Tony O’Neill, gardener and author of the popular “Composting Masterclass” and “Your First Vegetable Garden,” combines lifelong passion and expert knowledge to simplify the art of gardening. His mission? Helping you cultivate a thriving garden. More on Tony O’Neill
Tomato hornworms are very destructive pests. For this reason, there is always a need to find a way of driving them out of your farm. In this blog post, I will share proven strategies for removing and stopping tomato hornworms in their tracks.
Tomato hornworms are the larvae of the beautiful sphinx moth. Do not allow their beauty to deceive you; these moths have the potential to cause massive destruction to your tomato crop. So how exactly can you get rid of these worms? Is it possible to prevent them from causing losses for you? Luckily, preventing and getting rid of them is an utmost possibility.
Have you noticed some holes in your tomato plants’ leaves, fruits, and stems? Have you found some brown droppings on your garden plants? If the answer to these questions is yes, your observations may indicate the presence of tomato hornworms.
In most cases, the effects of the tomato hornworm become evident first before you see it. This is because its green color helps it camouflage with the color of your tomato plants.
It would help if you took immediate action when you spot them to curb the problem from spreading to all your tomato plants.
You can opt for natural ways like picking them by hand when you spot them on the farm, tilling your soil to destroy them before they hatch, or interplanting your tomato plants with other crops that repel or trap the tomato hornworms. It is possible to adapt some biological ways to control them too.
Getting natural predators and beneficial insects like ladybugs, braconid wasps, or green lacewings will be helpful.
These insects will feed on the tomato hornworms hence getting rid of them. Going for organic insecticides to control the worms is another good alternative. They are a safe way to kill the tomato hornworms without poisoning the crops.
We urge you to continue reading this post for further details on the best methods you can adapt to eliminate destructive tomato hornworms.
Natural Ways of Getting Rid of Tomato Hornworms
Nothing beats the safety and convenience of adopting a natural way as a preventive and control measure against pests. For tomato hornworms, here are some proven natural ways of doing away with them:
Hand-picking to get rid of Tomato Hornworms
I shudder at the thought of touching these worms by hand, but this is the most natural way of getting rid of them. I recommend you look through your tomato plants at least twice a day.
It would help if you searched keenly for the tomato hornworms considering they can hide so well. Once you spot them, please pick them up by hand and dispose of them far away, limiting their chances of returning to your farm.
Tilling to get rid of Tomato Hornworms
The pupae of tomato hornworms have the characteristic of hiding underneath the soil before hatching into an adult. I recommend that you dig through your soil. This will help destroy the pupae before they can hatch and begin their destructive activities.
Interplanting to get rid of Tomato Hornworms
Interplanting your tomato crops with beneficial companions is a good solution to eliminate tomato hornworms.
Some plants naturally repel tomato hornworms and will prevent them from laying their eggs on tomato plants. Some great crops you can interplant with your tomato plants are basil, wildflowers, dill, chamomile, borage, nasturtiums, etc.
Planting trap crops to get rid of Tomato Hornworms
Planting trap crops at a safe distance is a great choice. These trap crops will attract pests away from the garden. A great option would be the flower tobacco plants. It’s been proven that tomato hornworms cannot resist it. They, therefore, will be attracted to the flower tobacco plants and leave your tomato plants to thrive.
Crop rotation to get rid of Tomato Hornworms
Changing the location of your tomato plants will help shift them away from an area infested with tomato hornworms. Ensure they are far enough to prevent the worms from crawling back to the crop.
Biological Ways of Getting Rid of Tomato Hornworms
Certain insects and plants are beneficial in this process when it comes to preventing and controlling tomato hornworms. They include:
Marigolds to getting rid of Tomato Hornworms
Planting marigolds around tomatoes is a good strategy. Tomato hornworms dislike the smell of marigolds. This will therefore drive them away. Notably, the best marigolds guaranteed to yield are the pot marigolds and the tagetes marigolds.
Ladybugs to getting rid of Tomato Hornworms
These insects feed on the hornworm eggs’ larvae found on the plant. They’ll eliminate the tomato hornworms by eating many of the hornworm larvae.
It is estimated that they can eat up to 50 larvae a day. They can be purchased online to help stop tomato hornworms in their tracks before they begin the destruction.
It is recommended that they be released at night to limit their chances of flying away.
Green Lacewings to getting rid of Tomato Hornworms
These insects also work the same way ladybugs do. They will feed heavily on the larva of the hornworm. Green lacewings are estimated to feed on over 200 garden pests or eggs in one week. If you intend to get them, you can purchase the lacewing eggs.
Parasitic Wasps to getting rid of Tomato Hornworms
Some wasps do a fantastic job when it comes to controlling the tomato hornworm. The braconid wasp and Trichogramma wasp are excellent examples.
These parasitic wasps will sting the tomato hornworm and lay eggs inside its body. The wasp eggs will hatch under the hornworm’s skin and feed on it from the inside. They will eventually kill it and emerge outside to begin the cycle afresh.
And the good news is that they’ll keep increasing in number, and the helpful insects will continue to get rid of the tomato hornworms in your garden.
