caterpillars in my tomatoes

barbcoleus(z10 Cape Coral,Fl)December 28, 2007

I have some sort of caterpillers making holes in my beloved tomatoes. I don't care what their names are, I just want to know how to kill them.

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tony_k_orlando(Z9 Fl)

there is a product known as BT (bacillus thuringiensis) that does the job.

When you start to see tiny holes eaten in the leaves of the plant or caterpillar droppings, its time to use BT

    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 3:20PM
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mistiaggie(z9A Tx)

They are probably my chubby friends the tomato hornworms. We pick them off and put them on our Brug's. They seem happy there. I don't like squishing purty caterpillars, even if they are eating my 'maters!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 3:38PM
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an_ill-mannered_ache

barb,
are your holes in the tomatoes, or in the leaves? i've had a problem with some little wormy guy digging a scar or shallow hole in my tomatoes -- superficial, but it ruins the beauty of the fruit. not enough to make me get out the BT, but tony_k's right -- that would do the trick.

and if it's the hornworms eating your leaves -- it's irritating, but the damage is usually minimal. they eat a bunch, pupate, and fly away. the plants always recover.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 4:13PM
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barbcoleus(z10 Cape Coral,Fl)

I should take a photo of them. They aren't really pretty. They are actually eating holes in the tomatoes. Interestingly enough I have five different buckets of tomatoes and they have gone crazy over one type, moderately interested in another type and the others are left alone. These are seeds from Naplesgardener. I'm going to keep seeds from the type I like the best and not grow those that seem to have problems next year.
Thanks everyone for the advice

    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 4:20PM
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coffeemom(Broward z10)

I've had those worms, too. The leaves are all lacey not munched like hornworm damage. They also made holes in the baby 'maters. I was picking them off by hand flinging or squashing them. They were about a half inch in size.
I hate to spray....but I'll consider it.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 4:50PM
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treefrog_fl(z10 FL)

Is this the culprit?

Here is a link that might be useful: tomato fruitworm

    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 5:06PM
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an_ill-mannered_ache

hmmm... treefrog, those look a lot bigger than the ones that did their thing to my maters. coffeemom -- that sounds exactly like the damage done to mine. i'll try to remember to take a pic tomorrow.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 6:14PM
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barbcoleus(z10 Cape Coral,Fl)


Here it is. It doesn't look exactly like the fruitworm but how many different worms can there be in tomatoes?

    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 6:14PM
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an_ill-mannered_ache

barb -- that's the villain. exactly the same damage. i just ate one with the holes tonight -- the damage is superficial, but frustrating. what is it???

    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 8:37PM
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treefrog_fl(z10 FL)

I've had those too. Maybe they're young tomato fruitworms?
(So far I've had none this year, but I got off to a late start.)
They seemed to be a problem while the tomatoes were small and green, or early in the season. Later they disappeared.

Possibly it's because the weather's warmer early in our Gardening Season and they reproduce this time of year?
My approach included squishing and blasting the fruits with the hose daily.
Frustrating though watching the little fruits getting eaten.

Wish I had better answers. BT works, but it takes several days to begin to see results. Those little buggers can do a lot of damage in several days!
As I've heard in the tomato forum "Florida is tomato hell."

    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 10:44PM
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castorp

I've had problems with those worms. They've been difficult to get rid of by hand picking because there are so many of them, and they're so tiny when they first hatch. They seem to eat tiny holes Ill mentions when they're babies, then move on to the fruits when they get a little bigger. They usually start on lower branches, for some reason. I've had some luck removing entire branches infested with tiny worms. I'm using BT now but I'm not spraying regularly enough so I still have damage. This is another of those pests that seems to build up for me,season after season--or maybe I've just had a few bad seasons.

Bill

    Bookmark   December 29, 2007 at 8:30AM
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an_ill-mannered_ache

poking around the web, i found this link:
http://cipm.ncsu.edu/cropprofiles/docs/KYtomato.html
The tomato fruitworm is potentially the most damaging insect pest of tomato. The larvae are variable in color, ranging from pale yellow, to red, to green, to brown with pale stripes running lengthwise. The larvae have four pairs of prolegs and are densely covered with microscopic spines that makes the larvae feel rough.

the description of the caterpillar and the damage makes me pretty sure that treefrog is right here -- it's the tomato fruitworm. poking around some more, the recommended controls are bt and spinosad (aka Monterey Garden Insect Spray).

they did a bit of damage to my eggplants, too. and they apparently like peppers. great!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2007 at 9:38AM
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tony_k_orlando(Z9 Fl)

IF you use BT, the moment they take a bite of it is when they stop eating. Makes em sick as a dog. So, even though you still see them on the plant for a few days perhaps, they are probably not eating anything else. Once I see the tiny holes and more so, the droppings, is when I start using the BT.

ILL, you can graft a mato onto an eggplant root as well as a pepper, all in the same family (I am pretty sure) and perhaps the same reason the caterpillar likes all three plants.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2007 at 10:13AM
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an_ill-mannered_ache

castorp -- where'd you get your bt?

    Bookmark   December 29, 2007 at 10:56AM
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olyagrove(z9 Tampa, FL)

weird, i find these caterpillars eating orchids roots occasionally...

    Bookmark   December 29, 2007 at 12:22PM
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saintpfla

Hey...I have these catapillars too! In fact, they are also eating my Night Blooming Jasmine! When I see them, I knock them to the ground for the lizards to eat.

I have one tomatoe plant and have noticed a lot of 'trails' in the leaves as well. Normally, I don't get worms on my tomatoes.

What about using Sevin on the plant? Doesn't that defoliate it?

    Bookmark   December 29, 2007 at 11:06PM
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tony_k_orlando(Z9 Fl)

ill,
dunno about where Bill gets his, Lowes and walmart have it. I would suggest NOT getting the powder form. its too difficult to use and tastes bad.

There is a brand called 'green light' and its a liquid. I mix a tablespoon in a gal or so of water and drench the plants.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2007 at 8:25AM
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castorp

I got mine from the hardware store around the corner from my house (the same with the onion sets).

    Bookmark   December 30, 2007 at 8:55AM
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kittee68_yahoo_com

I have these too, they are definitely fruitworms. Mine eat a lot more than just tomatoes...I have seen them eat an entire crop of chard to the ground, save for the stalks and veins. Handpicking does nothing for me, so are miniscule, some are large and there are far too many of them. I started spraying BT (thuracide) last year. Thanks for the reminder, I need to get out there and do this today.

xo
kittee

    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 10:24AM
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atreelady(9b SW Orlando)

I have very small (so far) worms on my tomato leaves. They are starting at the bottom and moving up. I am trying to pick the leaves that I see worms on (I have a lotta leaves) and I am spraying with neem and a drop of lemon dish soap. (As I sit here typing, my hands smell like neem even though I washed them ::) I don't know if it is working or not. It is hard to get under the leaves because the plants are trellised against the house.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 12:10PM
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bluesky7

Yes, the BT spray or Dipel dust which is the same thing is a biological insecticide and only destroys the worms when they ingest it. I like to use this (when I can find it) instead of the more poisonous products. It is much safer to use around children and pets. For some reason, the major hardware stores aren't carrying it now, not in my city anyway (probably because it works and isn't lethal to humans, lol) Even some nurseries aren't carrying it which seems odd. No doubt, you can purchase it from an organic plant product site online. It is usually reasonably priced.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 3:00PM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

Posted earlier but in case anyone missed it, HD carries the liquid BT brand Thuricide in an 8oz bottle.

Here is a link that might be useful: Thuricide - Southern Ag

    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 8:01PM
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