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<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/help.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":help:"><br><br><br><br>
I have a tiny garden at my home... just a few plants and herbs, but I recently planted a grape tomato plant, and let me tell you, it was <b>beautiful</b>!! It was growing up perfectly and had tons and tons of buds on it and quite a few tomatos already comming in.<br><br><br><br>
I checked the plant last night and it was looking beautiful as usual... this morning I went outside to check on it - and it had been completely demolished! Every bud and tomato were gone, and most of its limbs were chewed down almost to the base. It took me a while to see what was going on... then I noticed 8 GIANT caterpillars - I've never seen anything this big in my entire life. They were as long as my hand and as thick as four of my fingers combined... <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/wall.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":wall:"><br><br><br><br>
I refuse to use pesticides, but this is really crazy. I don't have the space to plant lots of plants in case this happens, so I'd really like to figure out a way to keep them from coming into the garden? The weird thing was, they weren't interested in any other plant - just the young grape tomato plant.<br><br><br><br>
Has anyone encountered something like this before? I've seen caterpillars before many times, but nothing this size; they were like crazy little machines! I'd really appreciate it if someone could help me figure out how to keep them away from this plant without using pesticides?? I'm in Georgia, if that helps?<br><br><br><br>
Thank you so much...
 

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These are the glorious Hawkmoth caterpillars. They will eat tomatoes and potatoes.<br><br><br><br>
The best way to keep them from eating your plants is to watch out for the caterpillars before they become large, and remove them from your plants.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Erg.. no fun. I'll keep a closer eye out absolutely.<br><br><br><br>
What I don't understand is how they seem to have come out of nowhere?! There are no other gardens in the area, and they were definitely not there the day before... I just don't know where they came from <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/sad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":("> I have a huge red ant colony underneath the garden, so I really don't think the caterpillars were living underneath the plant getting nice and fat...? I'm just so lost and confused!!<br><br><br><br><img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/bigcry.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":cry:">
 

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Are they green? It sounds like the Tomato Hornworm (I think that's another name for the Hawkmoth caterpillar that Ludi mentioned). I'm puzzled where they came from so suddenly though. I'm not sure how fast they grow, but I don't see how they could get that big in less than 2 weeks or so.
 

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This is very typical for them (yes, Tomato Hornworm is another name for them). They arrive as eggs laid by the female Hawkmoth, and quickly grow to gigantic size before you really notice anything is happening. Then suddenly, half your plant is gone. I've had some in my garden this year and I didn't have the heart to remove them. I have enough plants to spare so I let them go ahead and mature, since I love the adult moths so much, they are really amazing, as big as hummingbirds!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Yep, that's definitely what they are:<br><br><br><br>
[attachment=4411:LimeHawkmothCaterpillar.jpg]<br><br><br><br><br><br>
I guess they probably were there to begin with then... Thinking back, I could have totally missed them... even at about 6+ inches long, I almost missed seeing one... then all the sudden I saw 7 more! I wish I'd have kept a closer look <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/sad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":("><br><br><br><br>
Where do they come from? Could the eggs have been already in the plant I bought? Is there no way to deter them? I have to just remove them after they've already started munching? Will they find food to eat if I remove them and put them in the woods? I don't want to hurt them, but I just don't have enough plants to be losing so much to them... <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/undecided.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":-/"><br><a href="http://cdn.veggieboards.com/4/40/40dfbe31_vbattach4389.jpeg"><img alt="LL" src="http://cdn.veggieboards.com/4/40/525x525px-LL-40dfbe31_vbattach4389.jpeg" style="width:525px;height:394px;"></a>
 

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The eggs or very small caterpillars couldhave been on the plants when you bought them.<br><br><br><br>
Unfortunately, there's no kindly way to get rid of them, because they are very specific feeders and need to eat tomato plants or those related to tomatoes (which includes potatoes, eggplants, tobacco, and severl very poisonous wild plants).<br><br><br><br>
If you learn to identify the eggs when first laid, you can scrape them off or squish them and not have to kill the caterpillars. But once they become caterpillars, you're pretty much stuck with them unless you're willing to kill them. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/sad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":(">
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Aw, no good <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/sad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":("> I don't want to do that. And I suppose removing them is indirectly killing them also... now I feel bad <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/sad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":(">
 

