How to Control Tomato Worms

May 15, 2012 by

What are Tomato Worms?

tomato worm controlTomato worms are one of the garden’s most notorious insects. It can devastate your tomatoes and potatoes planted in your garden. The big green caterpillar on your tomato plant can do a ton of damage. If you don’t know what the signs are for tomato worms, you may not notice that you have them until they have done their worst damage. Tomato worms are also known as hornworms. You can tell immediately that you have them if you look around the bottom of your tomato plant and you see a lot of dark green brown pellet size droppings. These green caterpillars are hard to see, so you may have to spend a few minutes looking at each tomato plant before you find the culprit.

Where Do Tomato Worms Come from?

Tomato worms come from the soil. They start out as tiny eggs that are laid by a moths (known as the tomato moth or the Hummingbird moth). Typically at the end of the season, moths do lay their eggs in the soil. They will hatch in the springtime, and they are the easiest to control and they are in their first or second instar stage of life. By the time they reached their last instar, they do 90% of their damage. These tomato worms can eat leaves, stems, and even the tomatoes themselves. The first time that we had tomato worms, we noticed because there were caterpillar sized holes in our tomato plants. Even if you only have a 0.5 worms per tomato plant, this is too much and you should think about treating your garden right away. This is one reason why it’s a good idea to till your ground every year.

Using a commercial Rototiller, can kill as many as 90% of the eggs in your garden. After the moths lay their eggs, these eggs will just incubate in the soil until so conditions get warm enough for them to grow and hatch. After they hatch, they will be eating your tomato leaves and eventually your tomatoes as well. If you are looking for them, it is best to check on the underside of leaves. Make sure to check very carefully, especially under each leaf because they can hide themselves really well. Tomato worms are pretty large. As soon as you find your first one, you’ll be amazed that you didn’t see it earlier. Tomato worms have horns on them, and the main event have white eggs growing on their spine. These eggs are the egg of a predator a special kind of loss that uses them as a parasitic host.

What are Three Different Methods of Tomato Worm Control?

The first method of control is manual control. This is probably the best way to get rid of tomato worms. If you find damage to your tomato plants, spend a few minutes looking for the culprit. You can remove them from your plants manually and get rid of them. Don’t worry, they don’t bite. Even though it might seem like there are a lot of tomato worms because of all the damage they create, there are probably more than a half-dozen. The problem is when they reached their last instar stage they are usually devouring dozens of leaves every day, so they can do a lot of damage. As soon as you notice that you have a problem, get rid of them! This video shows you how to find horn worms.

The second method of tomato worm control is biological. When a wasp finds a foreign hornworm, they like to plant their eggs in the spine of the tomato hornworm. Eventually, this will kill the worm. The guy in the video is kind of funny because he keeps all the worm parasites so that there will be more work to kill them next year. During the first and second instar, these worms are small enough that they can be eaten by large ladybugs, or by green lace wings. Once they are fully grown, birds will eat them if they can find them.

The third method of control is to use a pesticide. For most commercially grown tomatoes, a pesticide is regularly used as control and eliminate horn worms. Usually in general garden pesticide that will help get rid of them. If you’re doing a home garden, it would probably be a good idea just to find them, and remove them from your plants. It seems like the easiest way to take care of the problem.

If you are going on a vacation during June, July or August, it might be a good idea to go and check your tomato worms before leaving. Otherwise, you could come back expecting a harvest, but only get the stump of a tomato plant.

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