Tomato Hornworms

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Here are tips on how to identify, eliminate, and control tomato hornworms.

What are Tomato Hornworms? 

If you’ve ever grown garden tomatoes, chances are you have dealt with these green caterpillar pests. They can be found in most any region of the US and can ruin your tomato crop in record time; they also feed on eggplant, pepper, and potato. They can blend in quite easily with the green foliage and feed non-stop, creating spotty and chewed leaves and fruit.

How to Identify Tomato Hornworms

Tomato hornworms can be up to 5 inches long—which can be quite a shock when you first come across one! They do the most damage in the caterpillar, or larvae, stage. They are pale green with white and black markings, plus a horn-like protrusion. (They are not capable of stinging.) The lifecycle is as follows:

  • In late spring, large adult moths lay eggs on the undersides of foliage, which will hatch within a week.
  • Caterpillar larvae will feed from 4–6 weeks before creating a cocoon for overwintering in the soil. If the weather is warm enough, larvae may only burrow for as little as 2–3 weeks.
  • Moths will emerge in the spring, and can be identified by their orange markings. They will then lay eggs once again. More than one generation a year may be possible in warmer climates.

The larvae blend really well with the plant greenery. Just get used to a daily patrol, looking for hornworm eggs and small caterpillars. Here are some cues of infestations:

  • Look closely at the TOP of your tomato leafs for dark green droppings left by the larva feeding on the leaves. Then look at the underside of leaves and you'll find a hornworm.
  • Look for stems missing some leaves and wilted leaves hanging down. You may find white cocoons and their hornworm hosts nearby.

How to get rid of Tomato Hornworms

  • Till soil at the beginning and end of each gardening season to destroy overwintering larvae. Tillage has shown to cause up to 90% mortality.
  • Handpicking is an excellent tactic for control if you have the time and patience, or a small garden. The caterpillars are not dangerous and cannot sting. Don't crush the worms; drop into soapy water and they're done.
  • Keep wasps around; they're "good" insects which feed on hornworms and act as a biological control. You may see hormworms with wasp larvae attached, which look like grains of rice. (See photo above.) These attacked hornworms will have little effect on your plants, so leave them and let the wasps carry out their lifecycle.
  • If the hornworm population or the area of your garden is too large, insecticides can be a useful control. You can use the botanical Bt (Bacillus Thuringiensis), which is a bacterium that acts as a stomach poison (but doesn't harm other plants or animals). Please check with your local Cooperative Extension for a list of approved insecticides in your area.
  • To keep hornworms away from your tomato plants next year, try interplanting dill; marigolds are also an excellent companion plant that keeps many pests away.

Read more about tomato pests on our Tomatoes plant page.

Click for our Almanac Garden Plant Pest and Disease Control Library for information on all your common problems.

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Comments

Thought I would share this

By Arthrup J on April 22

Thought I would share this article about organic control of hornworms and grubs:

Organically Controlling Tomato Hornworms and White Grubs

dishwashing liquid IS A

By mills

dishwashing liquid IS A chemical...hello....

The cocoons were stuck tight,

By Connor Young

The cocoons were stuck tight, and the worm kept flailing sbout, so we quit. It the escaped, time to find a new one!

Connor, Thanks for sharing.

By Almanac Staff

Connor, Thanks for sharing. That worm is what they call the "walking dead" due to those cocoons.

My kids also want it as a

By Connor Young

My kids also want it as a 'pet', so is there a way to take the eggs off? Thanks!

This is a first! Once the

By Almanac Staff

This is a first! Once the wasp eggs hatch, the hornworm will be eaten. It is the cycle of life. We have never removed the cocoons and probably would not, but let us know what happens!

We found a hornworm with 5

By Connor Young

We found a hornworm with 5 white, bumpy specks on it. Are those eggs from a wasp?
We're guessing they are.

Those are the white cocoons

By Almanac Staff

Those are the white cocoons of the wasp.

