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Gardener fears invasion after discovering plump menace in their garden: 'Where there is one, there are always more'

"[It] completely destroyed one of my tomato plants in one night."

Hornworms on tomato plants

Photo Credit: iStock

One worried gardener recently came to r/vegetablegardening for advice when they found a visitor that no plant-loving person wants to see: a hornworm.

Hornworms on tomato plants.
Photo Credit: u/superxero044 / Reddit

"Hornworms" are green caterpillars with spiky tails, according to the University of Minnesota. They're known scientifically as the caterpillar version of the Manduca quinquemaculata, or the five-spotted hawkmoth. Hawkmoths are some of the largest species of moths in the world, and their caterpillars are appropriately large, measuring up to four inches long.

A bug that big has to eat, and their favorite food is tomato plants. They can strip all the leaves off a tomato plant and even chew holes in the growing fruit.

The concerned Redditor posted a picture of the chubby green caterpillar clinging to a branch of unripe tomatoes, two of which were already half-eaten. They already knew what they were seeing, and they had only one question for Reddit: "Are there more?"

Sadly, that seemed very likely to the commenters. 

"Where there is one, there are always more," wrote one user.

The community also warned the concerned gardener to act fast. "A single hornworm completely destroyed one of my tomato plants in one night," said one commenter. "The thieving little monster got what it deserved, though — I fed it to my chickens."

According to the University of Minnesota, the most effective way to get rid of existing hornworms is simply to find them and pick them off the plants. Some people drop them in soapy water to kill them, but since their adult form is great for pollinating plants, you can also simply move them to a different area.

While their large size and slow movement make that possible, their bright green color is perfect for blending in with tomato plants, making it easy to miss one.

Luckily, r/vegetablegardening came to the rescue. "Fun fact," said one helpful user. "Hornworms are fluorescent under UV lights. This means the pee stain detection flashlight in the local pet store shows these buggers at night."

"Nice," said the original poster. "I ordered a blacklight flashlight on Amazon. Thanks."

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