Tomato fruitworms ruining my tomatoes

californianJune 20, 2010

I think this is the caterpillar that has been eating my tomatoes, causing them to ripen early in the process. They say BT will kill them, but it takes three days. Seems the fruit would be ruined by then. Anyone know how many dollars worth of BT it would take to treat 36 tomato plants?

Here is a link that might be useful: Tomato Fruitworms

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johnpeter(10b LongBeachCA)

What part of California has this pest? Zone 10 sounds suspiciously close.

Time must be of the essence. I don't think you can wait for BT.

How about permethrin?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 5:43AM
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johnpeter, I am in Fullerton, about 15 miles from Long Beach. The moth that lays eggs that turn into these tomato fruitworms, also know as corn earworms, also known as cotton bollworms, are brown colored. If you read the article it has a big list of insecticides one can use, but it stresses you don't want to kill the natural predators in the process because you could have an explosion of other pests if you do. I don't know how much this BT stuff is, and how much I would need to treat 36 tomato plants, but if it is cost effective I may buy some if I can find it locally. But if it costs too much for this spray or dust or whatever it is I may just live with these worms and hope they leave a few tomatoes for myself.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 10:39AM
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gardningscomplicated(southeast michigan - 5b or 6?)

californian - I don't know if this would work, but I've read a couple things about tomato fruitworms/corn earworms. One says not to plant them close to each other, since they both attract the same worm. The other, if I remember correctly, says you can plant corn with your tomatoes, to protect your tomatoes. Supposedly the worms prefer the corn, so they would eat that first. I know it's too late for you to plant corn, but I wonder what would happen if you put some ears of corn next to your tomatoes? Or even hung them on your tomato plants? I don't know exactly what part of the corn they're attracted to, but I'm wondering if old corn cobs would work, so you wouldn't have to waste good corn. Anyway, it was just an idea, and I thought I'd mention it. I might try it myself, if I get any on my tomatoes.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 11:53PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

Bt is cheap. I sprayed all my tomatoes earlier this week inside my high tunnel. I used 3 tsp to a gallon of water. I think the bottle cost me 16-18 dollars shipped. Go to your local place and ask for it. It maybe called Thuricide.

Sure they will eat the earlier ones, but the later ones will be for you. Last year I didn't spray, still harvested over 30 pounds per plant. I had the same worms, but they eventually went away. This year I was prepared!


    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 12:40AM
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I am in Mission Viejo and have the same little guy. I went to my local Armstrongs. They did not have Thuricide. I can't remember the name that I bought, but if you look at the ingredients it lists BT. It was about $13 for the bottle but you only use a little over 1 - 2 tsp/ gallon. I noticed a huge improvement within a couple days. Then you can maintain control with a weekly spraying. And the best part about BT is that it should not affect beneficials. Well atleast the one I bought says so on the bottle. Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 12:56PM
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Cypress CA resident here. OSH carries BT. Or it did last year. Give them a call.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 3:23PM
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taz6122(N.W. AR.6b)

Pluck and squish, pluck and squish. No need to buy anything.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 4:55PM
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Bets(z6A S ID)

Pluck and squish is a good way to deal with the bigger worms, but the little ones can damage a tomato pretty quickly and are hard to see until the damage is done. I suggest the BT spray and the pluck and squish method. It will keep them in check in just a few days.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 7:10PM
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johnpeter(10b LongBeachCA)

Once the worm is IN the fruit, the fruit is ruined, correct? In 15 years, I have never had appreciable fruit invasion by insects. What I get here in inland Long Beach is cabbage loopers in the spring, and hornworms in the late summer. Neither occurs in numbers that warrant spraying. I just inspect my plants, turn leaves upside down, and pluck 'em and squash 'em. No big deal.

I sympathize with the corn earworm problem, and I would probably spray with conventional insecticide promptly. I don't think beneficial insects are significant. Toms are self pollinating. Yeah, I see lots of benign insects that look sort of like aphids (but they are not suckers) but I doubt they do anything beneficial for the farmer.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 9:37AM
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