We live in southern Arizona;

By Keesha

We live in southern Arizona; our backyard consists of grass, 4 trees (orange, desert willow, mesquite), and a large variety of roses, lantana, and vines. We have found tomato hornworms wandering in our yard approximately every 6-8 weeks for the last few years. However, for the last couple months we have been finding them dead all over the yard. There have not been any signs of involvement by wasps that we can tell. Their coloring is no longer bright but instead is kind of brown, and they are kind of soft and mushy (it is evident when I pick them up with a pooper scooper--the one I picked up this morning actually tore into two pieces). Does anyone have any idea of what kills tomato hornworms other than wasps? The only thing I can think of that has been unusual around here is a phenomenal weather situation July 15 (2013) when our neighborhood was hit, ripping 2-story high, decades old trees out of the ground, root and all, throwing them into homes, ours included, so I have wondered about the possibility of some soil disturbance or something, I don't know. Help! Thank you kindly.

I too live in Arizona. I hear

By csaiz1109 on April 10

I too live in Arizona. I hear from a lot of people that soap and water and then just spray your plants repels the pests away and is safe for the plants. I have yet to try it but after finding 3 of those hornworms today on my tomato plants it will be tried effective immediately. also with some netting/shade screening as well.

We're stumped. We can only

By Almanac Staff

We're stumped. We can only imagine wasp predation.

I planted about 6 or 7 plants

By Timothy Miskell

I planted about 6 or 7 plants this yr . We had a ton of tomatoes , some plants were 3 to 4 feet wide, alas I too believe I have these ugly worms. I have found holes right through the tomatoes at times. I have a question , is it safe to cut up the tomatoe and eat what the worm has not eaten ? Are there effective moth traps out there ? I have read about the sticky traps for indoor cereal moths .
Should my ground be rotatiled in the late fall to get rid of any edges , or worms? Next yr I will start going out to examine the plants in evening I guess , if they make good fish bait , worms beware!!

I don't know, maybe they are

By Timothy Miskell

I don't know, maybe they are fruit worms , I guess I will have to find one to identify it. Does newspaper work with deterring fruit worms?

If your pests are tomato

By Almanac Staff

If your pests are tomato fruitworms, you can control them by picking off any leaves that have tiny white or creamy eggs on them (check both sides of the leaves). Introduce beneficial insects, such as Trichogramma wasps or lacewings. Place row covers over the plants, at least until the plants flower, to prevent adult moths from laying eggs on the plants. Spray Bacillus thuringiensis (BT). Till the soil before and after the growing season. Plant tomatoes away from corn, which is a major host for these pests (in which case, it is called a corn earworm).

As for whether to cut out the bad part of the tomato and use the rest, we wouldn't recommend it with fruitworms. Because these larvae live inside the fruit, they eat, tunnel, and leave waste inside.

Hornworms, however, mainly attack the foliage but may also take bites out of the fruit. They do not live inside the fruit throughout their larval stage, however. If your pest is a hornworm, it might be possible to cut out the bitten area of the tomato fruit and use the rest (after a thorough washing); be sure to inspect the fruit thoroughly first, to see how far it has been eaten, and whether the insect has left frass (waste) as well--in which case, we'd suggest not using the fruit.

I am a preschool teacher.

By Denisestl

I am a preschool teacher. Yesterday, my kids and I found a big fat beautiful Horned Tomato Worm on our tomato plants in our outdoor classroom. He is now living happily in our classroom munching on an endless supply of tomato leaves with 12 very excited and eager kids watching him. We have added tall sticks for him to climb and lots of leaves in hopes that he will build a cocoon and hatch into a moth. They have found books about caterpillars, looked at pictures on the internet, and even collected leaves to feed him. They are so excited to show him to everyone willing to look.

Yes, I know these worms are pests for most of you, but for this class, this worm is a wonderful opportunity for the kids to experience the bear witness to the magnificent and wondrous cycle of life while fostering language, science, math (rulers to measure him and counting days if he forms a cocoon), cooperative learning, ownership /responsibility, peer interactions, and so much more. For me, finding this garden pest was just an excuse to turn a little pest into a teachable experience.

What a wonderful teacher you

By Carol Vega

What a wonderful teacher you are!!

I, too, am a fan of

By sandy Pasquariello

I, too, am a fan of hornworms. They have been on my tomato plants and seem to only prune the tops. Almost always, they get the cocoons on them, meaning they are dying. I don't like the idea of something being eaten from the inside out. I just found one on a flower and it has eaten the top out, but I don't care as I get the opportunity to study him up close. Tonight I am observing him trying to find something to eat as there are no tomato plants where he is, and he is trying to eat, I believe, my small yaupon shrub. I don't how he can eat these tougher leaves. I did notice that his mouth is protruding when looking for food. I have never noticed this because I have never seen one at night. Very interesting.....He does not have the parasite cocoons on his back. Hopefully, he doesn't get them. He is pretty large. (I am a former teacher, retired) and a lover of science.

