Add another caterpillar to Caterpillar Central from last week.
We found this brave caterpillar is feeding on a jalapeno pepper plant.
It is the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta, often confused with the tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata). The tobacco hornworm has straight white lines on its sides. The tomato hornworm has V-shaped markings.
It gets its name “hornworm” from the thorn-like projection at the rear of the caterpillar. The horn is not dangerous in any way. The caterpillars are perfectly harmless, except to plants.
Notice its three pairs of true legs right next to the head. The rest are fleshy prolegs.
When it finishes eating, the larva will drop off the plant and dig into the soil to pupate. The adult moth is called a hawkmoth or sphinx moth. It flies at night and isn’t seen much during the day.
Tobacco hornworms are easy to raise and are great subjects for science activities with children.
The University of Arizona’s Manduca Project website has a wealth of information about the life cycle, techniques for rearing Manduca, lesson plans (including cool science projects) and videos. Go check it out!