Tuesday, May 26, 2009


The cocoon below contains the larvae of a hornworm, most likely the Five Spotted Hawkmoth, and is a major pest of Tomato crops particularly. No way to know what it is exactly until it hatches. The larvae can be about two inches long, and almost a centimeter wide. Usually it is green with small white or yellow stripes along the side, but there are varying colors. For some pictures of the larvae, check here. Once the larvae have had their fill of the plant, they burrow into the ground and form a cocoon. Recently, my dad found one buried in the loose dirt near his tomato plants.

Lepidoptera; Bombycoidea; Sphingidae; Sphinginae; Sphingini; Manduca
Common Name: Tomato Hornworm/Five-Spotted Sphinx Moth (?)

I will update once it hatches - until then, it shall remain mostly a mystery. I can be certain it is of the genus Manduca at least, considering the cocoon type and its location. The cocoon is about two inches long, and the loop on one end contains the developing proboscis of the moth. When disturbed, it wriggles its pointed end.


  1. Hawk moths are fascinating; they look a lot like humming birds when they fly in the evening twilight, but hornworms . . . Ugh! The problem with a hornworm is that it's just too much caterpillar to be comfortable with. :) And you should have seen what they did to our tomatoes when we were living in Clovis, NM. Then again, you probably already know what kind of damage they can do, if you found that one by a tomato plant


  2. An update on the cocoon: it ended up getting either too wet or too dry and infected with tiny maggots... so it died... =(

  3. Aloha. One of my second graders found something similar to this one. Now that we sort of know that it will be a moth, how do we take care of it? What kind of environment should we have it in so that it will not die. We'd like to keep and observe in our science class. Right now we have it in a jar with soil and some plants. Should the cocoon be under the soil? The soil is sort of saturated, should we dry it out a little? We'd love your advice. Thank you.

  4. I think loose soil, the sort you would use to pot plants would be appropriate, I am not sure whether to cover it - since it did not successfully hatch, I don't know that I'm the best person to ask, but less moisture is usually better, and no direct sunlight. Hope yours survived!

  5. Aloha again. Well our moth survived and hatched. However, it does not look so well. I do not think the wings have fully formed as they look small and have not spread out. It's been two days and the moth is just sitting with little movement. I would love to show you it in order to make sure that it is a hornworm.