Thanks for sharing,Denisestl.

By Almanac Staff

Thanks for sharing,Denisestl. We can imagine that hornworm munching away as hornworms do. What a great purpose for these otherwise "cute" green caterpillars.

My big geraniums were striped

By susan r

My big geraniums were striped in just a few days. I didn't think geraniums had many enemies but when I looked closer they are covered with baby horn worms. I want to just cut them way back to try and control the infestation.

Growing tomatoes in a

By tabpoole

Growing tomatoes in a container" the plant box" first time in sev. Seasons for us. In louisiana using 'heat-resistant' tom. Var.good flavor!!! Thanks for great info on hornworm...we thought damage was being done by these little orange guys w/ black legs ~ 20 that hide in a group on cool side of one tomato, on the far side of container fr my two spectacular horn worms on other end.,will use light trick tonight to find more of these green rascals. Now to find out about the orange bugs...thanks FarmersAlmanac. My husband and i are from different generations of gardening., ya'll have restored peace in our garden and marriage.

I have a hanging Topsy Turvy

By George Koertzen

I have a hanging Topsy Turvy and found three of these monsters have eaten everything. I was trying to figure out how they got there but apparently they hatched on my plant.

I'm battling the horned worm

By Monica Cooper

I'm battling the horned worm as well but this morning found them on my milkweed plant! I've been waiting and waiting for the monarchs to lay eggs but instead an infestation of horned worms! I'll go out and get rid of them now that I've seen a pic of the monarch worms and know that's not what's on my plant! Gardening is such work and I'd like to eat my egg plants growing and not feed the worms!

What can you tell me about

By D. Marcus

What can you tell me about these guys all over my lawn in Albuquerque for the past week? They are about 3" long and eating the grass and/ or spurge on my lawn. They are yellow with red and black spots with a stripe down both sides. Wish I could include photos...

I draped bird netting over my

By Roxane

I draped bird netting over my plants to keep the birds off the tomatoes and chilis, and found it has the added advantage of keeping the tomato worms away. The mesh is big enough to let the pollinating insects through, but keeps the large Mandunca moths out.

Now that gigantic green worms

By Juliette Paskowitz

Now that gigantic green worms ate all of my lovely tomatoes my grandson found a huge worm in the soil After I had remove the destroyed plant. So my question is. Can I plant some other plant in this same soil and Not have these creatures destroy??

Tomato hornworms are the

By Almanac Staff

Tomato hornworms are the scurge of tomato growers. The larvae burrow into the soil to pupate and emerge next spring as a moth. You can plant in the same soil—but not plants of the same famiy. Practicing crop rotation, as well as introducing natural enemies (parasitic braconid wasp, for example) can help to relieve the problem.
Some folks suggest that growing your tomatoes in containers can minimize the presence of hormworms. Remember, too that crops in containers (or the soil used) also should be rotated for best results.

Forget the idea that

By Dorothy R

Forget the idea that containers are safe zone, I planted 2 patio tomato plants and I have a hornworm invasion.

I also had a patio tomato

By bear4moi

I also had a patio tomato plant up on a deck and it too has got a hornworm. It is so gross and has devastated the only productive tomato plant that I have. Bad year for tomatoes

I also container planted

By Carol Vega

I also container planted tomatoes in an screened in patio. This morning I removed two hornworms. Not having the heart to kill them, I removed them out to my yard. The more I read, do I really have to kill :(

We were blown away today when

By Shirley Schwaeble-Ruiz

We were blown away today when we discovered a 6 inch lone horn worm demolishing our Sunflowers from the ground up. He in jar now awaiting his demise. Lord I hope I never see one of them again. Took pictures.............UGH!!

Today I noticed that I had 3

By kyle lepper

Today I noticed that I had 3 worms on my plant but they had white eggs on them which are baby wasp that eat them so ill let the wasp do the work.