Organic Insecticides to getting rid of Tomato Hornworms
Organic insecticides prepared using natural ingredients are safe for removing tomato hornworms on your farm. In cases where the area in your garden is too large, the hornworm population is huge, and other natural or biological methods are not working, I will advise you to resort to this. Let me expound on the options available:
Botanical Bt (Bacillus Thuringiensis) to get rid of Tomato Hornworms
This is a safe organic insecticide, considering it will not harm other plants or animals within the area. It will act as a stomach poison against some larval insects, with tomato hornworms being one of those insects. To get rid of the tomato hornworms with this insecticide, you must ensure they ingest it. Check out current prices on Amazon here.
Also, ensure you reapply for this insecticide after rain because the chances of being washed away during the downpour are high.
Soap Spray to get rid of Tomato Hornworms
You can make this organic insecticide as a DIY at home. To make a soap spray, mix a little liquid soap with water. You can then pour this mixture into a spray bottle and spray it on the infected parts of your tomato plants in the evening or early morning. This is an effective way of controlling tomato hornworms.
Neem Oil Spray to get rid of Tomato Hornworms
The oil derived from the seeds of the neem tree has been proven to be a powerful natural insecticide. It can interfere with the life cycle of tomato hornworms during the different stages, such as the egg, larvae, or adult. It can also act as an antifeedant, stopping insects from feeding on leaves and other plant parts.
You can easily find neem oil in stores and food markets. Follow the instructions on the bottle to understand how to mix things up and create an insecticide.
Garden Dust Insecticide by Safer Brand to get rid of Tomato Hornworms.
The Organic Material Review Institute (OMRI) has approved this safe insecticide. Once you spray it on your tomato plants, the tomato hornworms will ingest it and stop eating after several hours.
Within a few days, they will die, and we will have succeeded in getting rid of them. The good thing about this insecticide is that it is safe for other beneficial insects.
The Monterey Garden Insect Spray to getting rid of Tomato Hornworms
This is my favorite insecticide because it is made through the fermentation of a naturally occurring soil bacterium.
What’s more, it has also been approved by OMRI. It is an easy-to-mix concentrate that can control worms and caterpillars that intend to destroy fruits and vegetables.
This is your go-to solution if you intend to eliminate tomato hornworms.
Sevin Insect Killer to getting rid of Tomato Hornworms
This is another effective, non-systemic solution. This implies that it does not penetrate plant or vegetable tissues. Instead, it remains on the surface and kills the tomato hornworms that come to contact with it. To get to know the recommended intervals for application, read through the instructions on the label.
Organic Dust to getting rid of Tomato Hornworms
This is a safe insecticide that is pyrethrin-based. It can get rid of numerous pests, tomato hornworms included. It can lure, repel or trap pests before killing them. It kills pests using the dehydration method.
It works quickly, taking around 12 hours to eliminate the problem. Additionally, this insecticide can remain effective on your farm for up to one year. Therefore you are not obligated to make frequent applications.
Hornworms can play havoc with your tomato plants. But there are so many other pests and diseases to worry about. I made the video below to help you understand what is happening with your tomato plants and how to resolve the issues. Check it out.
FAQs on How To Get Rid of Tomato Hornworms Stop Them in Their Tracks
How long can hornworms live?
Hornworms can grow up to 3″ to 4″ long and 10 to 12 grams in weight. They live for two to three weeks, depending on the temperature.
Will tomato plants recover from hornworms?
Despite interfering with tomato production, the damage is usually not irreversible if the plant has progressed beyond the seedling stage.
What do tomato hornworms turn into?
Gardeners despise the tomato hornworm in its caterpillar stage because it has eight V-shaped marks on each side and a signature horn on the back. They develop into giant moths with wingspans ranging from 4 to 6 inches.
What is the life cycle of a tomato hornworm?
Caterpillars hatch, begin feeding and reach full maturity in three to four weeks. Mature caterpillars drop from plants and burrow into the soil to pupate. During the middle of summer, moths emerge in two weeks to begin a second generation.
How do tomato hornworms get on my plants?
Like olive-green hummingbirds, Hawkmoths found your tomato and laid eggs, hatched into tomato hornworms. In a single day, a hornworm can strip a leaf. They’re difficult to spot among the green foliage when they’re about the size of a green matchstick.
Conclusion on how to get rid of Tomato Hornworms
It feels great to have shared numerous alternative methods for removing tomato hornworms. Just like me, if you are into vegetable gardening, the chances are high that you have encountered this destructive pest.
With the natural methods I have shared, like tilling your garden, crop rotation, picking them by hand, interplanting, or including trap crops, you now have effective ways of getting rid of tomato hornworms.
Moreover, alternatives are available in biological methods, such as marigolds that chase away the tomato hornworms with their smell, ladybugs, green lacewings, and parasitic worms that eat them away and wipe out their existence.
And if all else fails, you can resort to using organic insecticides that are both safe and effective. We have learned some good options you can make at home or buy from a nearby store. Say goodbye to the devastating tomato hornworms and start delighting in a healthy tomato crop using the methods shared here.
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