Preventing tomato Hormworm damage ?

swanz(z5NH)July 12, 2004

What's the best way to prevent tomato hormworm damage..

( please don't say just hand picking ). Last year I'd inspect

the plants b4 going to work in the morning, and when I got

home in evening the damage was done..I think they're due

to arrive soon and want to prevent damage this year.

Swanz

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susanzone5(z5NY)

Look for round black droppings on the leaves. Then look above them under a leaf for the caterpillars. Break off the leaf and squish the thing or drop into a container of soap. If you see white eggs sticking out of its back, leave it alone! Those are insects whose larvae will eat the hornworm and later fly off to lay eggs in other worms.

Don't use poison on your food.

You can spray with bacillus thuringiensis which the hornworm will eat and die from.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2004 at 6:53PM
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swanz(z5NH)

Thanks Susan, I definitely am not into any pesticides,will get BT.
Swanz

    Bookmark   July 13, 2004 at 9:56AM
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Dorie_in_Alabama(7a)

Handpicking IS the best method! Unless, of course, you have a zillion plants to protect. Hornworm caterpillars are completely harmless to touch. I would suggest grabbing them from your plant and tossing them in the direction of the bird feeder.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2004 at 10:25PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

The best way to prevent hornworm damage is to place floating row covers over you plants so Ma Moth can't get to them to lay the eggs on them. Short of that diligently search for the orange colored eggs developing on the undersides of the leaves about the time the buggers start to appear (or should be), and then hand pick any buggers that do hatch or spray the plants with the previously suggested BTK.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2004 at 7:39AM
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the_alpha_wolf_rules(z7 NC)

killing them is such a waste of life.
look for eggs and caterpillars and give them to the guys in the butterfly garden forum. some of them have whole tomato plants set out for tomato hornworms and tomato hornworms only. You can also eat the caterpillars (LOL...) or if you don't want to eat them, give them to birds or maybe if you have a pet like a snake or a lizard or something it will be glad to take them off yoru hands.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2004 at 5:20PM
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easterwood

Hornworms turn into the Spinx (Hummingbird) moth.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2004 at 12:30PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Once again the tomato hornworm is not the larva of the Hummingbird moth. The larva of the Hummingbird moth (also a Sphinx) does not like any of the nightshade family plants. The Tomato Hornworm is the larva of either the Carolina Sphinx or the Five-Spotted Hawkmoth (one is more properly called a tobacco hornworm). There are somewhere around 100 different Sphinx moths and the larva are pretty selective about what they will eat and not many will eat plants of the nightswhade family.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2004 at 7:46AM
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alfie_md6

In my experience, the best way to prevent tomato hornworm damage is to have a bug-friendly garden. The first year we had our garden here, there were tons of tomato hornworms, almost all of them unparasitized. After three years of mulching and mulching, composting and composting, and planting lots of things the bugs and birds like, this year (year four), I've only spotted two, both parasitized.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2004 at 8:49AM
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swanz(z5NH)

Thanks Alfie..I havn't seen any yet this year ( crossing my
fingers, they'll usually doing damage by now)..Unfortunately
a larger critter, maybe raccoon or deer have been yanking
off some of the ripening ones and leaving them half eaten
on the ground nearby..Oh well, it's always something, good
thing I'm doing this for fun and not making a living at it.

Swanz

    Bookmark   August 10, 2004 at 8:49PM
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byron(4a/5b NH)

Fwiw

Tomato Hornworn aka Five Spotted Hawkmoth

http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/lepid/moths/usa/1079.htm

Tobacco hornworm Carolina Sphinx or 6 spotted hawkmoth
http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/lepid/moths/usa/1081.htm

Hummingbird Clearwing
http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/lepid/moths/usa/1063.htm

All three are members of family Sphingidae

Of which this web site has 111 species listed

Byron

Here is a link that might be useful: Moths

    Bookmark   August 15, 2004 at 4:52PM
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terryboc(z5 NH)