I have a flower bed full of

By Carie Gann

I have a flower bed full of moon flower plants, and these hornworms LOVE them! I have picked off about 20 in the last two days. So I've been searching how to get rid of them. I came across some recipes for making your own pesticides out of all natural ingredients. Here is one...
Onion and Garlic Spray
Mince one organic clove of garlic and one medium sized organic onion. Add to a quart of water. Wait one hour and then add one teaspoon of cayenne pepper and one tablespoon of liquid soap to the mix. This organic spray will hold its potency for one week if stored in the refrigerator.
I have not tried it yet, but plan on it!!! They eat my plants just as you describe them eating tomatoes!!!

I used ducttape around my

By Jack wyatt

I used ducttape around my huge barrel I
have the toamtoe plant int, so far i havent seen one, it took 6 worms and half a plant now damaged befor i figured a way keep the darn things away.
Only bad part is i have to replace the duct tape every 3 days, depends on the weather cause the sticky part wears off quick being out in the high humidity and then sun beating down on it all day.

I am so glad I saw this page.

By GJ

I am so glad I saw this page. First I was gonna let the caterpillars be, hoping they'd turn into cute little butterflies! After reading the problems they cause, I decided to get to work. They had already eaten huge portions of my plant to the stem. I found about eight worms covered with the wasp pupae, all small and still (presumably dead), so I let them be. I removed three huge ones that were uninfected and still active. Will the friendly wasps take care of the rest? I hope so!

Has anyone tried neem oil?

By Shawn Rosvold

Has anyone tried neem oil? I've heard it works very well and is about as safe as anything can be.

I found a huge horn worm on

By Char Corn

I found a huge horn worm on my tomatoes and bean rollers on my beans. I used neem oil and all were gone. They say to use for 7-14 days to make sure. I am using every other day for 7 days. But, I haven't seen any more worms.I use at early evening so it can work all night. Neem oil can't take full sun from the day!

Oh my goodness!! I just found

By noemi winkler

Oh my goodness!! I just found three large hornworms on my tomato plants and pepper plants. I kept inspecting my plants and I found eggs in a leaf. Took those off too. Then I found a baby hornworm. Im so upset! This is the first time we have done a vegtable garden. Im pretty proud of my work. I will not let these pesty little green things ruin it.

I've been finding adult

By Suzi Taylor

I've been finding adult worms, teeny worms and larvae on backsides of leaves every single day on my plants. I've been picking off no less than 5 a day. Some days 10-15. The natural gardening site recommends 1 cup of vegetable oil, 1.5 cups water and 2 teaspoons dish soap in a spray bottle. You can add white pepper or cayenne if you lie. If you have really hot days, you should spray the concoction on at dusk and make sure to shower the plants with water before the heat of the day to avoid leaf burn. Then repeat the process. it requires some discipline but, they tell me it works and they should be long gone. I'm starting tonight.

I found one these critters on

By Jack wyatt

I found one these critters on my tomato plant about 5 days ago and pinch him off and squshed him on the sidewalk , well i inspect the plant everyday now and not seen one, today i noticed the top of my plant, i only have one, it looked really sparced today, i go look closer and found three huge worms on it, this is also a above ground huge barrel pot i planted it in
to to keep from these sort problems but it doesnt work, the plant did look like the best one i ever planted in years and now thse worms have devoured some it in just few hours.
Nothing more agrivating then have something like this destroy something gives u joy, so i hate puting any pestcides on my plants even if it says its safe, what can u trust these days, so i just have to keep close eye everyday make sure i keep them off and kill them.

I inspect my tomato plant

By Timothy Hill 95

I inspect my tomato plant every day and have never had a problem. Today I went out there and every one of my big juicy red tomatoes have been eaten (including all of the flowers). I found 2 green hornworms on my plant; each one is about 5 inches long. I pulled them off, but I'm afraid my plant is a complete waste now. These are some ugly suckers, and I cannot believe how quick they eat. Within a matter of 5 hours, they managed to eat every tomato I had on my plant...Unbelievable!

HELP! I have a bunch of small

By Erica Connolly

HELP! I have a bunch of small greenish eggs in bunches and rows all over my patio tomato plants. But its on the stems of the tomatoes not the leaves! What r they? And is there a homemade solution to spray on the tomato stems to kill them? Its been over a week and they havent hatched or anything and i see no damage or insecets on my plants.... Idk what they are but i want them gone... Please help thanks!

These good be lacewing eggs.

