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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - October 03, 2013

From: Dripping Springs, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens, Pests
Title: Native nightshade that is a host to hornworm-hawk's eye moth
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Is there a native nightshade that serves as a host to tomato hornworm/hawks eye moth? I like the moth and as a gardener do not like the hornworm. I would like to have a patch of not terribly toxic nightshades to which I could relocate the hornworms.

ANSWER:

There are other Solanaceae that the hornworm will feed on—e.g., pepper, eggplant and potato.  However, you probably aren't going to be happy about these plants being eaten either. There are native plants that you can encourage to grow near your garden that the caterpillars can be transferred to.  They will feed on Solanum elaeagnifolium (Silverleaf nightshade) and Solanum dimidiatum (Western horsenettle), common native plants that grow in Hays County.  They are considered toxic, however.  See the information from Texas A&M AgriLife's Plants of Texas Rangelands about silverleaf nightshade.  They will also feed on Datura wrightii (Sacred thorn-apple) but it is considered highly toxic.

You do realize that if you transfer the caterpillars to other plants to feed and mature, the resulting moths will lay eggs on your tomatoes again next year and you will have still more caterpillars to deal with.

Here is information from SF Gate about the hornworm and controlling it.  

 

From the Image Gallery


Silverleaf nightshade
Solanum elaeagnifolium

Western horsenettle
Solanum dimidiatum

Jimsonweed
Datura wrightii

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