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Friday, July 30, 2010

Tobacco hornworm

My cousin found this big fella chewing on her tomato plants. From the picture of something similar in my bug book (National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects and Spiders) we believe it is a tobacco hornworm, though it may also be the similar and closely-related tomato hornworm. (According to Wikipedia, the seven lines on its side mark it as the tobacco hornworm; eight V-shaped marks would make it a tomato hornworm.)

My cousin caught it and kept it in a sealed jar with some leaves and a small twig. By the time I got to see it we thought it was dead, but it sent a pulse through its body during the photo session that convinced me otherwise. My Nikon Coolpix L4 is usually pretty crappy when it comes to close-up mode, generally focusing perfectly on the background and leaving the foreground object a blurry mess. We fixed that with additional lighting provided by one of those million candle power spotlights, which my cousin keeps to illuminate woodland creatures visiting her back yard.

Appropriately enough, we propped the tobacco hornworm and its twig on top of an ashtray. The end of a cigar in the ashtray gives a sense of scale - this was a big critter.


KD said...

Dude: Those are great sauteeed with a little butter, garlic and dill.

Mark said...

I deal with wood-destroying insects, but I always have people asking me to identify insects they happened to capture. And I cannot carry with me all of my vast ressource materials.

Say they have any of a billion different species of beetles I'm unfamiliar with, a butterfly or something, I look the insects over and announce that they are Venezuelan Cheese-Skippers.

I have yet to be challenged.

Needless to say, we have an inordinate amount of cheese-skippers right here in NEPA.

D.B. Echo said...

I was wondering about that. Fun fact: when they're actually eating tobacco, tobacco hornworms excrete the toxic nicotine. I see a business opportunity there...

Betz said...

these pictures were quite beautiful, i loved them har!

bats :[ said...

Kill it kill it kill it! (or better yet, have some mockingbirds have at it) We usually have a couple of outbreaks during the summer, when you have to "think like a hornworm" to see them on the stems of the tomatoes and get them before they get HUGE.