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How to Tell the Difference Between Tomato and Tobacco Hornworms

This video by North Carolina State University’s Small Fruit & Tobacco IPM Lab shows the similarities and differences between tomato and tobacco hornworm caterpillars and moths.

Both species of hornworm caterpillars feed on tobacco and other plants, and the tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) and the tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) are easy to confuse because they look similar and have similar life cycles. However, you can tell them apart because:

1. The tobacco hornworm caterpillar has black margins on its white stripes and it has a red horn, but the tomato hornworm has green margins on its white striptes and it’s horn is blue.

2. The tobacco hornworm adult (the moth) has six orange spots on its abdomen, but the tomato hornworm only has five orange spots.

Follow the lab on Twitter at @NCSmallFruitIPM or click here to like them on Facebook.

Read more at:

Tobacco and Tomato Hornworm Biology

Tobacco Hornworm and the Tomato Hornworm


  1. Mine has 7 slanted stripes, primary stripe is lavender, not purple, lavender, boarded with a high lighter yellow/green. Horn/tail is lime green like the rest of his body with that same high lighter yellow/green bumps. These bumps are always in a pattern on the top of his head. It has black foot/toenail like claws, front claws are black and white. And I found him a hibiscus, and we only carry exotic and local plants at the nursery I found him at, no vegetables anywhere near the land. What is this little guy? He doesn’t look exactly like a Tabacco or tomato hornworm. I just need to know what to feed him quite frankly. Please and thank you!

  2. I’m just wondering if it turned out to be a giant cecropia moth? It sounded like my memory of some that lived in my English walnut tree a few years back.

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