Giant Caterpillars Eating your Tomato Plants???

Yep, you read that title correctly! If you have a garden have you ever had giant caterpillars in your garden that you didn’t know what they were, perhaps even thought they were cute and cool like my son and I did last year when we found them? The guys that I’m talking about are often found on tomatoes and some sweet peppers, they’re about the size of your finger and a bright green color and they’re called Tobacco Caterpillars or Tomato Hornworms. These suckers are surprisingly hard to find in the tomato plants, considering their size, but if you do see one on there do not take pictures and say how cute and go inside the house!! Lesson learned last year!

We thought they were super cute last year, never saw anything like that before and wanted to save him in case he was rare! Then my son and I woke up the  next morning and went outside to find sticks where our tomato and sweet pepper plants used to be, every single leaf was gone!! We never saw that one coming!

So all summer long I’ve been carefully watching the tomatoes wondering if they were going to return, haunted by the events that occurred the previous summer. Low and behold I walk out last night to check on the garden and one Roma plant is leafless and two others were half gone. My heart sank for a second then I began my search, I know what did this!

To my surprise this is what I found on my poor Roma plant:

1238368_10101793615212764_1312573182_nThis was my tobacco caterpillar but to my surprise it was covered with little white “eggs” all over its back! I may have freaked out and ran inside to get my son and a jar to catch it in. Raced back to the garden, captured the sucker and saved him for morning so my boyfriend could see him too.

Patting myself on the back I thought I had done good, captured my critter and saved the rest of my tomatoes. Come to find out these little white “eggs” that I was freaking out about are actually cocoons of the Braconid Wasp a parasitic wasp who injects the caterpillar with their eggs, when the eggs hatch they crawl outside of the caterpillar and spin these little cocoons until they’re mature. These wasps just so happen to feast upon these caterpillars and could be helping my garden out immensely!

Oy, lesson #2 about Tobacco Caterpillars learned in year two! Live and learn, next year will be even more educating I’m sure!!

My proud son helped me capture this guy!
My proud son helped me capture this guy!