Carolina Sphinx Moth, Tobacco Hornworm (Manduca sexta)

Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Sphingidae
Genus: Manduca
Species: sexta


This bug has been reportedly found in the following regions:

Cottondale, Alabama
Mobile, Alabama
Vincent, Alabama
Phoenix, Arizona
Sedona, Arizona
Tolleson, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona
Flippin, Arkansas
Mc Gehee, Arkansas
Clayton, California
Oceanside, California
Reseda, California
San Diego, California
Simi Valley, California
Ellendale, Delaware
Bartow, Florida
Boca Raton, Florida
Brooksville, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida
Lake Worth, Florida
Miami, Florida
Palm Bay, Florida
Pensacola, Florida
Elberton, Georgia
Ashkum, Illinois
Divernon, Illinois
Coatesville, Indiana
Farmersburg, Indiana
Indianapolis, Indiana
Benton, Kansas
Hebron, Kentucky
Salvisa, Kentucky
Coushatta, Louisiana
South China, Maine
Crofton, Maryland
Finksburg, Maryland
Jefferson, Maryland
Valley Lee, Maryland
Bay City, Michigan
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Manchester, Michigan
Bellevue, Nebraska
Las Vegas, Nevada
Greenville, New Hampshire
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Roswell, New Mexico
Cary, North Carolina
Charlotte, North Carolina
Concord, North Carolina
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Leland, North Carolina
Raeford, North Carolina
Red Oak, North Carolina
Wilmington, North Carolina
Glouster, Ohio
Haviland, Ohio
Lynchburg, Ohio
Mount Orab, Ohio
North Ridgeville, Ohio
Toledo, Ohio
Hulbert, Oklahoma
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Allentown, Pennsylvania
Harrisonville, Pennsylvania
Kintnersville, Pennsylvania
West Chester, Pennsylvania
Manning, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Simpsonville, South Carolina
Franklin, Tennessee
Gallatin, Tennessee
Goodlettsville, Tennessee
Atlanta, Texas
Austin, Texas (2 reports)
Fischer, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas
Liberty Hill, Texas
Lumberton, Texas
Marquez, Texas
Nevada, Texas
Royse City, Texas
Spring, Texas
Magna, Utah
Saint George, Utah
Mechanicsville, Virginia
North Tazewell, Virginia
Show all

Members' Notes:


On Mar 27, 2017, IndianaOhio from Bath, IN wrote:

Sphinx moths are useful pollinators. I'm happy to donate a few tomato plants for them. Birds and opossums probably get a good snack out of the moths, too.

People should use some type of protection for the plants they want to keep, though.


On Mar 6, 2017, Vacula333 from Allentown, PA wrote:

I am going to stay neutral on this bug, even though they are very destructive to tomato plants, the wasp will find them and do the "zombie host" on them.. creating more wasps as a benefit to any garden! The adult moths are very pretty and also serve a purpose for bats and spiders who are also beneficial... so instead of using an insecticide, encourage the wasp who lays its white eggs on the caterpillar, I am at a lost at the moment for the wasps name.


On Aug 21, 2016, MomNatureHelper from Bellevue, NE wrote:

Commenting only on adult moth as I do not grow my own food yet. My kids and grandkids learn so much with these docile, friendly critters - I can't lie, I play with them too. They are good teachers to observe and enjoy. I understand how people would not be happy about the caterpillar stage, but that's not applicable to me, so they get a big, furry, winged, thumbs up from us!


On Jun 17, 2012, Dosetaker from Mason, NH (Zone 5b) wrote:

A terrible pest that can do an amazing amount of damage in a very short time. They blend into the plant so very well that even when fairly large they can be very difficult to spot. I find early morning and just as night is falling is the best time to seek and destroy them.


On Jun 5, 2011, prickersnall from Madison, WI wrote:

When I was a child, I thought these "bugs" were "ickey"; my sister pointed out to me what they grew into.."white-lined sphinx" moths; then I loved them..fear all gone. Their delicate coloring and precision-clean lines are awesome.

Technically, a bug is an insect with sucking mouth-parts. This guy eats from the edges of leaves, etc, while holding onto the leaf-edge using sets of "claspers". Watch them sometime. They nibble the leaf edge from top to botttom of their "neck"range, then repeat. They grow to be large, so they poop generously; and they become beautiful, good-sized adult moths. I knew them on the east coast, as well as in Wisconsin...both natural habitats, I think.

I'm willing to share with them.


