The Very Hungry Caterpillar

One morning, I noticed some nibbling on my tomato plant. It looked as if a deer had wandered a little closer to our home and had an early morning snack. But he obviously didn’t stay long because for his size, he just ate the ends of about seven shoots and a few tiny tomatoes. Hmmm. Maybe he’d been scared off by a hissing cat or noticed lights coming on in the house in the morning.

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Later that afternoon, I visited the garden again, and I wondered if more had been nibbled…Had I been less observant in the morning? Upon closer inspection, I found a critter I now consider to be both fascinating and frightening. Hanging upside down on a tomato branch, perfectly camouflaged and munching away, was a GIANT caterpillar.

I ran into the house and called out the boys. There was shock. There was fascination. There was the inevitable pulling the critter off because it had to be held. This guy was no shorter than five inches long, and it was about as thick as a nickel is wide. And, it had horns. Rex found a miniature one near it and removed it as well.

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We didn’t know what these were at first, but we knew we didn’t want them around. Rex chucked both far into the yard. (Someone told me later we should have chopped it up into a million pieces or squashed it. My boys would have liked that, but it was awfully big, and therefore, lots of guts. Plus, it was kinda cool.)

Upon quick research, we found out we’d come upon two tomato hornworms, the caterpillar of the five-spotted hawk moth. Youtube videos revealed that these suckers can devour a tomato plant in about two days.

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Now, we are on patrol, carefully watching for any questionable nibbling. If more are found, I’m all for dissecting it, or whatever the boys want to do. And, I’ve also purchased some much-needed, human-safe insecticide.

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