August 15, 2020 – Tomato Hornworms

What’s lime green, fat as your finger, and snacks on tomato, pepper, and potato plants? Tell me how many hornworms you found in the picture.

A hobby gardener suddenly turned homesteader, I knew about these tomato hornworms and their voracious hunger. Earlier in the growing season, Dick spotted one on a potato plant and then another on a tomato. I spent the evening turning an iPhone into a black light. It was a bit disappointing not catching sight of a glowing worm.

Satisfied I had done due diligence checked the plants the next day. And felt a bit proud of overcoming the horrid pest. How silly of me to think that the threat to my tomatoes was over.

A recent Lumnah Acres YouTube episode, Al and Gina discovered hornworms in their high tunnel. I had a sinking feeling about what I might find. A quick inspection between rain showers revealed one hornworm brown and dead hanging. But nothing else. What could have killed that hornworm? Neem oil?

The very next day was a different story. Dick and I found over 30 worms on tomato and pepper plants. I picked until I couldn’t find anymore, came back found more, picked again, and a third time before the sunset.

It doesn’t take long to become an expert hunter. Look for the poop. They’re usually on a stem right above. I also noticed they hang upside down in an ‘s’ shape on the underside of the leaves. They are probably hiding from predators. They seem to like the newer leaves and stay toward the top of the plant.

Still don’t think you found them all? Get a black light and wait for night. These worms will glow. I’ve abandoned my makeshift iPhone black light and have a legit one on order. Understanding the hornworm lifecycle a little better, it’s on my schedule to do more frequent searches. At least twice a week.

I did feel blessed to discover I have some parasitoid wasps. Here’s proof, a picture of a dead worm walking. Leave it be and give the wasps a chance to hatch. At this stage, the worm is no longer eating,

Let me know if you’ve found different methods on how to combat these hungry worms.

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