Do tomato hornworms live in the soil?

Answered by Tom Adger

Yes, tomato hornworms do live in the soil, but not in their caterpillar form. Let me take you through the life cycle of these fascinating creatures.

It all begins with the hatching of the tomato hornworm eggs. These eggs are usually laid on the undersides of tomato leaves, and after a few days, tiny caterpillars emerge. These caterpillars are green in color and have a distinct horn-like protrusion at the end of their abdomen, giving them their name.

Once they hatch, the caterpillars immediately start feeding on the leaves of the tomato plants. They have a voracious appetite and can consume a large amount of foliage in a short period of time. As they grow, their body size increases, and they molt several times to accommodate their growth.

After about three to four weeks of continuous feeding, the tomato hornworm caterpillars reach their full size. At this stage, they are about 3-4 inches long and are quite plump. It’s fascinating to observe their transformation from tiny hatchlings to these large, green creatures.

Once they are mature, the caterpillars undergo a remarkable change. They stop feeding and drop off the tomato plants. They then burrow into the soil, usually to a depth of a few inches. This is where they enter the pupal stage of their life cycle.

Inside the soil, the caterpillars transform into pupae. During this stage, they undergo metamorphosis, where their bodies reorganize and restructure into the adult form. This process usually takes a couple of weeks to complete.

After the pupal stage, the adult tomato hornworm moths emerge from the soil. These moths are large and have a wingspan of about 4-5 inches. They are predominantly brown in color and have distinct patterns on their wings.

The adult moths have a short life span, usually only a couple of weeks. During this time, their primary focus is to mate and lay eggs for the next generation. After mating, the female moths lay their eggs on the tomato plants, and the cycle begins again.

So, while tomato hornworms do live in the soil, it is only during their pupal stage. The rest of their life cycle is spent on tomato plants, feeding and growing as caterpillars, and eventually transforming into moths. It’s truly a marvel of nature to witness the complete life cycle of these fascinating creatures.