applestar wrote:These are climbing cutworms. They climb up from the ground to eat at night, then climb back down to the ground or curl up in a nice dark-ish hole they made in the fruit. They do this to peppers, too. Sometimes, you can catch them on their way back down if you are out as soon as it's light enough to see in the morning. Now that you know they are around, you could lightly, gently scratch around the base of the tomato which might turn them up. If you are diligent about inspecting the fruits, you could catch them earlier while they are small -- little ones are stupider and are not as good about hiding.
I'm not in favor of using murphy's soap but that might be just me -- I'm not particularly in favor of using Bt or Spinosad either, but they will work as well and they are considered organic pesticides. They give their little tummies a bad stomach bug, and they can't eat any more and die. So you spray whatever they eat, not them, and give them a chance to ingest it.
In my garden wild birds are often hunting in the tomato patch -- I notice male cardinals often -- they make a lot of noise while they are on the hunt -- usually from either high vantage point from which they seem to pounce on their prey, or hopping around on the ground. I know they have been successful catching hornworms, maybe cutworms, too. House Wrens and Carolina Wrens like to hop through the foliage -- not sure what they are after -- generally smaller game, I think, but I've seen them with smaller caterpillars in their beaks.
Applestar - thanks for the input. I feel like my yard is pretty jumping as far as birds are concerned. We've got blue bird boxes near the beds, and other bird houses around our property - I actually have a family of baby blue birds living in one of our downspouts (thankfully it hasn't been too rainy this summer). I've seen quite a few little wrens and some cardinals hunting in the raised beds - so I was a little surprised about the caterpillars - it is the first time I've spotted them in our beds. My pal swears by the murphy's oil soap, so I guess I'll give that a try - he said just a few drops mixed with water is enough to deter them, but I'm not so sure it will be enough to do any real damage to beasties of this size! My aunt recommended Neem oil, so if the soap doesn't work I'll try that next.
I learn so much from these forums - I didn't realize I was supposed to feed my container plants every 10 days until they'd already been growing for 2 months. No wonder I have had such a pitiful first year garden, lol. I'm very much looking forward to carrying my newly acquired knowledge into my fall garden (although slightly worried about caterpillars attacking my cabbage, ha ha ha)