Organic & Chemical Control of
(Tomato Hornworm Caterpillar)
(Not the tomato worms you see? Check Potato Bug Larva.)
NOTE: These voracious eaters don't limit themselves to tomatoes. They also enjoy peppers, tomatillos, and other members of the same vegetable family.
Tomato hornworm caterpillars are one of the most common tomato insect problems. While curious looking, these tomato worms (caterpillars) can do massive damage to your tomato crop and garden in a very short time.
You may not notice right away that you have tomato worms (hornworm caterpillars). They're pretty good at hiding on the underside of the leaves, where the tomato worms (caterpillars) go unnoticed by predators.
Since tomato worms (hornworms) aren't always easy to spot, watch for tell-tale signs. These are strong indicators that tomato worms (hornworms) have invaded your garden:
* tomato leaf stems that are barren twigs (the leaves have been eaten by the tomato worm (hornworm))
* large black droppings on the leaves or around the base of the tomato plant. The droppings look a little like small blackberries in shape.
Tomato worms (hornworm caterpillars) are usually 3-4 inches long. They very quickly make a hearty meal not only out of the tomato plant leaves, but sometimes also eat the tomato fruit also.
Note: Just look at the # of droppings you find around one tomato worm (hornworm) & you'll be horrifically impressed by the quantity of your tomato plants they've eaten.
There are actually a few varieties of hornworms, but they all do the same damage to your garden. Officially, the "tomato hornworm" has a black horn protruding from it's backside. The "tobacco hornworm" has a red horn. Tomato worms (hornworm caterpillars) turn into hornworm moths (large brown/gray moths with white and yellow markings). The caterpillars hatch from eggs laid in the spring by the moths.
The young tomato worms (hornworm caterpillars) feed for about a month, then they burrow into the ground. They emerge as moths and lay eggs, and the whole cycle starts all over again.
Organic method: hand pick the tomato worms and destroy them.
NOTE: if the tomato worms have small white egg-looking objects on it (see above), don't harm the caterpillar. These "eggs" are actually the cocoons for a wasp that dines on the hornworms (as a parasite).They're nature's way of controlling the tomato hornworm population. Destroying it will also destroy the beneficial parasites.
It is usually not necessary to spray to get rid of tomato worms, if you're watching your garden. But, if you prefer to spray, you can spray BTK, diazinon, sevin, or something with bacillus thuringiensis (a bacterial insecticide) on your plants to control the tomato worms.
- Organic insect control ideas
- Companion Planting for Insect Control
- Incorrect Soil pH Could affect plant health. How to Test Soil pH
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Note: the advice and information contained herein is based upon our experience and study.
As with any advice, please apply at your own discretion.