How to Save Your Tomato Plants from Hornworms
Tomato is one of the healthy foods, and it is also easy to plant and grow. However, what no one ever expects is the existence of tomato worms. They ruin the whole plants. It is hard to avoid them from getting attracted to the plants.
Where do tomato worms come from? What are they? How do we get rid of them? We are about to find out soon.
1. The Trouble with Tomato Hornworms
Whatever you plant in your garden, you have a utopian idea. All your plants are safe from anything that might ruin them. Tomato is just one example. The last thing you ever need is a bunch of tomato pests creating holes in leaves, fruits, and stems.
Identifying worms on tomato can be quite a challenge. We are not talking about the most visible creatures that we can spot easily. The color on their surface mimics the color of the plants they devour.
Look closer at your tomato plants. If you see a green caterpillar hanging by the stem or leaf, then…bingo. You find your pest. Well, at least one of the pests, because they do not come alone.
2. The Cycle of The Hornworms
They always show up unexpectedly. It is a pain since we want our tomato plants to stay healthy until harvest time. However, there is a way to figure out when they might show up. This is part of your tomato plant care program.
By knowing tomato worms’ life cycle, you get to set up some precautions. Here is their life cycle:
- Large adult moths lay eggs in late spring. They do that on the underside of the foliage. In a week, these eggs will hatch.
- The larvae of a green caterpillar will feed between four to six weeks. Then they create their cocoons. These are to protect them during winter and overwinter the soil. Once the weather turns warm again, they stop burrowing after two or three weeks.
- Newborn moths emerge in the next spring. These adult ones lay eggs again before the spring ends. Then the cycle continues.
- If the area is much warmer in climate, they may lay more eggs. This means more than one generation may hatch and emerge.
3. More on Identifying Tomato Worms
Yes, that green caterpillar we have discussed in the first chapter is one example. In details, let’s have a much closer look here:
The longest tomato worms are five inches. They are the biggest bullies that cause more destruction in your plants. Pale green with white and black markings, they also have horns. These horns are more like protrusion that stems from their rear. Therefore, they are also called “the hornworms.”
Despite the horns, these tomato pests do not sting. Another description you can see is their V-shaped stripes on their green bodies.
These worms on tomato exist because of the previous brown-gray moth. Their larvae blend well with the green stems or leaves. Once you remember their life cycle, start checking out your tomato plants on a regular basis. Find some eggs and small caterpillars.
To be more precise here is what you can do:
- At the top of your tomato leaves, look closer. Find dark green droppings left by the larvae. At the underside of the leaves, you can find the hornworms.
- If some stems are missing some leaves or have wilted ones, those are the signs. The white cocoons and the hornworm hosts are possibly close by.
4. The Damages They Make
How bad are the damages they make? These tomato worms cause a lot of them, like:
- Large holes on leaves.
- Leaves with severe defoliation.
- Devoured flowers.
- Badly-scarred fruits.
These damages are more than enough to ruin your tomato harvest time.
5. It Is Time to Get Rid of Them and Make Sure They Do Not Return
How to get rid of tomato hornworms? Not only that, but we also need to make sure that they never come back again. First, this is how to get rid of them:
- Pick them by hands. Tomato worms do not sting despite the horns they have. Feeling a little squeamish at the idea? No need to crush them. Just drown them in soapy water or feed them to your flock of chicken if you have any. Wear gloves too if you feel disgusted about touching them.
- Use insecticides if there are too many of them. You can use the organic version called Bt or Bacillus thuringiensis. That is a bacteria that attacks the insects’ digestive systems. No worries, it is safe for other animals and plants.
To make sure that these tomato pests never return, here is how:
- Till the soil at the beginning and the end of each gardening season. This helps to destroy the blooming larvae during winter up to 90% mortality rate.
- Keep wasps around in the garden. Although they are dark by appearance and rather scary-looking to some, they are useful. Consider them weapons to attack worms on tomato.
- Your tomato plants might need decent companions in the same beds. You can try to interplant dill or basil. Some may suggest that you interplant marigold in between. Marigold is the best protection for your tomato. It helps to keep any pests away.
Just for the records: although they are called tomato worms, they also attack other plants:
- Bell peppers
That is why these tips may work wonders if you have these plants too.
6. Never Fear the Hornworms
Planting anything in your garden always has its risks. Attracting pests is just one of them. With a proper tomato plant care, there is no need to worry. Never fear the hornworms, since their appearance is not as scary as their name. They are just annoying pests you need to get rid of.
After figuring out these tips to protect your tomato plants until harvest time, then you are all set. You know how to make these tomato worms go away.