Tomato horn worm...can there be just one?

emcd124(5)July 30, 2012

I noticed some holes on one of my tomato leaves, so I turned it over and there was a very small tomato horn worm, about the thickness of a coffee stirring staw and about an inch and a half long.

UM extension recommends hand picking as the best defense, so I killed that one and searched all over the plant as best as I could. I couldnt find any other holey leaves, nor any other horn worms. But i've been on pins and needles about a potential horn worm assault. I was always under the impression that where there was one, there was a whole brood.

Is it possible there was just this one horn worm?

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Possible but not likely. When the moth lays her eggs they are in multiple locations on the plant. That doesn't mean they all survive to hatch but the odds heavily favor more than one.

There is no need to obsess over it though. A daily check of the plants is usually sufficient. You may miss one or two and get some damage before finding them but the average tomato plant will tolerate it and recover. And with practice they get much easier to spot.


    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 1:37PM
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It also helps if you cut off the damaged leaves, so that if there are others you can be sure it's from them, not the one you got.

Last year I had scores of them, well over 60 with a dozen plants, this year I've only found three. Guess they have good and bad years also.

Here is a link that might be useful: DFW Gardener

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 6:19PM
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I've found 2 I plucked off, 3 more that had been parasitized (word?) so left them. Seems to only be on a couple of plants.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 7:28PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

I watched the big moth lay the eggs. She flits around fast touching her rear here and there. My impression was that she was giving her offspring whole plants or at least plenty of space between eggs. There are wasps and flies that feed on them. I expected to find hornworms but I have only found one. My garden is dry and I have lots of red wasps coming to a stock tank in the garden. I have seen the tachinid flies attack big hornworms before and that is interesting to watch. I never see the wasps that make the little white cocoons.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 10:15PM
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Okay all, I will aim for diligent vigilance but no stressing.

@helenh: I know that lots of wasps are beneficials. But what is a "stock tank" for a garden? Is it something to attract beneficial wasps? what is it? where did you get it?

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 11:31PM
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Tomato hornworms have found there way to my garden beginning yesterday. I found two that had done serious damage but were parasitized. I stomped them, not knowing until tonight that they carried tiny wasps to do in more hornworms. How do you balance the munching-crunching damage with the knowledge that they're carrying death for their fellow hornworms?


    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 12:55AM
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I've never seen a parasitized horn worm (still only the one fellow in my garden, still watching). But could you put the guy in a glass mason jar in the shade with a cutting from the tomato plant (like you would to raise a butterfly for a kid) so he's sequestered away from damaging your plants more but will host the wasps to maturity so they can help do in more critters?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 11:32AM
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Use a blacklight to find them. They glow under these lights!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 11:42AM
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Do they keep eating once they've got the wasp eggs on their backs? I didn't want to pluck them off either, but don't know if they're causing more damage. Seem to be hanging in there a long time (though 1 I saw yesterday really was just barely hanging on)?

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 7:11AM
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@Capoman: A black light?! that is AWESOME. Does it work for any other critters? I'm having a heck of a time finding the bean leaf beetles on my bean plants. it would be dreamy if they were also day-glo


    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 1:12PM
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I tried the black light last night - extension cord, CFL black light in a shop light housing - and the hornworms did show up clearly against the tomato foliage. But they weren't like Elvis on black velvet type of glow-in-the-dark. At least one moth glowed too.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 11:23PM
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