The best way to deter Ma Moth is to stalk around with a camera-she will avoid you with much zeal and spare next year's tomatoes by not laying eggs in your yard. I spent a whole summer trying to get good shots-darned digital is so slow to take the picture that the click of the shutter button would scare the moth to take off before the picture took.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2005 at 12:10PM
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slubberdegulion(z7 VA)

Just as an aside...last year I grew African foxglove (Ceratotheca triloba) and it attracted hornworms. The leaves did have a tomato leaf smell to me, maybe to the 'worms too? I was wondering how effective the attraction would have been had I also had a tomato plant nearby... I may try just to see this year.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2005 at 8:12PM
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Tomato_Worm59(OK)

Slubber, here is a link to all of the sphinxes found in North America. I hope you do attract more of that species for clear ID.
http://www.silkmoths.bizland.com/danjansphinx.htm

What you found on the African foxglove was most likely not a tomato or tobacco hornworm, but another sphinx that looked like it. In fact, many sphinx larvae closely resemble each other. The ash, waved, laurel and big polar sphinxes are just but a few examples of such. There are literally hundreds of "hornworms," most of which are not pests at all.
Hornworms will not kill any large or well-established tomato plants. In fact, if no hornworms ever come, it may help to prune those plants and maybe even cull some of the fruits from the clusters [large fruit varieties].
Kimm is wrong about the adult moths not being called "hummingbird" moths. ALL nectar-feeding sphinx moths are called hummingbird moths or hawkmoths. This is only a colloquial term and is never species-specific.
Alpha Wolf has the best suggestion. I have to be reasonably insect-friendly and I do love sphingids. In fact, I raise several species of sphinx to sell to collectors. I also rear thousands of tobacco worms [Manduca sexta] for use as biological control of noxious weeds far worse than any hornworms are to a garden or truck farm. Don't worry, these imprint to that weed so adult moths likewise choose it [not tomatoes or peppers] as a host, which their larvae can [and will] destroy.
I also send out hundreds of FEMALE-only M. sexta for IPM of tobacco and large commercial truck crops. I'm currently needing [will pay shipping] specimens of Manduca quinquemaculata [not sexta!] for captive rearing if anyone here knows this one and has some.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2005 at 12:20AM
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lifestarter

I use diatamaceous sp.? earth as a top covering around the bases of my outdoor tomato/veggies.. Don't know 'bout hornworm if they originate from moths but sure keeps the slugs away. hell I wouldn't want to walk over the stuff bearfoot either!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2005 at 1:29AM
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lifestarter

hey at least the d.earth will work if one happens to take a plunge! lol he won't be goin NOWHERE!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2005 at 1:31AM
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slubberdegulion(z7 VA)

Tomato Worm 59, thanks for the link! I'm making my way (slowly) through it. I am hoping to see the adult, I moved the chrysalis out of the bed in front to a less-used place out back where I wouldn't dig it up by mistake again. I think hornworms are pretty, the adults are interesting too. I had to laugh when I saw my hornworm (of whatever type) because the droppings looked a bit like rabbit droppings, rabbits would have been cute but eat much more.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2005 at 5:53PM
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Tomato_Worm59(OK)

Well, Slubber, they are pretty. I wouldn't feel so passionate about them if they were not, because I've reared hornworms among other caterpillars since I was 7! Sometime, you will have to look up a European species, the death's head sphinx. Their larvae are magnificently beautiful and striking in color. There's a few moth breeders in the US who have live ones [legally] but so far, I just haven't had the extra funds to buy some pupae.
I hope to collect at least 30 species of sphinx this summer as live stock for propagation.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2005 at 8:24PM
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bend(Tennessee)

what are the tale tale signs of worm damage because I think mine are getting damaged

    Bookmark   May 17, 2005 at 7:59PM
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Tomato_Worm59(OK)

