Have you had an encounter with that pesky Tomato Hornworm?
We did. If we had known the Signs, Treatment & Prevention of the Tomato Hornworm, we could have saved this beautiful plant full of tomatoes. Those little creatures completely destroyed these beautiful tomato plants! It’s hard to believe that a creature so small can do so much damage but they can. Hornworms can destroy a plant this size in a matter of days, if left untreated. We handpicked them from the plant on a daily basis but they still destroyed it. It was our first time using the Topsy Turvy and it was going exceptionally well as you can see in the photo below until that hornworm, horned in on our fun. (sorry, I just had to say it.)
Because of our experience, I wanted to share with you what we have since learned so you can take preventative measures too.
Signs of the Tomato Hornworm
- Dark droppings on the tops of the plant leaves and on the ground around your plants
- Missing stems
- Wilted leaves
He is almost cute, isn’t he? If you are raising chickens, you may already know that you can feed these to the chickens. It’s like a steak dinner to them!
Treatment/How to Get Rid of the Hornworm
- Handpicking; a slow a tedious process. Drop them into soapy water to kill them or feed them to the chickens.
- Insecticides; BT or Bacillus thuringiensis, sold commercially as Dipel or Thuricide (this is an organic insecticide)
- Nematodes such as lady bugs and braconid wasps. Attract the wasps by growing the companion plants listed below under Prevention.
- Till the soil between planting seasons
- Companion plantings such as planting Basil and Marigold near your tomatoes will help. The strong odors from both of these plants are believed to ward off the hornworm. Other companion plants include Borage (also known as Starflower) and Zinnia. (Read Marigolds From Seed To Bloom HERE)
If you see a Hornworm covered in these little white sacs, leave it alone to die. Those are eggs laid by the parasitic braconid wasp. The worm will die and the eggs will hatch more of the helpful garden wasps. Yes, I did just say you can allow a bunch of wasps to hatch and live in your garden! I’m not too crazy about that idea either but if it will save my tomato plants, count me in. Some of the companion plantings mentioned above include flowers which attract the wasps to your garden.
Tomatoes are the most commonly planted home garden plant. It is so nice to bring in a nice big juicy ripe tomato in the summer and make yourself a tomato sandwich, isn’t it? Don’t let those pesky Hornworms ruin your summer garden!
This short video on You Tube does a great job of educating about the Tomato Hornworm. Follow me on You Tube HERE for a growing library of informative videos on everyday domestic adventures.
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