Gigantic caterpillar glows in the dark under black light
The tomato hawkmoth is a beautiful creature and one of the largest moths in North America, but gardeners despise the caterpillars that wreak havoc on their vegetable patches. When Kristy planted 56 tomato plants in her garden, she was creating a tomato patch that smelled like a beacon for these creatures. Keeping the tomato hornworms at bay seems to be a full time job.
The larva of the hawkmoth is a gigantic caterpillar that is perfectly camouflaged to blend in with the green foliage of the tomatoes. It has a large spike on its tail that deters many birds and other creatures from eating it. It can also spit out a vile, acidic liquid that helps defend itself from attack. They have large mandibles that they click when threatened, and their bite can actually be felt.
The caterpillars can strip a plant of leaves in a few days and destroy a crop. Kristy has learned that it is harder to see them in daylight than it is at night. She uses a black light after dark and the caterpillars glow, making them very obvious. Her husband, Dave picks them off the plants before they can eat too much.
The hornworms grow rapidly and eat hundreds of times their weight in leaves and tomatoes. Leaving them in the garden would spell disaster.