Caterpillars and Moths in the Garden

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Some caterpillars turn into moths and while some are pretty to look at, it helps to know which pretty moth is associated with which devouring caterpillar. A good case in point is that the sphynx moth, a beautiful caterpillar, that is attracted to white flowers that bloom at night and lays its eggs on tomato plants. The eggs hatch out and become the dreaded tomato horn worm. My wife loves to plant moonflower vine that has a large white flower which blooms at night. Every year, I have trouble with tomato horn worms. I’ve learned that in order to keep my wife happy, I can live with picking a few (hundred) horn worms off the tomato plants.

Tomato Horn Worm, Image: Ward Upham, Kansas State University,

Tomato Horn Worm, Image:
Ward Upham, Kansas State University,

Another insect you might notice in the garden this month is squash vine borer. The dark winged moth that lays these eggs flies during the day. The eggs hatch and the white caterpillar burrows into the vine. A vigilant gardener may spot some frass (worm poo) coming out of a small hole in the vine. Cutting the vine lengthwise will reveal the caterpillar which can then be removed from inside the vine. Covering this part of the vine with some soil may encourage the vine to root at this location saving the rest of the vine to produce more squash.

I’m sure there are other insect pests that people have problems with like cucumber beetles and bean beetles, however, I only have so much space in this article. I’ll save some of those for another issue.