Look not just for the chewed-off leaves and stems down the nubs, but if the culprit is actually a hornworm, it will still be on the plant, not far from the feeding signs. Hornworms will stay on the underside of the leaves and along stems where their mimicry of the leaf veins naturally camouflage them.
I'm already losing some of my younger plants to a caterpillar, but one that is particularly sneaky and feeds by night in the "attack and run" method. It's the dreaded cutworm and this is no friend of mine! Cutworm moths don't feed, and are therefore no value as pollinators. Besides, the sphinx moths are not even flying yet here in Oklahoma. I can't speak for Tennessee.
Still, if you do find hornworms, let me know. I have 120 big tomato plants needing some leaves removed.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2005 at 10:40PM
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swanz(z5NH)

Thanks guys, I posted this question last season while my plants
were young. It turned out to be my 1st season without any hornworm damage.
My neighbors plants about 20 feet away were decimated.
Last spring I started crushing by hand and sprinkling eggshells
around the base of my plants in the garden. Every morning and
throughout the day there was alot of birds hanging around the
plants eating the eggshells. My theory is that they were close
enough to the plants to see and make a quick meal of any hormworms.
This is just a theory, it might have been a coincidence but
gonna keep doing it till proven otherwise.

Swanz

    Bookmark   May 19, 2005 at 8:30PM
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Tomato_Worm59(OK)

Swanz, I take it you just can't stand the even the idea of physically handling these otherwise gentle creatures, or you'd have e-mailed as have others asking how to safely mail them to me. LOL! yes, I get live caterpillars from around the country every summer.
Have you heard that cilantro will repel them? I don't know if it really works or not, but just to be on the safe side, i've planted my cilantro [actually it's for parsley worms] well away from my maters. I love cilantro and value it for salsa and other foods, but I have more than enough to share with my crawley friends.
I recommend trying cilantro which may force the moth to oviposit on alternative plants such as black nightshade and other "weeds" used by them long before we brought tomatoes to America.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2005 at 6:50PM
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swanz(z5NH)

Thanks TWorm59. Now you got me thinking. I grew cilantro last
year in these garden beds for the 1st time. Could it be they
helped repel them. This is gettting too complicated, I'll stick
to the eggshell theory..LOL. If I had as big a garden as you
(120 mater plants)
I wouldn't mind sharing a few with the buggers. But when they
show up at my garden they don't leave me much.

Swanz

    Bookmark   May 20, 2005 at 8:11PM
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Tomato_Worm59(OK)

Well, did you still have the worms in your garden last year after planting the cilantro? I only reads about it recently on the tomato forum, but now, I'm seeing area nurseries selling large potted tomato plants, complete with a companion of the cilantro.
Honestly, I really don't see how old egg shells will keep anything out of the garden. Maybe it only adds minerals to the plants? I have heard carrots also repel sphinx moths. I guess sphinxes just don't like such plants, but again, black swallowtails don't bother nightshades. LOL!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2005 at 12:46PM
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swanz(z5NH)

Nah,I didn't see the dreaded worm in the garden last year.
I didn't think that the eggshells repelled them. I just theorized
that all the heavy bird traffic (from the birds which were
constantly coming to grab scraps of eggshells) saw and ate
the worms before they could do any damage. There were scores
of morning doves in the morning. And lots of tree swallow activity
from pairs that were nesting on my property. Anyway, if anyone
else has had luck repelling them with cilantro I'll be interested
in hearing about it.

Swanz

    Bookmark   May 21, 2005 at 8:35PM
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vanesschett(5 ohio)

i have v shaped worms eating my tomatoes i heard flour will get rid of them has anyone heard of this or have any suggetions of what to use and where i may get it, seven dust does it work and when may you harvest after using it

    Bookmark   July 22, 2005 at 2:00AM
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swanz(z5NH)

I'm trying to visualize what a vshaped worm looks like and if
I've ever seen one.
I don't use any Chemicals but It looks like you gotta wait 7 days
after application b4 harvesting. 14 days for leafy veggies.

