Tobacco Hornworm eating Pepper Plants

I should've known better.

A few days ago while I was out in the garden poking around, I noticed that one of my bell pepper plants was missing some leaves. The leaves didn't just have some holes in them nor did they look like they had been partially munched on here and there ... they were just gone. 

Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nothing remained of the leaves. Pathetic little sticks and stems were poking out where the lush green leaves once grew.

I thought a deer must have come along, bent down and taken a big bite of leaves and then moved on. There were still a lot of peppers on the plant. Whoever ate the leaves didn't seem to want the peppers and the other pepper plants nearby were fine and weren't missing any leaves (that I noticed).

I blamed the deer.

I always blame the deer.

So, yesterday I thought I'd better take another look at the pepper plants again just to be sure. More leaves on that same plant were gone. More little sticks were poking out from the plant. I looked and I looked. Then, I saw the culprit...

The biggest, fattest tobacco hornworm I have ever seen.

See what he did? Notice all the leaves missing on the plant? See all the stems sticking out where there used to be lush leaves and flowers? Notice the big fat bite he took out of that nice green bell pepper? He was very, very fat and most likely has been using this pepper plant as his main food source for quite awhile. I wonder how many times I looked right at him and didn't see him?

Tobacco Hornworm eating garden

Hornworms are EVIL. I'm used to finding them on our tomato plants -- I know the telltale signs. I've learned the hard way that I need to regularly patrol tomato plants for hornworms. 

However this is the first year I've ever seen them ravaging plants in the garden other than tomatoes. I know that, even though they prefer tomatoes and tobacco, hornworms will eat other plants in the Solanaceae family too. I've just never had problems with them on other plants until this year, so I've never really worried myself about them on peppers, potatoes, or eggplants.

Guess that needs to change!

*Note to self: start looking for hornworms everywhere in the garden before they eat everything!

Jul 17 2013

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