Tomato Hornworm Control – Destroy Tomato Horn Worms before They Destroy Your Garden!

May 15, 2012 by

tomato horn wormsTomato hornworms are among some of the most notorious pest that can invade your garden and destroy your tomato plants. Tomato horn worms can be found throughout most North America, including Mexico and Canada. Last year, I think we have a few hornworms in our garden. We finally just let our chickens have it, and they did a pretty good job at getting rid of them.

Tomato Hornworm Life Cycle

The tomato hornworm life cycle is as follows. The first stage of their life cycle is in eggs. These eggs are laid by the moth parent. These eggs often get laid in the soil, or even on tomato plants, so it is a good idea to check them for eggs and caterpillars during July and August. The second stage of their life cycle is a larva. When they are a larva, they our known as green caterpillars. These green caterpillars will feed on the underside of your tomato leaves. Often, they do a lot of damage and you don’t even realize that you have them they’re damaged. During the last instar of their development, is when they do about 90% of their damage. They not only eat the leaves, but they eat your tomatoes as well. It is pretty clear that you have these caterpillars when you see large brown holes on your tomatoes. When I see these holes, I quickly pull the tomatoes off of my pies and feed them to my chickens. My chickens love to eat tomatoes, and they love horn worms even more!

The next stage of their development is when they start to pupate. After about two weeks, they emerge as a moth. They are a large moth, and sometimes they are also called a hummingbird moth because their wings flutter so rapidly.

It is hard to know whether you have them because the hornworm larva will blend in with the tomato plant, and they will often be found on the underside of the lower branches. The color of the hornworm larva is identical to the color of your tomato plant. Sometimes, you can know that you have them because they will leave dark green droppings on your tomato plant. Also, you may find that moths have laid their eggs on your plant. If you find eggs, remove them immediately. Also, they typically attack the bottom of the plant. This is the best place to start checking your plants for hornworms. The reason why they attack the bottom is because they can get access to it during the night, and then hide in the soil during the day.

tomato hornworm life cycleTomato hornworms can do a lot of damage when they are in their larva stage. They can cause your plant to wilt, they can eat your tomatoes, and can even kill your plants or dramatically cut their yield. When the tomato hornworm is in its larva stage, it looks a lot like a green caterpillar. A lot of times these worms will actually hide during the day, and come out at night to feed on your tomato plants. They will typically feed heavily on your tomatoes during the early summer. At the end of the summer they will emerge from their pupa and turn into moths.

Tomato Hornworm Control

Tomato hornworm control is easy to do during the late instar stage. Usually, you want to kill these caterpillars before they are full-grown. When they are under three-quarters of an inch, or pesticides will be very effective at getting rid of them. It is a good idea to try to control tomato hornworms before the last instar stage.

The best method for getting rid of tomato hornworms is to remove them from your plant manually. You might be able to do this by going out to find your tomato plants early in the morning, or you may be able to turn on your light and look for them at night. Under a UV light, tomato horn worms will glow in the dark. This makes it pretty easy to find and remove them. Typically if you can just remove them manually, you can save the trouble of having to put a herbicide on your tomato plants. Another way to try to get rid of them is to introduce ladybugs or other beneficial insect predators into your garden. Please keep in mind though that once the caterpillars are more than half-grown, and these types of insects don’t really do a lot of damage.

Another way to kill these pests is by power rototilling your soil. When you power rototilling your soil, you can kill about 90% of the eggs that are in there. This will greatly help reduce horn worms, and may help to get rid of them entirely.

Another way to control them without using any chemicals is to have chickens. Your chickens can control your garden and get rid of any worms that they find. They will be very happy to do so. However, you should keep in mind it will probably end up costing you a few tomatoes as well.

Biological Tomato Hornworm Controlled

tomato hornworm controlThere are several biological controls for hornworms. When they are new hatchlings, they can often be the prey for ladybugs and green lacewings. When they are bit older, they can be pray for wasps. Wasps will often lay their eggs in them, and as the eggs hatch, they will become parasitic.


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