Swanz

Here is a link that might be useful: Applying Sevin on Fruits and Veggies

    Bookmark   July 22, 2005 at 9:30AM
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swanz(z5NH)

2nd year of spreading crushed eggshells around the base of
my tomato and eggplants. Lots of bird activity ( they love the
stuff), no sign of Hornworms again. The previous 3 years b4 doing
this I always had major damage by now. Knock on wood.

Swanz

    Bookmark   July 22, 2005 at 10:04AM
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Tomato_Worm59(OK)

Swanz, the worms are not V-shaped, it's the stripes on the sides. Don't look at their backs where those diagonal stripes almost touch. The "V" is lateral on their oblique sides. To also distinguish them from tobacco worms, their true legs are green, not white, black, not red horn and such.

Vanesschett, I sure hope what you are finding are the tomato and not just tobacco hornworms. I sent you an e-mail about them, too. Yes, I want them alive and unharmed. They ship well. Get back with me, please.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2005 at 9:27AM
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wademorris(Z6 Cent NJ)

For those that want to see the telltale sign: here are the poopsicles of the hornworm. I thought is was rabbit poo at first!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2005 at 12:48AM
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swanz(z5NH)

Looks like caviar.

Swanz

    Bookmark   July 31, 2005 at 9:59AM
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fairy_toadmother

lol on the poopcicles!

i opened this thread b/c i haven't had hornworms this year. or, am i getting ahead of myself!? this is the first year i have planted marigolds, let alone in the veggie garden. i read that these repel hornworm/moths as well.

as far as the cilantro, big fat "no" unless i just didn't have enough of it. i have cilantro reseed every year for at least the last three years. i have had hornworms at the same time. the only time i didn't was the first year i lived here and first planted tomatoes. after that, my yard was on the visitor's guide. i would only find 2 or 3 (whichis strange to me) and i swear they crawled back on the plant. (must have been more). back to the cilantro, this is the first year where i let ALL of it go to seed. perhaps that is the reason- a stronger smell, which i am one of the few that adores the smell. it is within 4 feet of my tomato, but no matter which way you go in my garden or where the tomato is planted from one year to the next, everything is 4 feet away from the reseeded section(small garden). also, the only other difference is that i have some reseeded plants here and there throughout the garden. not exactly a controlled experiment :) so, i will never know if it is the added amounts of cilantro or if it is the marigolds.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2005 at 5:53PM
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Tomato_Worm59(OK)

Fairy, since I made that post about the cilantro [several on the tomato forum swear by it], I did ask if it really worked. Carolyn, the tmato guru, told me it did not as far as she knew. Well, back to square one. I had hoped that it WOULD work, so to keep the sphinx moths away from the maters in the 1st place. If tomatoes were not so darned smelly, I doubt we would ever have more than the occasional stray hornworm as most wild nightshades are also somewhat pungent enough to draw in the moths.

I don't mind the big cats on any of my plants, but after all, far too many gardeners feel they must destroy them, so I am looking for a way to prevent them from getting on tomatoes in the first place. This way, our gardens don't become a death trap for Manducas.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2005 at 11:38PM
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fairy_toadmother

ihope my post didn't sound too strong, i just get opinionated sometimes and i could definitely say it didn't work for me. then again, the cilantros fragrance was much stronger this year. perhaps that is the key: a cover scent.

amazing isn't it? that we love the fruits but barely tolerate the vines' smell? yuck, for me! whenever one gets on mine i fear sunscald for the fruits due to the leaves being eaten, and inability to produce chlorophyll. maybe if i knew there wouldn't be a problem you would find another recruit.

marigolds?

i am still waiting to see hornworm damage and crossing my fingers. i have a very healthy indetrminate beefmaster. i haven't been out in several days, but it is probably nearing 7 feet tall. my stake is only 4.5' so when the fruits get too heavy it will be all over.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2005 at 7:36PM
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Tomato_Worm59(OK)

