We found this Caterpillar on our tomato plant in Southern California today. It’s approximately 3 inches long, with a horn on it’s tail. It has white and black stripes.
Your caterpillar is the Carolina sphinx or tobacco hornworm. It feeds on all of the solanaceous plants which include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers.
The adult moth is gray and has six pairs of yellow spots on its abdomen. The moth feeds on nectar of deep-throated flowers like honeysuckle, moonflower, or petunia.
This caterpillar has 7 angled white lines along the side while its relative the tomato hornworm has 8. The tobacco hornworm also has a red tail while the tomato hornworm has a black tail…seems like it should be the other way around!
There are 2 or more generations per year depending on location. They are found thru out North America.
They can be a pest of tomatoes, however there are parasitic wasps that lay eggs in them that keep them under control most of the time. If need be to control them, just pick off and smash or drop in soapy water.