On Sep 2, 2010, themikeman from Concord, NC (Zone 7a) wrote:

I had a large catepillar larvae of one of these on one of the spiked seed pods of my datura angel's trumpet plant. I thought it was a lunar moth larvae. It did little if any damage that I noticed to the plant. about 3 weeks after it disappared I was out on my back porch about 8 o'clock looking at the newly opened angel trumpets and this huge greyish appearing beautiful moth at first frightened me. i was awestuck by its beauty and size. it is not aggresive as people say as when i tried to photograph him i scared him away..just beautiful i dont care if it does eat my tomatoes or my trumpet vine in the future. im shocked it can eat the datura vine and it's seed pods as they are poisonous.again just beautiful.mike


On Jul 3, 2010, Tina_A from Caddo Mills, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Although I think that the caterpillar is very pretty and I do love the moths, I grow tomatoes and peppers for me not them, plus they poop ALOT. Gross


On Jan 14, 2010, DMgardener from (Daniel) Mount Orab, OH (Zone 6b) wrote:

Cutest thing ever! Both the Moth and caterpiller! Since I do not grow many tomatoes, but do grow lots of night blooming plants, so I do not mind this bug at all;)
One really unusual tidbit about this bug is that they are a host for the parasitic fly. Sometimes on tomato plants, you can see one caterpiller covered with white appendages, the eggs of the parasitic fly.



On Apr 30, 2009, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

Hmmm... it's not Carolina here, nor do we have any tobacco plants in this area (California)... I dont' have any tomatoes or peppers but I did discover one shredding one of my Brugmansias (guess the Brugmansia toxins are not too bad for this caterpillar). Still, moth is impressive and beautiful, so it's hard for me to give this a negative rating. Now, it was eating my palms, that would be a different matter entirely.


On Apr 4, 2009, catman529 from Franklin, TN wrote:

Great moth to rear from your tomato plants. Since I grow a small number of tomatoes, hornworms are never a serious problem and I pick them off as soon as I find them (I do look for them frequently). Easy to find on tomatoes due to holes in leaves, missing leaflets, and/or frass collecting on the leaves or ground. I have reared a few to adult moths and have one mounted in my small insect collection.


On Nov 26, 2008, cowpea123 from Coushatta, LA wrote:

Nasty,Nasty horrible pests.


On Jun 30, 2008, ceejaytown from The Woodlands, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

The photo by DiOhio shows the cocoons of a parasitic wasp, and the circular holes reveal that the adult wasps have emerged. These are cocoons, not eggs, and not larvae. The adult wasp lays eggs in the hornworm. The eggs hatch and the larvae devour the "non-essential" parts of the hornworm until they are ready to pupate. They then exit and form these cocoons in which to complete their metamorphosis. The hornworm, a very sick fellow by now, dies. Although many refer to the adult as a hummingbird moth, the Carolina Sphinx moth is not one of the clearwing moths with the little lobster-like tails that we see in our gardens at dusk, flitting from flower to flower like a hummingbird.


On Sep 23, 2007, jennscot from McGehee, AR wrote:

This summer these guys ate Tomatoes, tomatillos, several kinds of hot peppers, green peppers, and eggplant.


On Aug 28, 2007, sandyferoz from South China, ME wrote:

I had my first encounter with a Hornworm today. I was training my tomato vines, which are about 5 feet tall, I grabbed onto a Tomato stalk, gripping right down on a huge 5 inch worm. I jumped back, startled, I never saw anything like it before. I was waiting for it to start smoking a hooka pipe! Anyway, I didn't want to touch it so I pulled off the stem and threw it in the bushes. Then, I found 2 little ones, and squished them. I found another huge one and my boyfriend squished it. EWWW These buggers are nasty. After researching it, I'll be sure to keep killing them, I really love my tomatoes too much to spare them.


On Aug 1, 2007, freetwofarm from North Tazewell, VA wrote:

I found 2 in my garden. One on the tomatoe plants and one on my bean vine. I am sure there are more because of the number of leaves missing on my tomatoe plants. As of right now I am neutral. I don't have any great damage to any plants, however, I will go negative if I do.


On Jul 22, 2007, Illoquin from Indianapolis, IN (Zone 5b) wrote:

I'm guess not that serious about my tomatoes and am happy to share them - -the plants get too big here, anyway. I think this guy is really cool and the moth is even cooler.

I do have some tomato plants that came up from compost that I let go, so if they eat too much of the good tomato plants, I'll move them on the compost-tomato seedlings.