Actually, Fairy, I DO like the smell of tomato plants! I know some may not, but compared to a lot of other pungent nightshades, tomatoes don't stink. i just said smelly not in a bad way, but just that they give off a very strong smell, overwhelming native weeds' scents.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2005 at 8:03PM
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fairy_toadmother

hilarious! on that note, a lot of people do not like the smell of cilantro whereas i love it. i do not like the smell of marigolds. however, i must hve stepped on one the other day b/c i thought i smelled catnip. not growing catnip it must hve been the marigold, and i didn't think it smelled too bad. hmmmmm.

so, how do you get all the green stuff off your hands after maintaining your tomatoes, assuming you pinch the suckers?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2005 at 9:02PM
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Red1_GB(NE Wis)

Here is a recipe for a tomato plant cocktail. This is for feeding, disease prevention and bug control. 1 gal water, 1/4 C baking powder, 1/4 C ammonia, 1/2 C epson salts and 1 can of regular (not light) beer. Douse plants six weeks after planting then 3 weeks later and 3 weeks after that. No more worms.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2005 at 9:04AM
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Tomato_Worm59(OK)

Red, please post this on the tomato forum. Though I actually like hornworms and welcome them to my huge mater patch, many here, DON'T want them, and sadly, their maters become a veritable death trap for the caterpillars. I have been looking for a solution to keep the insects away from the plants in the first place. Keeping sphinx moths away from tomato plants is NOT going to starve them out. It's just going to keep them moving on, in search for wild plants [their natural food] to lay eggs on. otherwise, sphinx moths themselves, are great for the yard and garden as pollinators. These insects are also declining in overall population so it is good for them to go where they won't be killed on sight.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2005 at 10:03AM
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firstyr_grower

Hi everyone,
This is my first year of planting. I am 19 and my grandparents gave me their side yard this year to do whatever I wanted with it, and I decided to grow a garden. I have 4 very health tomato plants, well I did! They are big and FULL of blosoms, but tonight I found my first tomoto worm, or hornworm. I only have a few leaves eaten but I found a few other eggs too. The problem is that my plants are so thick, I can not move the stems enough to look inside to find the worms. Anyway my question is if the tomato plant cocktain really works and if it's to late for me to use it ?(I planted May 4th)
And if it is to late, WHAT CAN I DO!?!?! I am so worried about damaging my plants that I have worked soo hard on and devoted so much time to, and LOVE. I have plenty of birds around, and the ground around the plants is tarped, so should I use egg shells? or plat marygolds (will the kill the already hatched worms?) Or cilanto??? Or dust it with floor?? (wont that hurt the leaves and keep sun from getting in? )

Someone please help me, for my poor tomato plants!!!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2006 at 12:39AM
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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

Firstyr- read the thread you just posted to.

I vote for BT. Dipel dust has been very effective for me.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 1:27PM
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momma

I read about the dousing of the plants with the tomato cocktail at about 6 weeks after planting but do I soak the plants, the ground around them or both? Do I only do this once? If it rains within 24 hours do I reapply?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2006 at 9:31AM
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bernergrrl(z5 IL)

I am having hornworms big time--planted marigolds around my tom plants. Have been seeing beneficials eating and hunting them. Just saw a parasitized larva today--felt badly for it.

I did move some of the worms to a couple of volunteer tomato plants near the compost pile.

I'm wonderfing what are their native food sources (before tomatoes were brought over)? Other nightshades?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2006 at 11:36AM
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mi-garden-gal

Plant dill between your tomato plants also plant a row of dill on the outside rows of the garden.

Sounds crazy until you understand why. See what happens is a Carolina Sphinx AKA the Five-Spotted Hawk Moth comes into your garden at night and lays eggs on your tomato plants. It just loves tomatos but absolutely hates the smell of dill.

He will fly to the neighbors garden instead if they don't know the dill secret.

This works great and I for one love the smell of dill.

