If you have grown garden tomatoes, you have likely dealt with tomato hornworms, which are green caterpillar pests. These worms also feed on potatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Their green appearance makes it easy for them to camouflage with the plants and eat non-stop, thus consequently creating chewed and spotty leaves and fruits.
The life cycle of tomato hornworms is as follows:
Identifying Tomato Hornworms
The worms may grow up to 6 inches in length. They are most damaging when in their larvae (caterpillar) stage. Their color is pale green, and they have some black and white markings and a horn-like protrusion in their rear. The larvae also have V-shaped stripes on their body.
Since the caterpillar blends well with the plants, it may be a challenge to identify them easily. The best option is to identify infestations immediately. Some of the ways through which you can identify infestation include:
How to Get Rid of Tomato Worms Naturally
Taking no action to prevent or kill these pests may end up costing you in terms of unproductive plants, poor tomato quality, and low yields. Some of the ways on how to get rid of tomato worms naturally include:
If either your tomato plants or the number of tomato worms is few, handpicking may be an ideal method. For you to apply this method of worm control, all that is required is identify affected tomato plant and pick off the worms. Kill the collected worms by throwing them into the fire.
Though it may not give perfect result in the current year, rototilling your garden will be absolutely ideal in the coming year. The hornworms’ pupae stage often inhabits in the soil, and since the worms at this stage are usually large and not buried deep, rototilling your garden may prove effective in getting rid of tomato worms naturally by over 90 percent. For effective results on how to get rid of tomato worms naturally, this method is advised immediately after harvesting the tomatoes.
When choosing a rototilling mower, it’s best to choose one that will be convenient as per your needs. You can choose either the self-propelled or the riding mower. Both types of mowers are common especially in large lawns that have steep terrain.
3. Introduction of disease
Bacillus thuringiensis is a bacterial disease that is deadly to hornworms. These bacteria act as an active ingredient in several pesticides, but it is also possible to use them on their own without putting wildlife at risk or harming desired insects. The bacteria works by excreting proteins capable of paralyzing the digestive system of tomato worms, thus preventing the worms from eating. This consequently starves the worms to death.
4. Introducing Predators
Another ideal way on how to get rid of tomato worms naturally include the introduction of predators such as green lacewings, braconid wasps, common wasps, and lady beetles. At the worm’s egg or larvae stage, green lacewings and lady beetles will come handy by eating the immature worms. Moreover, once the worms develop into maturity, braconid wasps lay their eggs on the worm and in turn, eat the developing caterpillar.
You can also make your garden a haven for birds that eat caterpillars. This can be done by setting up feeders and baits that will attract birds such as Robins and mockingbirds.
However, the introduction of birds as a way on how to get rid of tomato worms naturally may also attract your domestic cat into the garden as they try to prey on the birds. Consequently, your wandering cat is likely to get infections or be infested. A sick cat can be messy both indoors and outdoors. Nevertheless, there is a solution to this, with a cat repellent spray and flea fogger you can be assured that you will maintain your indoors and yard clean and your cat free from external infestation.
5. Plant a Trap Crop
Planting dill crop can help keep hornworms off your tomatoes. The worms tend to prefer this plant. Thus, having them crowd around it will enable for easier identification and elimination.
It is important to incorporate various methods when deciding on how to get rid of tomato worms naturally. The reason for this is because the worms may build up resistance and device ways to go round a certain method, especially if it is the only routine method applied. You need to combine various natural methods throughout the season.