Tomato Hornworm Parasites - Knowledgebase Question

Alexandria, VA
Avatar for Kristinafina
Question by Kristinafina
July 6, 1998
I have never had hornworms on my tomato plants before...I attribute them to the extremely warm winter we had this year. They have been easy to pick off and flush, but the last one I found had little white rice looking things stuck all over it. I was just wondering if they were parasites, larvae, eggs...or what? The only reason I saw this one when I did was because of the white things. If it is an egg or something, can it live without being attached? I tried to be careful while removing the critter, but some fell off anyway.

Answer from NGA
July 6, 1998
Cool! I've always wished to witness this aspect of the food web! I've seen many photos of hornworms with the eggs of braconid wasps attached, but never the real thing. It's pretty gruesome when you think about it, but fascinating, too. The native wasps lay eggs on the caterpillars, and the hatchlings burrow within the pest to feed. If and when you see this phenomenon again, leave the caterpillar where it is, and the wasp larvae will take care of it for you. The fallen eggs will not survive without their host.

I congratulate you on making your garden a haven for a broad range of insects - they repay you many times over!

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