By Almanac Staff

These good be lacewing eggs.  Lacewings are beneficial insects and eat pests! They love apids. Do not kill them. Perhaps you want to take a sample to your local garden center or cooperative extension.

I, too, have found these

By RickZim1

I, too, have found these nasty looking hornworms on my tomato plants. I noticed the top stems and leaves looking like they were cut off. After a little inspection I found one hanging upside down on a branch. I fed him to the robins in my yard. I looked around a bit longer and found a tomato damaged on one side. Not far from the tomato, I found another worm. I pulled him off and fed him to the robins too. They were waiting for another tasty morsel. I'm going to get some sevin tomorrow.

Sevin does not work, Sprayed

By Cabezon99

Sevin does not work, Sprayed and powdered, next day I find 2 more so I isolated them, sprayed them with sevin directly. They looked to be irratated but a day later they were alive and well pacing around the edge of the cage trying to escape.

A couple of things: Look for

By Tmartin256

A couple of things:
Look for them at night using a UV flashlight. The worms are a brilliant green while the leaves are purple. Much easier to see. Also the worm feces is a very bright green. So if you see green spots on the leaves, go worm hunting. Don't use UV googles but DON'T LOOK AT THE LIGHT DIRECTLY!
A very dilute solution of caffeine seems to deter them. Be carful applying to frequently as it can harm the plants. I'm going to try the BT method next.

What is the BT method?

By Amy Greenlaw

What is the BT method?

I have inspected my tomato

By MMR

I have inspected my tomato plants almost dally looking for these horrible pests. Today was the first time I discovered them. They were at the top of the plant. One very large, about 2 inches long and the other one much smaller. I pulled them off and sprinkled the entire plant with Sevin powder. Do these warms grow large so large in a very short time. With my almost daily inspection, I am amazed at the size of them.

I will tell you that

By Shauna Shuford

I will tell you that marigolds do not work to protect your tomato plants from Hornworms I had 2 plants surrounded by 6 flowering marigolds and the tomato plants were stripped by 3 hornworms in a day.

Tomato horn worms eat

By Zadi

Tomato horn worms eat marigolds to. They ate my marigolds then my beautiful pepper plant. I found him, he was huge.

I found 5 red hornworms in my

By Jill707

I found 5 red hornworms in my garden. I been planting tomatoes for the last 3 years and is the first time I found this suckers. So, tomorrow will be hunting day. Be aware because I will get those eggs. Thank you everyone for the tips.

I too have these terrible

By Christy H.

I too have these terrible worms!! They have eaten the tops of 3 large plants, I have picked them off and killed them as I see them. I think I will be going the route of using the BT insecticide treatment. I just couldn't believe how much of the plant these suckers ate before I found it! Unbelievable!

I recently had two of these

By Jacob Long

I recently had two of these on my tomato plant. What helps is put a stick up to them, then they will crawl up the stick. with them still hanging on to the stick walk to the closest ant bed and throw the stick with the worm still on into the ant bed. Then watch the FRENZY!

I read in a book about garden

By Joyce Shields

I read in a book about garden pests that you can spray tomato plants with a mixture of tabasco sauce and water to get rid of tomato hornworms. It did not give the ratio of tabasco sauce to water. Has anyone tried this? Did it work? How much tabasco sauce did you use in a quart of water?

I've heard that too.

By JanaLynn

I've heard that too. However, these catapillars devoured half my jalepeno crop...ate the peppers right up to the stem. So am am doubtful that tobasco would deter them?

You have to add dish soap or

By Suzi Taylor

You have to add dish soap or vegetable to the mix. They hate both.

Yes I tried it. It's one

By Linda Lopez

Yes I tried it. It's one ounce of tabasco per gallon of water. I used it several weeks ago....found 2 big horn worms today. You try and let me know if it works.
Thanks

I haven't found any big green

By Sarah Herring

I haven't found any big green worms. Just little fuzzy ones eating holes in the tomato leaves. The leaves look like swiss cheese. Are these the baby horn worms? Is there any way to get ride of them before they turn into the big worms and destroy the fruit and the plant? They are all tiny and fuzzy and black and white, about 1/4 inch at most right now.

