...on one of my tomato plants about an hour ago. I was looking for him/her, having found a smaller one earlier. It's a tomato hornworm, intending to become a hummingbird moth, and if you're thinking it could be three inches long you're right. Word on the internet says it could stretch to five whopping inches before shrinking back down for chrysalis.
The first one I found I fed to my chickens. It was eating leaves off my tomato plant at an astonishing rate. I watched it munch-munch-munch-down half a leaf in about two minutes. But now I regret turning it over to the chickens, who enjoy delectable little treats all day and could have survived without this one. The tomato plant the hornworm was eating is huge -- over six feet and sprawling in all directions. And had the caterpillar lived it would have become a pretty nectar-sipping moth that acts like a hummingbird. So this big dude, who is too big to feed to the hens anyway, we'll release later this evening after my daughter gets a chance to see it.
Here's what a blogger named Kate Brandes wrote about this caterpillar:
They [tomato hornworms] are a danger to garden plants because they can quickly defoliate parts of tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and peppers. They like to spend their time on the underside of leaves in the daylight, so gardeners often see the leaf damage before the hornworm itself.
And yet, when we find one of these caterpillars in our garden, we take pains to relocate it rather than harm it. That's because it is the caterpillar stage of one of the most spectacular moths in our area, called the hawk, sphinx or hummingbird moth.
Now the question is what to name him/her. Fifi? Jaws? She/he seems to be demanding a name, even as she's actively chowing tomato leaves in her glass jar.
Moth photo: Via Kate Brandes.