The Tomato Hornworm is a pest that many tomato growers will encounter when their tomatoes start to ripen, This issue is one that all gardeners deal with, beginners and advanced! The Hornworm loves tomatoes and these pests can cause your tomato plants to defoliate overnight.
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What Are Tomato Hornworms And How To Identify Them?
The Tomato hornworm is a green, medium to large-sized worm otherwise known as a caterpillar. These caterpillars are the larvae of the Hawk or sphinx Moth.
The Hornworm is a fascinating looking caterpillar. They have a light green complexion with small black and white markings on their body. These worms get their name the “Hornworm” as they have a protruding horn from their exterior.
Many people think these caterpillars are beautiful and tend to leave them be. This can be quite problematic as your garden will be disseminated within a few days. This causes a lot of stress for the plant and ultimately causes the plant to grow at a poorer quality.
These caterpillars eat the leaves of your tomato plants. This causes the plant to use all its energy to grow more leaves instead of growing and ripening its tomatoes. It is also very possible for these worms to feed on the actual tomato.
These pests are fairly big and are difficult to miss, but if you do happen to miss the little pests while they are out eating your plant, you cant identify the Hornworm pest by the damage it causes. These worms will chew huge holes in the leaves and in the actual tomato.
The Life Cycle of a Tomato Hornworm
The Hornworm as a fully grown adult is known as the Hawkmoth or Sphinx Moth. This Moth is fairly large, they are about 2-8 inches in size and are brown in color. These moths lay small eggs on the underside of the plant’s leaves and in the soil.
These eggs hatch over 3-5 days and once they do they can be identified as small green worms. These worms feed on the foliage of plants to grow bigger.
After approximately 18-21 days the Hornworm will change into a Pupa. The Caterpillar will stay in this state for just over a month where inside the pupa the caterpillar will become completely liquid and metamorphosis will take place.
Once metamorphosis has taken place, a Hawkmoth will emerge from the Pupa as a fully grown adult and the cycle continues.
How To Prevent Hornworms
The best way to prevent Hornworms from eating your tomato plant is to create a barrier that will prevent the worms from physically crawling onto your plants.
This can be done by simple methods such as covering the plant’s soil with pencil shavings or wood chips. The sharp edges will stop the caterpillars from getting to your plant.
Lacewings ladybugs and wasps all feed on caterpillars. Another natural way of preventing caterpillars is to invite the above three insects into your garden. This will maintain the biodiversity of your garden and it will naturally prevent and eradicate any Hornworms.
Garlic and chili are great natural ways to prevent Hornworms from feeding on your tomato plants. Hornworms do not enjoy the strong scent of garlic and chili. They hate it. Place garlic flakes and chili flakes around the soil of your plant to prevent the pesty worms from feeding.
Till the soil before the start of the tomato season and after you have harvested your tomatoes. By tiling and turning over the soil, you will move around the organic matter in the soil and the constant moving of organic material will kill any larvae or eggs that are present in the soil.
How To Remove Hornworms From Your Plant Naturally
The best method to prevent Hornworms is to hand-pick the pests off your plant. Although these pests might make you uneasy, Hornworms are completely harmless when it comes to humans, therefore picking them up by hand will not harm you in any way.
Simply pick out the Hornworms and put them in a container. Once you have collected all of the worms, take the container and place the worms in an area far away from your garden! A good idea would be to place them in a nearby forest or green area outside your house. Just keep them as far away from your precious tomato plants as possible!
Other methods consist of making a natural caterpillar detergent. You can make one using 2 tablespoons of soap or laundry detergent, one tablespoon of cayenne pepper, and 1 gallon of warm water. Mix all of these ingredients into a solution.
For the best results put this homemade solution in a spray bottle and spray the leave of your tomato plant. Make sure that you spray the plant all over the foliage. This will prevent the caterpillars from eating your tomato plant and it will get rid of them naturally.
Neem oil is a very effective solution when it comes to removing pests and especially Hornworms. It is a natural pesticide that is made from neem seeds. Neem oil is considered to be natural and harmless to your plants.
- Neem Bliss is 100% Cold-pressed pure Neem Oil, completely natural, totally free of chemicals
- OMRI Listed (For Organic Use
- JUST ONE INGREDIENT - 100% Pure Neem Oil, natural, cold-pressed. 100% non-toxic.
- Very effective Indoor/ Outdoor Leaf Shine-High Azadirachtin content
Spray the neem oil solution all over the foliage of your plant. This natural pesticide tricks the Hornworm into thinking that they are not hungry. This causes the digestive system of the pest to slow down and the Hornworms eventually stop eating. This is very effective as it stops the reproduction of eggs and larvae which ultimately turn into hungry Hornworms.
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