Another of nature's

By Almanac Staff

Another of nature's mysteries: It sounds like you have tomato fruitworm, which will soon become a moth...but we can't be sure.
Yes, they could destroy the plant, esp the fruit. If it's the fruitworm, some sources recommend Trichogramma spp. egg parasites; the larval parasite Hyposoter exiguae; and predators such as bigeyed bug and minute pirate bug. (The idea is, fight nature with nature.) However, some even advise using organically acceptable Bt (consult your local extension or nursery). In the meantime, pick them off and eliminate them.

a friend told me she heard

By betsy

a friend told me she heard that putting pennies around the base of your plants will stop the worms from crawling up the stalks, something about the copper in the penny they dont like, will this not harm my plants?

I don't think that idea will

By GeoD

I don't think that idea will work. Pennies haven't been made with copper for many years.

Since the moth lays the eggs

By Marie Ah Fong

Since the moth lays the eggs on the leaves, it makes since to me, that the worms hatch in the leaves, and never have to crawl up the stem, that is in the ground. Thus the penny, whether it has copper in it or not, would be ineffective.

Many gardeners say copper

By Almanac Staff

Many gardeners say copper pennies deter snails and slugs. However, only pennies before 1982 are made of copper; now they are mainly zinc. See our Pest section for good ways to deter differently kinds of worms.

Has anyone tried to use

By pammiekate

Has anyone tried to use beneficial nematodes to control tomato hornworms? We had a flea problem in the backyard and were looking for nonchemical flea control when we came across beneficial nematodes. We released three different varieties which will invade and use pests in the soil as hosts, killing them. beneficial nematodes do not harm plants or animals, only soil dwelling pests.

I used to have hornworms I

By Royce

I used to have hornworms
I used to get hornworms on my tomato plants every year but ten years ago they disappeared, and this year I discovered their demise was caused by Spined Soldier Bugs that live in my garden. The Soldier Bugs look like brown watermelon seeds with a tent-shaped back and sharp points on their shoulders. They pierce other bugs with a sharp beak and suck their juices out, but their favorite food is tomato worms and every plant has one patrolling it.

This year I put ducks in the

By Sue Cellini aka The Pocket Farmer

This year I put ducks in the garden and they patrolled for bugs all season long. I found not a single hornworm on my tomatoes!

I remember this from my

By Milanie

I remember this from my childhood and it works. But only if ducks are allowed where you live which unfortunately is not the norm these days.

I seem to get these SOBs

By Diann

I seem to get these SOBs every year. Have done everything from seven to plucking them off. I HAVE discovered that if they have stripped a branch of leaves and you pluck off the worm that the leaves WILL grow back and they CAN produce after that. Now that I know what the Moth that starts this crap looks like I can KILL the MOMS and DADS of these dang things. Side story. I have two container pots of tomates that I have brought in for the season, and I am getting tomatoes from them. Imagine my surprise when I found TWO of these SOBs on my INDOOR TOMATOS! That SAME day I found a HUGE moth in the kitchen, across from where the plants are. We took it outside. If I had known then that THIS was the MOTHER!!! I would have killed it and been done with it. Noooo I let it LIVE! "I'll get you next time you ugly!"

Thanks for the laugh! I just

By Judy Atwater

Thanks for the laugh! I just came inside to get on the internet to identify this little creature because they have destroyed 4 tomato plants overnight. I squished two that I found but I know there are more out there. I couldn't wait for the white pods to change into a wasp!!! There has to be a solution to this problem. Somebody needs to HELP us out here so we can enjoy our fresh tomatoes.

Loved reading this. I found

By Sonji Nalley

Loved reading this. I found an UGLY on my tomatoes yesterday and tried to figure out what the heck it was. Thanks to this link, I identified it and am now looking for the MOTHER of this SOB! Mine had eggs attached, which I am assuming are wasp eggs. It is now in a zip lock bag and not long for this world. Perhaps I should let it go because the baby wasp will soon have it to snack on...or I'm assuming so! Thanks for your enlightening comments! Happy Gardening!! Fondly,
Sonji

HA HA HA Diann! Your comment

By Loriann B

HA HA HA Diann! Your comment made me laugh! :] I just looked up their adult form photo so I can kill them BEFORE they destroy my tomatoes!

so if i understand this

By Nancy Lynn Lopez

so if i understand this correctly,if i have found 2 hornworms,chances are i will find many more?? i have never had this problem before in my garden,could they have been in the siol of the plant when i purchased them?

