Are you currently battling tomato hornworms on your crops? These pests can destroy your tomato crops very quickly. They are mostly found in the US and parts of southern Canada. If you live in this region and have ever tried to grow tomatoes, you have probably encountered this pest. Tomato hornworms blend in very well with the leaves, making them more difficult to spot.
How to identify tomato hornworms:
On average they are about 5 inches long, which is bigger than you may think. They are also a light green color with white and black spots on them. They do the most damage while they are in this larval stage.
Common signs of tomato hornworms:
- Hornworms start to chew through the top of the plant first and you will see holes in the leaves or even missing leaves.
- If you see dark green or black drops on the top side of the leaves, they have probably been left by hornworms and if you look under the leaf you may be able to see the hornworm.
- You may find the cocoons and their hornworms hosts nearby your tomato crop.
How to identify an infestation:
- Large holes in the leaves
- Missing leaves
- Devoured flowers
- Scarring on the tomatoes
How to get rid of tomato hornworms:
- Handpicking: This method works well if you have a small garden or more time and patience. This tactic can take a while longer however, it is still very effective. The caterpillars are not harmful to humans, only your tomato crops, so don’t worry about having to touch them. Have a bucket filled with soap and water nearby and place them in the bucket after picking them.
- Insecticide: This can work well if you have larger crops, however, it should be a last resort. Adding chemicals to your garden is not always the best solution, especially if you plan on eating your harvest.
- Beneficial insects: After you have the caterpillar population under control you can release beneficial insects like ladybugs into your garden and they will eat the eggs, preventing them from hatching.
- Natural Pesticides: Bacillus thuringiensis or BT acts as a stomach poison to the hornworms. They will consume the bacteria and as a result the pests will stop feeding and eventually die off.
How to prevent tomato hornworms:
- Remember to till the soil at the beginning and end of each gardening season, this helps ensure that overwintering larvae are destroyed.
- Crop rotation can also be another effective method at ensuring that the tomato hornworms do not return.
- Weeding will help eliminate their eggs, the more your weed the less places the tomato hornworms will have to lay their eggs.