Tobacco Hornworm and Carolina Sphinx Moth (Manduca sexta)
The adults of both species are large moths with stout, narrow wings, and a wing span of about 100 mm. The forewings are much longer than the hind wings. Both species are dull grayish or grayish brown in color, though the sides of the abdomen usually are marked with six orange-yellow spots in tobacco hornworm and five spots in tomato hornworm. The hind wings of both species bears alternating light and dark bands. Body is robust.
The most striking feature of the caterpillar is a thick pointed structure or "horn" located dorsally on the terminal abdominal segment. The tobacco hornworm develops seven straight whitish lines laterally. The white lines are edged with black on the upper borders, and the "horn" is usually red in color.
The Carolina Sphinx moth likes open habitats including fields, meadows, weedy areas, marshes, and roadsides.
The Carolina Sphinx Moth feeds most commonly on tomato and tobacco. They are recorded consuming other vegetable plants such as eggplant, pepper, and potato, but this is rare. Several Solanum spp. weeds are reported to serve as hosts. Adults imbibe nectar from flowers of a number of plants, and can be seen hovering about flowers at dusk.
Tobacco and tomato hornworms are the common large caterpillars that defoliate tomato plants. Their large size allows them to strip a plant of foliage in a short period of time, so they frequently catch gardeners by surprise. They are quite similar in appearance and biology
The Hornworms are not considered to be pests of commercial crops and only occasionally damage garden crops, probably due to the activities of natural enemies. Larvae usually attack the upper portion of plants initially, and consuming foliage, blossoms and green fruits. They usually consume the entire leaf. Hornworms are not considered to be pests of commercial crops and only occasionally damage garden crops, probably due to the activities of natural enemies.