Caterpillars in Your Yard and Garden
Tomato fruitworm and corn earworm
Cutworms, armyworms, underwings and dagger moths
Tomato fruitworm, corn earworm caterpillars (Helicoverpa zea) are present in mid-June. They produce two generations per year.
Other names for this caterpillar include sorghum headworm and cotton bollworm. Full-grown caterpillars are 1 inch long. The head is usually light brown while the body varies from pink to yellow-green to brown. Overall, the body has alternating longitudinal light and dark stripes with a yellow band below the spiracles. Scattered on the body are small, black tubercles bearing small hairs (or spines), giving the caterpillar a rough texture. Host plants include a variety of vegetables, fruits, and weeds, although this species is a serious pest of tomatoes, corn, cotton, soybeans and grain sorghum. Most populations enter Missouri as migrating swarms from the southern United States.
About the family
Noctuidae is the largest family in the order Lepidoptera. The body of the caterpillars ranges from smooth with very little hair to clothed with short or long hairs; coloration varies from dull-colored to bright stripes or patches to cryptic. Although many species are found feeding on the foliage of forest or shade trees, they are not considered serious pests. However, several species are damaging to many field, vegetable and fruit crops.