Tomato hornworms are huge caterpillars that are green with a spiky tail and orange spots on the abdomen. These giants are monsterous and can destroy a tomato plant in the course of a day, so it is important to catch them fast! These extremely large caterpillars can be shockingly difficult to spot sometimes, so make sure you are checking your tomato plants thoroughly. To help with the hunt, we pay our kids a quarter for every hornworm that they find! These are also a great snack for chickens if you have them.
Hand-picking them and placing in a bucket of soapy water is the best option to control these pests. They can sometimes be challenging because they like to hold on tight to the plant.
A great way to help control hornworms is with trichogramma wasps. They can be purchased and released in your garden to help! Ladybugs can also be a help to eat the eggs.
Tomato hornworms can also be treated using the organic pesticide, BTK (bacillus thuringiensis Kurstaki). BTK is a naturally occuring microorganism that sickens and kills caterpillars. There are varied opinions regarding the safety of BTK, but it’s classified as an organic treatment and is certainly safer than using a more toxic pesticide.
Sprinkle diatomaceous earth over areas you want to protect. Be careful though: DE can harm beneficial insects as well if they come in contact with it.
Plants to Watch:
- and OF COURSE, Tomatoes!