Hi, Nancy, Thank you for your

By Janice Stillman

Hi, Nancy,
Thank you for your interest in The Old Farmer's Almanac.
To answer your first question, yes, it's certainly possible that you will find more hornworms in your garden. Watch to see if the leaves on your tomatoes "disappear" (get eaten) and for black "droppings" (poop). You might even find that bites have been made in your tomatoes.
As to whether they came in the soil, we can only offer a maybe. Just because you never had them before doesn't mean you'll never have them. Eggs are deposited on plant leaves and the mature larvae drop off into the soil at maturity. They dig into the soil where they form a pupal cell before attacking the plant.
Sources suggest that tillage can eliminate as much as 90% of the larvae. So can crop rotation.
One thing to note: if you see a hornworm with a lot of little "white things" on it that resemble grains of rice, let it live! The white things are parasites that will kill the worm and grow/emerge to become predator wasps.
I hope this helps!

I'm a novice gardener with a

By NoviceGardenerCarolAnn

I'm a novice gardener with a few herbs and tomatoes in my front yard.

I'm surprised to hear about these plants that are supposed to keep the hornworms away. I have a very small garden and it contains one cherry tomato plant, along with two basils and two rosemarys, among others.

I first noticed that some of my lower and inner leaves were wilting and dying, but I thought it was because I have to rearrange the plant pretty often to support it. It wasn't until today that I saw some stripped branches and huge hornworms. Now that I look at it, it seems like almost all of the inner leaves and up to a third of the outer leaves have egg pouches on them! What can I do? I don't want to kill bees, as they're the ones making my tomatoes possible. Is the pesticide the right choice for me?

Most of the worms I found were parasitized, but it seems like there are too many for them all to get that.

Thanks for your help!
~CarolAnn

Hornworms usually start at

By Almanac Staff

Hornworms usually start at the top of the plant, eating interior leaves. Handpicking is probably best, since you have a small garden. Use gloves to grasp them and drop them into a bucket of soapy water or, if you can stand to, squish them. Gently scrape the eggs off the leaves and destroy them. If you can, it’s good to leave the parasitized hornworms alone so that the braconid wasps can hatch from the eggs; the caterpillars will die at that time. If this doesn’t work, BTK (Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki) can be sprayed on smaller caterpillars; it will not affect bees.

Thank you for the

By NoviceGardenerCarolAnn

Thank you for the info!
~CarolAnn

We had 4 of these worms on

By NanaMickey

We had 4 of these worms on our plants this year and I had never seen the wasp eggs on them in the past so I assumed they were their own offspring. They were completely covered with them. If I had known what they were, I wouldn't have thrown them in the firepit. Worked good to kill them! Next time I will just let nature take it's coarse and let the wasps hatch.

I have been gardening and

By gardengurl

I have been gardening and growing tomatoes for years. This is the first time I have seen one of these owful worms and by the time I found it it had destroyed my tomatoes and eaten nearly all the leaves on two plants. This thing was as big around as my thum and about 4 inches long. I pulled both plants out and tossed the whole thing since I didn't know what it was or if there were others lurking around. I have never ever seen one of these on my plants before. Now I will be buying tomatoes until next summer.

I have tried every method the

By gramma

I have tried every method the reader above have suggested for the last 10 yrs. None of them work except for 7 dust, and pluckin em off and giving them to the chickens. (they appreciate the ugly sobs)

If soapy water will take care

By D.

If soapy water will take care of the worms when placed in it will it take care of them if I spray soapy water directly to the plant? Thanks

Yes, but don't overdo it. A

By Almanac Staff

Yes, but don't overdo it. A few drops in a LOT of water. Specifically: Mix 1 teaspoon of clear liquid dish soap in 1 quart of water to make an insecticidal soap. Spray just when you need it--and spray in early morning or late evening-or it will burn your plants.

I prefer Seven and old

By kevkat

I prefer Seven and old fashioned hand pluckn to remove those sob's. So best of luck in your garden.

I decided to plant dill

By Baumgarten

I decided to plant dill between my tomatoes this year and while the worms are back, they seem to like climbing the dill more and are much easier to spot. I have tried most methods for ridding my garden of them but being diligent and hand picking them works best. Get a good flashlight and go out a few hours after the sun has gone down. Best of luck!

I have green worms that eat

By bjl

I have green worms that eat everything in the garden, veggies and flower leaves. They especially like morning glory leaves. They are not tomato hornworms. There is no horn, what are they and how do I get rid of them?

