It was only a matter of time, but I really hoped to get a bit further into the season before I saw my enemy — the tomato hornworm – in my little Shenandoah Valley veggie garden. Well, no such luck. I found two of the suckers (or chewers, really) on the Roma tomatoes. I looked over the 22 other tomato plants and didn’t see any others or their evidence, which you can see in the bottom picture.
Tomato hornworms are the caterpillar of a hawk moth. You can see, in the second picture, the projection that gives them their “horn” name. They’re actually pretty little things, but they can do a lot of damage in a very short period of time. As you can see below, each has done a fair bit of stripping to the stems. I love hummingbird moths (another name), but not as much as I love tomatoes.
I’m sorry to say these little fellas met an untimely end courtesy of my bug drowner. The drowner is an old water bottle that is cut open on a side. I fill it with a few squirts of dish liquid and a lot of water. I then flick in nuisance beetles, or, in this case, I just dropped in the whole stem, caterpillar and all. Once the bugs/worms are dead, I pour them into the compost pile.
One note about tomato hornworms. If you see any covered in what look like white cottony projections, you may not want to kill them. When that happens, the caterpillars have been parasitized by a wasp. Gross, yes, but what you’re seeing are the braconid wasp cocoons. When the wasps emerge from the cocoons, they kill the caterpillar. This life cycle repeats itself, and you will have a few fewer caterpillars in the garden!
Have you found an effective way to stay on top of a tomato hornworm infestation?*** This personal blog is comprised solely of the opinions, views, projects, and travels of its author, Stacey Morgan Smith. She is lucky enough to have loving family and friends whom she drags along with her on her adventures and whom she puts to work on her little farm. She uses this blog to help promote living in the mountains of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, from Roanoke to the Potomac River.**