Tomato Hornworm Caterpillars

johnweh(10 Boca Raton FL)August 12, 2010

For the last couple of months I've been fighting with Tomato Hornworm Caterpillars. How do they get on the plants? Do moths lay their eggs on the plants? I have a pepper plant in a topsy turvy planter that's 4ft. off the ground & on 2 different occasions I've plucked several caterpillars off.

(after they ate about 10 hot peppers)

What insecticides or preventive measures can be used to rid my tomatoes & peppers of these monsters.


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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Of course, moths flit in and deposit a single egg on the upper and lower surfaces of the plant. Look for the little pearl-like eggs and crush them as you find them.

Here's the thing: tiny caterpillars hatch from those little round eggs, right? It takes a fair amount of time for them to grow up and become the 'monsters' we find on the plants. All the time eating and eating. If we would look for the eggs and look for signs of feeding EARLY so that we can hunt down the babies, we'd never have to deal with the biggies.

Tobacco (yours is most likely the Tobacco hornworm) and tomato hornworms should be scouted for on a regular basis and removed before extensive damage is done. Removal is your most efficient method of control, believe me.

If you have a LOT of peppers and tomatoes, you may want to resort to the tried and true Bt-K, Bacillus thuringiensis Kurstaki, a biological control that has been on the market for the control of caterpillars (only caterpillars) for generations. You can find it in a sprayable liquid form, or a dust in any garden supply outlet.

The important thing to know about using Bt to control caterpillars is that it must be applied when the insects are very young. So, once again, we have to rely on our ability to pay attention and observe. Please remember that Bt-K is effective only against caterpillars and nothing else. It can be used safely on any food crop up to the day of harvest. Never use it if you have a butterfly garden nearby.

These caterpillars are prey to a wide variety of predatory animals, including many kinds of beneficial insects, lizards and anoles, birds, frogs, and others. They are also a favorite host to tiny parastic wasps. Thus, the use of any other kind of pesticide, other than the Bt, is folly. Sort of like shooting yourself in the foot to get rid of a hangnail.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 3:50PM
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Wow,,That was a great comparison!

Shooting yourself in the foot to get rid of the hangnail..Very good.


    Bookmark   August 13, 2010 at 3:45PM
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taz6122(N.W. AR.6b)

Going out at night with a UV light is the best way to spot these voracious feeders. The lines on them light up like neon signs.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2010 at 6:50PM
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