What’s Eating my Tomato Plants?!

hornworm, tomato hornworm, tobacco hornworm, tomato pest

If you have tomato plants, sooner or later you’ll encounter hornworms or some other kind of caterpillar which will eat large quantities of leaves, stems and, even fruit. Don’t panic. Usually the plants recover nicely, once the “worm” has been removed.

Here are Some Pointers to Help Deal with Tomato Devouring Caterpillars

  • Though they are usually well camouflaged one can generally find them by looking in the damaged area of the plant.
  • Sometimes there are several. The other day I was visiting a friend. While we stood by his large cherry tomato plant, we picked at least 5 off of it. He commented that he’d already removed 6.
  • The most common “worms” to attack tomato plants are called hornworms, as they have what appears to be a stinger (or horn) on their tail. Stay calm. NONE of these caterpillars sting or bite. They might give you the creeps, but that’s about it.
Tomato horn worm
Tomato horn worm

By George BredehoftOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

  • If you want a science project for children, or are just kind of geeky, then you can go into the tomato patch at night, with a black light. Green hornworms glow in ultraviolet light.
  • DON’T go spraying or dusting those plants to stop caterpillars. Almost anything you can use, which will stop them, will either be absorbed by the plant, or leave a residue on the tomato fruit, which you intend to eat. It’s not hard to take a few minutes and pick them off. Drop them into a can with water and a little vegetable oil, or, if you have poultry, feed them to the birds.
  • If you ever find a caterpillar with little white cocoons sticking to it, LEAVE IT ALONE! The eggs belong to a beneficial parasitic wasp. The “worm” has been paralyzed by the wasp, and when the little wasp larva hatch, they will EAT the caterpillar. They complete their life cycle by parasitizing more caterpillars, which drastically cuts down on damage to your garden. People pay to obtain these wasps. So, recognize the blessing and let them do their job.
tobacco hornworm, hornworm, garden pest, tomato pest
Tobacco Hornworm with parasitic wasp eggs
by: Paul VanDerWerf
Creative Commons License:

If you’d like to purchase parasitic wasp eggs here’s a place that sells them. Just read carefully, so as to choose the correct kind:

Trichogramma wasp eggs: Arbico Organics

Here’s a video of another kind of tomato-eating caterpillar.

Hint: You can click on the CC icon, in the video, and select closed captioning.

caterpillar_tomato8_16_2018RAW from Homesteadingedu on Vimeo.



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