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I saw something very strange and interesting! What is this???

Gardening Reference » Gardening in 2004
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by Lily789 on September 18, 2004 01:52 AM
I was walking near my old, thin tomato plants when I noticed a white flash. Looking closer, I saw something that made my stomach churn and it totally grossed me out. It was a two inch long caterpillar less than 1/2 inch wide. It is completely green with diagonal white stripes across its back. Any idea what type it can be (a butterfly or moth)?

More to the point, this caterpillar has dozens of white eggs stuck on its back. I am fascinated! The white eggs are the size and shape of rice, and they are stuck (upright) on the caterpillar's back and sides. What are the eggs? Are they other caterpillar eggs or eggs of other insects? Why are they stuck on the caterpillar's back like that?

I'm no insect expert, but I'm really curious.
Thanks for any help!

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~Lily
by zelinda on September 20, 2004 03:01 AM
Hi Lily,
My gardening book says it's a "tomato hornworm". It's described as a "colorful green caterpillar with white diagonal stripes on their sides and a fleshy spike or horn on their tail."

Seems they hide their tiny green eggs on the underside of tomato or pepper leaves. And they eat so many leaves that they can seriously weaken plants. My book recommends to pick them off as soon as you see them (they neither sting nor bite).

Hope this helps!

Zelinda.
by weezie13 on September 20, 2004 07:50 AM
Sometimes, the white eggs on the insect can be the eggs of a preditory wasp, I think it's called, and it lays it's eggs on the "bad" insects (usually) and when the larva's hatch, they "eat" the host!!!

Let me see if the Buglady can help us out with this???

Weezie

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Weezie

Don't forget to be kind to strangers. For some who have
done this have entertained angels without realizing it.
- Bible - Hebrews 13:2

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http://photobucket.com/albums/y250/weezie13/
by Buglady on September 21, 2004 06:50 AM
Ok... you guys are real close. What they are, are Braconid wasps. The adult female uses her long ovipositor to lays her egg inside of the host caterpillar. The larva feeds on the inside of the host until it is ready to pupate. The wasp can either pupate inside the host, or in the cast of the tomato and tobacco hornworm, pupate on the outside of the host. Those are the white cocoons you see on their backs, pupa cases for the wasp. The wasps will then emerge and look for more hosts. [teacher] [IMG] Braconid Wasp Photos

Hope this helps.

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The Buglady
Suzanne Wainwright-Evans, www.bugladyconsulting.com
Educating the world... one bug at a time
by ladybug_3777 on September 23, 2004 05:18 PM
wow! that is really interesting! what a gross death that catapiller is going to endure!

thx for the pics buglady.. very very cool (and gross too)
by catlover on September 23, 2004 06:36 PM
[shocked] Oh that is soooo sad....If it were me I would go smoosh the catepillar and take it out of it's future misery. [Eek!] [tears]
[kitty]

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