7.3.24 2

Tobacco Hornworms

Tobacco hornworms are back. Ugh. The chubby green caterpillars are making themselves at home among the leaves of my plants. Munching their way through the tomatoes and bell peppers, buffet style.

They do this every year.

Southern gardeners are feeling my pain right now. None of us are strangers to the tobacco hornworm with its vivid green body, white diagonal stripes, and sinister horn.

The caterpillar announces its presence not with a whimsical flourish but by a trail of destruction, consuming up to 4 times its body weight.

Tomato plants, peppers, potatoes, mulberries, eggplant, tobacco, and petunias fall victim to the hornworm and its voracious appetite – their leaves riddled with holes and stems stripped bare.

After ravaging our prized plants, tobacco hornworms create cocoons and overwinter in the soil, only to emerge as the Carolina Sphinx Moth, restarting the destructive cycle by laying eggs.

Some gardeners get rid of the eggs or seek out the hornworm caterpillars to destroy them as soon as they appear.

I take a lazier approach – keeping a watchful eye on my garden to ensure the hornworms don’t wear out their welcome.

When they become too greedy – or my plants become stressed, I pluck them off and either drop them in a bucket of soapy water or douse them in insecticidal soap to get rid of them.

I only resort to these measures when necessary. I reckon I am a bit of a softy, seeing the hornworm as more than a pest.

Despite their destructive caterpillar phase, their presence has environmental benefits. The Carolina Sphinx is a food source for birds and bats, and they serve as nighttime pollinators.

Finding the tobacco hornworm in my garden reminds me there is a delicate balance in nature. A continuous interplay between creation and destruction, between beauty and blight. And as gardeners, it’s up to us to find that balance.

Leave a Comment


  1. Mordechai Jones wrote:

    They make excellent brim & crappie bait.

    Published 7.8.24
  2. Alyssa wrote:

    One of these bad boys mowed down half of a tomato plant in just a few hours. I’ve never seen my usually soft-hearted fiance so happy to kill something before…

    Published 7.9.24