On Jun 17, 2007, technegardeners from Pensacola, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

So that's what's been eating my tomatoes. I went out today and found a huge one! I don't like squashing or touching things like this, so I cut off the stem that it was on and put it in a jar for my husband to look at or kill. I may keep it as an experiment to see what moth it will become. I used to love butterflies/moths when I was a kid. I'll post a picture of it on my journal.


On Nov 1, 2006, mmistyrose from Benton, KS (Zone 6a) wrote:

I, too, found this "darling" in my garden this year. We had okra next to the tomato plants and they decided to check out the okra not just the tomato plants. They seemed to like the okra as well as the tomatoes!


On Oct 21, 2006, renwings from Sultan, WA (Zone 8a) wrote:

These were common in our garden, growing up in Utah. They ate the tomatoes as worms and feasted on Datura nectar as moths. I have fond memories of them as moths and was petrified of the worms, though they are harmless.


On Oct 12, 2006, Happy_1 from Chicago, IL (Zone 5b) wrote:

They are eating my Brugs!!!!!



On Sep 21, 2006, Tomatoholic from Austin, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

So I really hate these things. They chow down my tomato plants and my pentas. I do not think they are cute and I do not like them any better when they become a moth either. I don't even think it is a pretty moth. I will snip in half any hormworm I run across and leave its body and guts to warn other hornworms to stay away. :)


On Aug 27, 2006, minimoop from Albuquerque, NM (Zone 7b) wrote:

We have had several types of hornworms in our yard; varying green ones and a brown type. The green ones are the most destructive, get the biggest and show up every year. One year the kids put the brown one in a jar and fed it tomatoe leaf cuttings. They hatched a really nice moth (butterfly). The big green ones eat tomatoes, all types of chili and our datura (jimsonweed - moon flower). A few of them will take down a huge plant in a day. I have read that they will only eat members of the nightshade family - potato, tomato, chili, tobacco, and my beloved datura - among others. The hummingbird moths are wonderful, so I put up with worm hunting every morning because I love the moths. A real love/hate relationship!


On Aug 20, 2006, achoogardner from Red Oak, NC (Zone 7b) wrote:

This little bugger has been eating my tomato plants for about a month! Actually buggers. I found three. Two of them had what looked like eggs laid on their backs. I would like to know what they were. The third, alas, I smashed! It ate the whole top of my plant off! Grrrrr! I did wonder about the the "horn" on it. The bug files was very helpful. Thanks!


On Aug 11, 2006, brigidlily from Lumberton, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

I know they serve their purpose, but they devastated my chile pepper plants. Two of them ate almost all the leaves and FOURTEEN chile peppers. I stabbed one and it squirted me and the liquid burned like the dickens. I can only guess it was the capsicum. But no more peppers this year, and I'll kill any more of the little darlings that show up!


On Aug 4, 2006, Happenstance from Northern California, CA wrote:

So cute, but really destructive. :(


On Jul 30, 2006, matt5797 from Gallatin, TN (Zone 6b) wrote:

This can be a bad bug for tomatoes-it can easily defoliate a small tomato and a group of them can make a harsh dent in mature tomato plants. You need to look over your plants well to find one, and when you do you may be alarmed. They look horrible but are actually completely harmless. It is best to control small invasions by hand but can be controlled with pesticides. Big invasions need some pesticide as the 2-4 inch worm has a very hard grip on your tomato. The main symptom is a defoliated plant (usually starts at the top and works on down) and plant debree on soil. The good news is that even harshly attacked plants usually will regrow new leaves given a little time. Many times putting moving container grown plants into sunnier spots will slow the bugs as they prefer dark night con... read more


On Jul 25, 2006, Vee8ch from Palm Bay, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Tobacco hornworms are the larvae of the Sphinx moth (Hummingbird Moth). Tobacco hornworms are more common than tomato hornworms. The tobacco hornworm has seven diagonal white w/black/blue lines on his sides. Tail/horn arches downward. This horn is commonly but not always red. It can also be yellow, white, green, orange and the palest blue or combinations of any of these colors.
Horn worms will not hurt you if you handle them. Their tails will not poke you or sting you. They nibble on your hand with their tiny little mouths and it does not hurt. When a hornworm is resting or alarmed he will tuck in his tiny little head and expose his big white teeth that are really just harmless suction cups. He looks intimidating at both ends!

Feeding schedule does not depend on night... read more