Insect identification, please
Flocks of the insect shown in attached jpeg devastated our cherry- and grape-tomato crop in mid- to late summer. What is it? And is there an environment-friendly way to discourage them next season? Thanks in advance.
While they may be present, this insect did not damage any of your crops.
This is a type of brush foot butterfly (butterflies have knobs on their antennae) called a Hackberry Emperor. You might have a Hackberry tree nearby, which is the only food the caterpillar of this one eats.
They are attracted to sap and rotting fruit, and our reference says that "males are pugnacious, darting out at other butterflies and insects invading their territory".
As for your grape/cherry tomatoes, we wonder what signs or symptoms you saw?
Fruit disappearing? Being damaged? (Wildlife?) Poor fruit set (Weather or pollination problems)
Here is our Tomato page which can help you with some of the most common problems: http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/tomatoes
You wrote, in part:
> As for your grape/cherry tomatoes, we wonder what signs or symptoms you saw?
> Fruit disappearing? Being damaged?
Juice and "innards" apparently sucked out of the tomatoes while still on vine, leaving clusters of ugly sacs.
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If you can send us photos, we can see what you may be dealing with.
With all the rain we have had this season, the tomatoes may have succumbed to splits, cracks, and then soft rots can set in. Fruit cracks when there is abundance of water taken up into the plant/fruit, followed by hot weather. The water in the fruit simply expands and splits the skin. Also, tomato varieties also vary quite a bit in the amount and severity of splits and cracks.
Next season you can pick the tomatoes at the blush stage and let them ripen on your kitchen counter.
Here is some information on our website about cracking and splits https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/cracking-vegetables