusting' but it's certainly disconcerting.

Interesting too.

And what clear photographs.



Benjamin Vogt said...

I don't know, I think it's kind of neat. Though I did just pick a dozen similar fellows off of a cherry sapling....

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

Ewwww, you are givin me the shivers. I hate having to pull those monsters off of my tomatoes. I make the monkeys do it.

Amanda said...

Lucy - the caterpillar isn't disgusting in itself, but the process of pulling it off my tomato plant was utterly disgusting. Debbi's shivers are exactly the way I feel when I think about it. I hope I don't find too many more of them!

VP said...

That's quite a brute!

And now I know that cattail = bulrush :)