You excitedly go check on your tomatoes in your garden only to find the horror that a section of your tomato plant leaves are eaten away. What could have possibly done that? You inspect your tomato plants closer and you see little black pellets on some of your tomato plant leaves as well as on the ground. These are good indications that you have tomato hornworms lurking about in your garden. Here are some ways to rid your garden of tomato hornworms.
How to rid your garden of tomato hornworms: Handpicking
These little tomato plant pests have excellent camouflage, which makes them hard to spot at first glance. If you inspect the spot where you have first spotted the droppings more closely, you will definitely find these pests pretty quickly. You will soon find them motionless hanging onto the stem of the tomato plant. They can be controlled quite well by just handpicking them off the tomato plant stem.
How to rid your garden of tomato hornworms: Pesticides and bacterium
With larger infestation of the tomato hornworms, you will need to do additional treatment. A commercially available bacterium (Bacillus thuringiensis) or pesticides are really effective with controlling hornworms and other caterpillar species from ruining your garden. When this bacterium or pesticide is sprayed on the plants, it will invade the caterpillars and kill them. This mostly works best with the smaller caterpillars, so some of the larger tomato hornworms may not be affected and killed and still will need to be handpicked.
How to rid your garden of tomato hornworms: Turning over the soil
Since these tomato hornworms spend their winters in pupal form under the soil, you can control them by turning over the soil after you pull up the plants, this will help to expose them and bring them to the surface. Then it will be easier to discard of them or you can leave them to be eaten by their natural predators, the birds and wasps.
How to rid your garden of tomato hornworms: Natural predators
Tomato hornworms have a few natural predators, which include birds and wasps. The species of wasp that can eliminate the hornworms from your garden are the Trichogramma and the Bracondiae wasps. There is a way to check to see if your garden has these predators working for you. You can examine the backs of the tomato hornworms for attached white cocoons. These look like little sections of fuzzy rice. How it works is that soon the cocoons will break open to reveal a small wasp. This small wasp will be on the search for another hornworm’s back to lay its eggs. When the larval wasps are ready to hatch, they will feed on the tomato hornworm caterpillar and kill it.
So if you find that you have a tomato hornworm problem in your garden, use some of these strategies to get rid of them.
Sources: Dead Snails Leave No Trails book