Here is a link that might be useful: Organic Tomato Worm Control

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 3:26PM
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wmbruno

I was told that if you spray the tomato plants with a solution of water and dish washing liquid (Palmolive) that this will prevent the worms. Anyone else here of this or try it?

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 9:56AM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

What can happen when tomatoes are sprayed with any detergent (Palmolive is a detergent) is the leaves will get "burned". The detergent forms a film on the leaf the inhibits the photosynthesis the leaf needs to live so it can die. Aside from that it will not do anything to keepo the Tomato Hornworm off the plant.
An Insecticidal Soap made from a real soap, not a detergent, might although you can still have the same problem with photosynthesis.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 7:06AM
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therian(6)

I am curious has anyone found a way to scare off the moths so the cycle never happens? If you cut the cycle then in theory you stop the problem right? I was also told a item called BT was good for killing them, they eat the plant and are paralyzed and starve. I never used it though but they claim its natural.

I was told to grow Dill near the plants for parasitic wasps and it attracts tomato worms.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 10:05PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Understanding where the Tomato, or Tobacco, Hornworm comes from can help in preventing the damage they cause. Since one good method is to keep the Carolina Sphinx or the Five - Spotted Hawkmoth from reaching your plants you can use Floating Row Covers around them. They will need to be adjusted as the plants grow.
There are a number of plants that can either repel the adult Sphinx moths or so confuse them that they can not find these host plants, but those plants need to be grown properly, and be the right cultivar, or they do not develop the properties needed to work.
Bacillus thuringiensis is a naturally occuring bacterium that infects some cold blooded, leaf eating, insects. When it is ingested by them the bacterium, if it finds the proper digestive system, comes alive and causes that larva to stop eating and that larva then dies of starvation. There are several strains of Bacillus thuringiensis so the right strain must be used and for leaf eating butterfly and moth larva that is Bacillus thuringiensis - Kurstaki, BTK.
Contrary to some bad misinformation that floats around the Sphinx moth larva that eat tomatoes, as well as other members of the Solanacea family, are not the same as the Hummingbird Moth even though she is a Sphinx moth.
The best way to attract and hold the many predators of insect pests is to plant a wide variety of flowering plants, including many of those we call "weeds", and not spray very broad spectrum poisons around the garden.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 7:27AM
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lazy_gardens

Therian -
I had a few hornworms on my tomato plants, but between the birds and the wasps using them as baby food they didn't survive long enough to do much damage.

I don't use insecticides - not even BT - because the amount of damage the bugs do isn't enough to worry about.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 1:13PM
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ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

I've very rarely had much damage from hornworms. I handpicked a few and tried to toss them to my chickens, but they were not interested. Now I handpick them if I see them and toss them in my compost bin, far from my plants.

Eighty percent of them that I find look like this, and I leave them be:

My garden is pretty much all organic--the only bug I ever try to fight with a spray is the cucumber beetle (HISSSSSS...). So the garden is pretty packed with beneficials. I also maintain numerous perennial flower gardens, especially those attractive to bees, butterflies, and small wasps.

I think the braconid wasp does an EXCELLENT job of controlling the hornworms, so I pretty much stay out of the way and cheer them along.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 2:19PM
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Wphall

A couple of things I have found will help control the hornworms.
1. If you have a small amount of plants just cover them at night with insect netting or any breathable cover, this will keep eggs from being laid. You might need to build a frame to lay the netting over or use a cage. 100% effective.
2. Encourage small birds with feeding stations and water, if they have easy access to water they wont be enticed to eat fruit. Finches will gladly take care of them.
3. If you have a large garden, use silver mulch, it will not allow the hornworms to bury in ground to pupate, ending the cycle in your soil. You will need to use drip irrigation under the mulch. It also works great on aphids and whiteflies.
While Companion planting does work on certain pests when done properly, it does not stop the moth from laying her eggs on large tomato or pepper plants.
When a couple still get by, go out in the morning shake the plant near the stripped area and listen for a clicking noise, you will find them. Pick them and let the birds determine their fate!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 3:12AM
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