A reader sent us an email telling us that she has found some worms in her garden attacking her potatoes. She said that the worms are about 1.5 cm in length and have horn-like projections on their bodies. She is curious as to what they are and if they are harmful to any other plants in her garden. She did not send us a photo, but it is a strong possibility that these worms could be hornworms.
Often called Tomato hornworms, these caterpillars belong to the Manduca quinquemaculata family. Their horn-like features give them their name. Hornworms live mostly in North America and have been seen in states like Florida, Virginia, Georgia, and Minnesota. These caterpillars live in gardens and can take out entire gardens. They eat tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplant. As the hornworms age, they begin to eat more and more. They are dangerous to other plants in gardens so the garden should be checked quite a few times a week to make sure the crops are not in danger.
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There are a few ways to keep them out of your garden. If your garden is kept free of weeds, this will keep them from laying eggs on those leaves. These caterpillars have a tendency to lay their eggs on weeds like nightshade, jimsonweed, and horse nettle. If the soil is tilled after the harvest, this could destroy the caterpillars and larvae that are burrowing in the ground of your garden. You can hand pick these caterpillars out of your garden and place them on the bigger leaves of trees in your yard. This will keep them from getting onto your crops in your garden.
Adult hornworm moths grow to be pretty large. Their wings are narrow and can grow to be about 100 mm in length. They are gray and grayish brown in color. They usually have six orange-yellow spots on their bodies as well.
In summary, our reader asked us about some worms in her garden that had hornlike features. It is a high possibility that these are hornworms. She can save her garden by taking all of the weeds out or by picking up all of the worms and placing them on larger tree leaves in her yard.
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