Organically Controlling Tomato Hornworms


Tomato hornworms are one of the most common of garden pests. Without proper care and control you can lose much, if not all, of your tomato crop. If you are interested in organic farming though, this situation can raise a slight problem. How do you organically control tomato hornworms? For those people who are interested in organic gardening, never fear. Here are a few guidelines that you can use to organically control this annoying pest.

  • Signs. The first step in being able to organically control an infestation of tomato hornworms is to recognize the signs that you have them. Look for dark brown, black, or dark green droppings on the tomato leaves, and along the base of the plant. In addition you will also want to look for bite marks on tomato fruit. These are indications that hornworms are on the prowl. If you find these signs, then you need to see if you can find any of the worms themselves. Since hornworms "freeze" when they detect motion they are difficult to notice, even when you are staring right at them, and even more so when they are an immature size. So you will want to look for them at dusk, when it is a little harder for them to see you and when they are more active.
  • Control. There are several ways that you can organically control tomato hornworms. The first is to simply picking them off by hand, use chopsticks, and drop them into a pail of soapy water to kill them. Another method is to introduce a parasitic wasp, such as the braconid and hyposoter wasps. These parasitic wasps really love to go after hornworms, and will take care of the problem for you. However, if you are allergic to wasps, and don't want to run the risk of getting stung, then use an organically safe pesticide called BT. BT stands for Bacillus Thuringiensis which is a form of bacteria that is harmful to the hornworms, and washes off very easily.
  • Spring prevention. You can also net the tomato plants early in the season with bird netting that has openings less than an inch wide. This will prevent the adult moths (referred to as the Sphinx moth or the Hummingbird moth) from laying their eggs on the plants. Since tomatoes are wind pollinated, you can leave the netting on all season.
  • Fall prevention. In the fall after the last tomato is harvested, till the soil and l look for the dark brown chrysalis that has a football shape, and around two inches long. Getting rid of these will go a long way towards suppressing future infestations.


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