If you’re wondering who’s responsible for the holes in your beautiful tomato plants, there’s a good chance it’s hornworms. These garden pests are known as voracious eaters of the plant, so you may be harboring them in your garden. Knowing how to identify the critters and what kind of garden pest control to use will help you protect your prized plants.
What Is a Hornworm?
There are two types: the tomato hornworm and the tobacco hornworm. Adults are called hummingbird or sphinx moths. Found in most of the U.S. and southern Canada, these nonstop eaters feed on tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, peppers, and tobacco. Under the cover of green foliage, the sneaky pests make quick work of chewing on plant leaves and fruit.
How to Identify Hornworms
Larger hornworms can grow up to 5 inches long. They’re light-green with black and white markings and sport pointy protrusions from their hind ends.
Is the Hornworm Dangerous?
Yes, but only to your crops! Don’t worry, though; we’ll provide tips to protect your tomato plants. Although they can quickly lay waste to your tomatoes and nightshade plants, these pests don’t bite or sting.
Hornworm Breeding Habits
The hornworm lays eggs on the undersides of leaves. Eggs hatch in a week during late spring, and larvae create cocoons after feeding for up to six weeks. They then burrow for two to three weeks; overwintering lasts longer if the weather is too cool. Moths lay eggs once again in the spring, but in warmer areas, there can be more than one generation in a year.
Hornworm Garden Pest Control
- Lure them away with basil, marigolds, or dill.
- Apply insecticidal soap to plants to kill smaller worms.
- Remove hornworms by hand; crush the pests or place them in soapy water.
- Allow parasitic wasps to lay eggs on hornworms, removing the worms afterward.
- Till soil at the season’s beginning and end to kill 90% of hornworm larvae.
Support a Pest-Free Tomato Garden the Natural Way
With these hornworm prevention tips in mind and in practice, you can help banish the local hornworm population from your plot. Besides garden pest control advice for protecting your tomato plants, Jobe’s Organics Vegetable and Tomato Fertilizer Spikes and other products will help keep your garden naturally healthy—because at Jobe’s, we grow better things.™