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The way I deal with insect "pests" in the garden is to try to plant enough to share. But I'm fortunate in having a very large garden.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Yes, I think I'm going to have to do that next year. I can expand enough; I'll just have to make sure to save up enough $ for it next time around.<br><br><br><br>
You said you let the caterpillars stay on one of your plants... they won't move on to the other plants and lay eggs and become a huge problem if you let them munch on one???
 

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Hmmm... is there any bittersweet nightshade growing near you, by chance?<br><br><br><br><a href="http://tveverka.tripod.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/0504_bluevine.jpg" target="_blank">http://tveverka.tripod.com/sitebuild...4_bluevine.jpg</a><br><br><br><br>
You can search on "bittersweet nightshade" for other images, but this photo I'm linking to shows the plant well. I live in the Northeast US, and it's a very common weed here- and it is related to tomato and potato. The catterpilars would have a chance to live on those, maybe.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Hm... I have no idea?! I'll look it up!<br><br><br><br>
Is it something that I could buy and plant in my yard to move the caterpillars to when I find them in the garden? I'd love to be able to do something like that instead!
 

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<a href="http://www.ppws.vt.edu/scott/weed_id/soldu.htm" target="_blank">http://www.ppws.vt.edu/scott/weed_id/soldu.htm</a><br><br><br><br>
Here's more info about that plant. You really don't want to buy it- it's a weed, and apparently a somewhat poisonous one at that, although it isn't as persistent a weed as some. If you wanted to, it would be easy to transplant to your yard if you found it growing nearby. I must admit, it is kind of pretty- the small deep-purple flowers with their yellow centers are followed by the red berrylike (inedible) fruits.<br><br><br><br>
I've never seen hornworms, but the bittersweet nightshade in my area always has holes in its leaves, so somebody's eating them!
 

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Wow, the top picture on that link looks just like a weed I'm letting grow in my garden right now! <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/smiley.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":)"> haha... but I'm in Georgia, so the chances of it growing naturally here are probably a lot more slim... Hmm.
 

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We have several nightshades growing wild nearby, but not on our actual property. They are pretty, especially Purple Nightshade.<br><br><br><br>
I've never had a problem with any insect taking over and decimating my plants, except one year I had a really bad problem with shieldbugs. But I found out they tend to eat stressed plants growing out of season or not watered enough.
 

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<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Moechalatte</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
Wow, the top picture on that link looks just like a weed I'm letting grow in my garden right now! <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/smiley.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":)"> haha... but I'm in Georgia, so the chances of it growing naturally here are probably a lot more slim... Hmm.</div>
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I think there are some nightshades native to the US..... or at least that grow here without a problem.<br><br><br><br>
Just as a matter of interest, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and tobacco are all in the nightshade family. I think all members of the nightshade family carry the poison solanine to differing degrees. On the plants we eat, it is in the stems, and only a very tiny amount in the fruit. The fruits of many nightshades are poisonous and must not be eaten.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Oh no!! So could the caterpillars start munching on the eggplant too?? That's my only beautiful plant left! <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/smiley.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":)">
 

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um, sorta mentioned that before....maybe froggy has me on "ignore"....<br><br><br><br>
I've never personally had hornworms on eggplant, they seem to really prefer tomatoes.....
 

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<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Ludi</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
um, sorta mentioned that before....maybe froggy has me on "ignore"....<br><br><br><br>
I've never personally had hornworms on eggplant, they seem to really prefer tomatoes.....</div>
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Hee Hee..... Not exactly. I just made the definite connection that they are all nightshades. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/tongue3.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":p">
 

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<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Ludi</strong> <a href="/forum/post/0"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br>
those related to tomatoes (which includes potatoes, eggplants, tobacco, and severl very poisonous wild plants).</div>
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My brain had you on ignore. Sorry. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/images/smilies/grin.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title=":D">
 
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