Tomato hornworms can wreak havoc on your tomato plants, but there are a few things you can do to get rid of them. First, look for signs of damage on your plants, such as chewed leaves or stems. If you see any damage, inspect the plant for worms.
You may also see the worms crawling on the plant or nearby ground. If you find any worms, remove them by hand and dispose of them. You can also try using traps or pesticides to control tomato hornworms. Read on for more tips on getting rid of these pests.
What are tomato hornworms?
Tomato hornworms are one of the most destructive pests that gardeners have to deal with each season. These voracious eaters can quickly decimate an entire tomato crop, easily devouring the leaves and immature fruits.
Even worse, their green color makes them difficult to spot among healthy plants until they’ve already done some serious damage.
Experienced gardeners know that vigilance is paramount to minimize these pests’ impact on their gardens, but it isn’t always enough. Something more needs to be done about this problem.
How to Identify tomato hornworms?
The tomato hornworm is an impressive sight. Easily identified by their spike-like tail, the hornworms grow up to four inches long and range in color from green to brownish-black. They are usually quite plump and covered with white stripes and spots along their body length.
All hornworms become moths when they reach adulthood and undertake a complex multi-stage life cycle of up to five years.
When adult moths emerge from their pupa stage, they fly into the night air in search of vegetables and herbs on which the eggs will be laid for the next generation of larvae. The remarkable adaptability of this pest has made it a successful species for thousands of years, despite efforts by humans to contain it.
how to spot tomato hornworms early and prevent infestations.
Spotting tomato hornworms early is essential for preventing infestations in the garden.
The best way to detect these pests is to head outdoors and look for signs of their activity, such as ragged holes in lower leaves, droppings at the base of your plant, or wilting foliage.
Check both sides of the leaves and be on the lookout for small green caterpillars (no more than 2-3 inches long) that blend into the foliage.
If you happen upon a caterpillar, look closely—it may have tiny white dots along its body, indicating it’s a tomato hornworm.
Finally, if you’re worried about an infestation of these hungry critters, set up yellow sticky traps near your plants to help track their movement around your garden and provide peace of mind regarding your precious tomatoes.
natural methods to get rid of tomato hornworms
Tomato hornworms are pesky pests that can ruin a garden’s tomato crop quicker than you say “hornworm.”
But fear not! There are natural methods gardeners can use to help prevent and remove these unwanted visitors.
Hand-picking the worms off plants is effective, as is spraying the undersides of leaves with a mixture of water and dish soap.
Planting certain herbs like basil or tansy have also been known to keep hornworms at bay, producing scents that the worms find repulsive. Lastly, encouraging birds and other wildlife to frequent your garden can help disrupt the hornworm population, as they are likely to feast on them!
chemical control methods to get rid of tomato hornworms
Chemical control methods are one of the most popular and effective ways to tackle large tomato hornworm infestations. For home gardeners, an organic option is spraying an insecticidal soap or BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis) directly on the worms.
Chemical control can provide good results when used in moderate amounts and in combination with other sustainable control methods. However, it’s important to be mindful of the danger involved when using chemical pesticides.
Overusing pesticides can harm beneficial insects that normally prey on pest populations, leading to further problems.
In addition, persistent use of chemical pesticides can reduce soil fertility over time, so it’s best practice to rotate between different natural methods as often as possible.
Tomato hornworms can quickly destroy a tomato crop if not caught early and treated properly. Look for these voracious pests on the undersides of leaves and keep an eye out for frass, their telltale sign.
You can remove them by hand or use chemical control methods, but be careful not to overdo it with pesticides because they can also kill beneficial insects that help keep other garden pests in check. Contact your local extension office for more information on organically controlling tomato hornworms.