I’ve learned one unexpected lesson during my first tomato season – growing organic fruit is not for people who are afraid of creepy crawly, science fiction-type creatures!
Traditional tomatoes are treated with dozens of pesticides – and I get it now. If you’ve seen the things I’ve seen, you’d be tempted to spray the plants and make them all go away. 🙂 In fact, I’ve learned more about bugs in the last three months of growing tomato plants than I learned in my last 30 years of life. I’ve hand-picked insects, identified them on insect charts, researched their life-cycles and, ultimately figured out a couple effective ways to get them to leave my beautiful plants alone.
How To Deal With Tomato Hornworms
These huge green moth caterpillars can grow 4 to 5 inches long! To make matters worse, they are almost completely camouflaged by the tomato stems and I often found that one would be brushing against my hand as I was picking a ripe tomato. The first day I discovered these large caterpillars, my family picked off well over a dozen. It took about one to two weeks to completely de-hornworm my plants with daily games of “Where’s Waldo?” – or should I say “Where’s the hornworms?”
It takes skill to train your eye to look for the little feet underneath leaves or on stems. Do you see the one above?
The only effective technique (that I found) for controlling these creatures is to use your hands.
That’s right. You need to pick and/or cut these pests away. Put on your gardening glove, get out the pruning sheers and pest control your plants.
My husband suggested we take them to the neighborhood lake to feed the fish.
As of today, I haven’t seen a tomato hornworm in two months. My advice is this:
- Don’t freak out – this is a very common tomato pest
- No, they are not poisonous
- Yes, they will go away as long as you monitor your crop
- No, we did not find neem oil worked on this type of pest
Have you ever seen a hornworn? If so, how did you deal with them?