Yesterday at lunch, I decided to make BLT's. I went out into the garden to pick some tomatoes for the sandwiches. As I was picking, I noticed a strange looking goo on some of the leaves. I'd never seen it before and wondered what it was. I looked directly above it to see where it might have come from and this is what I saw:After my initial shock and gasp of disgust, I called my 16yo son over to look. For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is what is called the Tomato Hornworm. I've seen pictures of these things on the internet, but let me say, internet photos do not fully capture the size and scale of these buggers. They are about 4 inches long and 1/2 inch in diameter. They are a wonderful example of adaptation as their coloring and design makes them blend in with tomato plants and they are really hard to pick out. That's why it is such a shock when you finally do see them. This huge caterpillar is right there under your nose and you don't even see it. Makes me skin crawl just to think of it.
Anyway, we found three different ones and pulled them off to kill them. I admit that I have gotten over being squeamish after killing dozens of squash bugs with my own hands. But these Tomato Horn Worms were a different matter altogether. They were just too big for me to deal with. So I played the defenseless female card (haha) and got my teenage son to do the nasty work for me. Wearing my gardening gloves, he pulled them off the plant. It was actually kind of hard to do. Those things have several pairs of feet that really grip the stem and it was hard to pull it off. Then once he threw it on the ground, we either stepped on it and cut it in two with a gardening shovel. It was very disgusting. The whole experience had me worked up for hours.
My son said it reminded him of the giant green caterpillar in A Bug's Life. That's true. They must have used the Tomato Horn Worm as their inspiration for the character. From a distance they are actually kind of pretty as they have a design that runs down their backs.