How Natural Are You? Hornworms In The Garden!

A freshly picked Tomato Hornworm

To my great surprise I took some heat last year from some fellow gardeners when I posted this picture of a Tomato Hornworm and mentioned that I fed them to my chickens.

“Bad! Bad, Tomato Hornworms!” I said, because they will destroy your tomatoes. They eat the leaves, the fruit and the budding flowers.

You can see by the picture of this fat one, that he had been chewing for awhile. They will get in your eggplant and dill as well.

When they are small they can be very tricky to spot and sometimes take up to much of my time by hunting for them. No, I don't like them, I don't like them at all!!

I wondered why anyone would like them and to my surprise it was the adult moth that they were seeking for its beauty. Personally,I think there must be some confusion over hornworm varieties. I found at least 13 different types of hornworms so far. I tend to think there may actually be more than this after hearing about some in other parts of the world.

Manduca quinquemaculata adult female taken by Shawn Hanrahan at the Texas A&M University Insect Collection in College Station, Texas.

The Tomato Hornworm, also known as “Manduca quinquemaculata” is quite ugly to me as an adult moth. I found this picture from Texas A&M University.

Beauty will be in the eye of the beholder. I prefer to keep them off my dill to leave food for the swallowtail butterfly. I've recently written a post about the importance of growing more dill at Thyme Square Gardens just for this purpose.

After syphoning through many different hornworms and hornworms in the adult stages, I could almost agree that the Whitelined sphinx hornworm might be considered a keeper. As an adult they turn into what is called a Hummingbird Moth.

Hummingbird Moth, Whitelined sphinx photo taken from Colorado University

The Hummingbird Moth is really sort of pretty as far as moths go, but I might still have to question the fact that they will infest my grapevines.That is something I'd rather not do. If they want to munch down the 4'oclocks or portulaca they are more than welcome perhaps.

So I will leave it up to you to decide. For me, I think I would like to stick with actual hummingbirds and butterflies rather than moths. It would take some convincing that this moth will not be as troublesome as the tomato variety is on my heirlooms and grapevines. I would love to hear your thoughts. Happy Gardening!

Pamela Kimsey
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5 thoughts on “How Natural Are You? Hornworms In The Garden!

  1. Hi Pamela!  I also have a great dislike for hornworms!  Last year I tried feeding them to my chickens only to realize that the chickens wouldn’t touch them!  The chickens also didn’t eat some of my other garden pests (japanese beetles, squash bugs, carrot worms), which sent me on a research jag to find a solution.  How to organically control the bugs in the garden?  What I came up with are Indian Runner Ducks!  They are great “buggers” and aren’t as destructive to the plants (vs chickens).  I have hatching eggs being shipped next week, and just as soon as those baby ducks hatch and feather, they’ll be out in the garden working the soil and eating bugs to their hearts’ content! 
    That is the plan, anyway.  🙂

  2. I had another garden friend telling me about those ducks!! I had my doubts..but you just confirmed what they were telling me. I see new feathered friends on the horizon!! Thanks so much Pocket farmer =D

    1. My sister has always said she wants to have ducks instead of chickens if she ever has the land. Duck eggs, anyone?

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