We believe that you have an

By Almanac Staff

We believe that you have an inch worm problem. You can try to spray with horticultural oils or use Bacillus thuringiensis, a wilt pathogen that is only toxic to insects.

Kill two birds with one

By Ron G

Kill two birds with one stone.....with each tomato plant you plant, also plant a basil plant about a foot away. You will not see a horn worm all season and you will always have fresh basil....learned this from grandmother over 50 years ago. Been doing it all my life...trust me it works

Sorry guys, but I have

By suzo92

Sorry guys, but I have marigolds and basil in the same pot as the worms. That is not working.

same here had both marigold

By betsy

same here had both marigold and basil planted right under and next to my cherry tomato plants and my plants were destroyed.. help please i have gone out to my raised beds last week as i had some radishes planted there last fall and picked some ,and found live hornworms right under the surface of the soil,this is Feb. and the soil is frozen...what do i do before planting comes

The pupae overwinter in the

By Almanac Staff

The pupae overwinter in the soil. Put black plastic on the soil where you are going to plant your tomatoes. This can help prevent the moth from emerging in spring and laying eggs on your plants. The eggs will become the horn worms.

I live in Maine so if I

By Cathi

I live in Maine so if I tilled the area I was going to plant in and placed the black plastic over it until it was safe to plant, this would possibly kill the moths? I think sometime in April is possibly when I could till but planting doesn't happen until end of May. Thank you!

This year has been terrible.

By bradpa

This year has been terrible. I usually plant marigolds but didn't this year..We have taken over 70 hornworns off. I'm sure there are more. They are destroying my 4 tomatoe plants...I have two basil plants next to one of it and that hasn't detterred them at all. I'm wondering is it too late to plant the marigolds this year? The tomatoes are still green what is left. They are heirlooms and I live at 3800 ft. Thanks for any anwers you may have!

I haven't gardened in years.

By AmyHeffernan

I haven't gardened in years. This year was the first time we purchased three tomato plants from a co-op. When my Early Girl hit 4 ft I noticed leaves missing and there a huge 3" ugly hornworm on the stem (blending in). Since we've never had a garden in the area we planted the tomatoes we were wondering if eggs were in the co-op soil... anyone else had this problem?

I took the article in OFA to

By Lynetta Billiot

I took the article in OFA to heart and planted marigold plants amongst my tomatos this year and we had NO tomato worms at all. I'm assuming it worked, we have ALWAYS had these grose worms and they can devour a plant in short order.

I do not have any hornworms,

By Toney Poole

I do not have any hornworms, but I would welcome them for they are VERY good fishbait. just break them in to two pieces and turn one wrong side out over your hook and bream love them. Sometimes you can catch several fish with one bait.

Planting borage among tomato

By Mary Mcallister 2

Planting borage among tomato plants is a good deterent to hornworms as well.

We have several different

By Mammacita57

We have several different tomato plants planted in our garden,only a few have these small "Orange" worms eating on them, does anyone know what they are? Sevin does not kill them either.

I have found that using a

By bobbyjowebb

I have found that using a strong solution of dish soap and water in a spray bottle works great on just about any pests, no chemicals!

I used to do that but it

By bjl

I used to do that but it destroyed my marijuana plants and my bell peppers too.

I would like to find "won't

By charlielinn

I would like to find "won't kill bees" product, or alternatives to "Sevin" that really work against hornworms.

Tomato hornworms... Do NOT

By Kris Rosvold

Tomato hornworms... Do NOT like lavender or rosemary next to their food. We had a BAD infestation on out eggplant, but the tomatoes that were next to the rosemary and the lavender had none. BT works best when the critters are young.

Saving the bees is easy if

By Teddy

Saving the bees is easy if you have the patience. Simply interplant complanion and compliment plants with your tomatoes: basil, borage, bee balm, dill, and french tall marigolds are best. In addition, plant parsley away from your tomatoes and the hornworms will be attracted to the parsley like bees to pollen. I have thousands of the hornworms on the parsley plants and it is very easy to flick them off into sudsy water. I think I got rid of most of them this year and the tomatoe plants produced thousands of tomatoes with no damage this year. If I had known about parsley last year, I wouldn't have lost my whole crop. Best wishes!!!!!

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