Tomato Horn Worms are pretty cool looking, but if you see one in your garden, be aware that a single Hornworm can decimate and tomato plant within HOURS. Here’s a simple way to get rid of them . . .
You might not even be sure what’s eating your tomato plants, at first glance, it may seem like deer or rabbits have eaten them because the leaves and stems are completely gone! After all, how can such a little critter create so much damage?
What are Tomato Horn Worms?
But these aren’t ordinary caterpillars, they’re Tomato Horn Worms, otherwise known as Manduca Quinquemaculata. It’s the larval stage of the Five-Spotted Hawkmoth.
The caterpillar stage of the Manduca quinquemaculata, also known as tomato hornworm, is characterized by eight V-shaped marks on each side and a horn at the rear.This caterpillar transforms into a large moths with a wingspan of four to six inches with colors ranging from brown and gold to pink and grey.
Telltale signs you have Hornworms
1 If your plant looks like it’s been eaten off by a large animal, leaves, and stems are missing overnight, or if it looks like someones been using a weed-wacker on it.
2 If there are greenish or black droppings on leaves. This is the remains of what used to be your beautiful healthy tomato plant. Below is a photo of a “fresh” hornworm turd. Notice how it’s brighter green in color.
It takes only one big hornworm to strip a tomato plant of its foliage in one or two days. In general, they work from the top to the bottom.
How to Get Rid of Tomato Horn Worms Easily
The absolute easiest way to ensure that you get rid of all the tomato hornworms in your garden is to wait until dusk. Once darkness settles upon your garden, grab a blacklight flaslight, slip on a pair of gloves (if you don’t like touching bugs), and head to the garden.
Shine the black light starting at the top of each plant and work your way down, plucking off the hornworms into a bucket. The hornworms will GLOW brightly under the light, giving away their location immediately.
You can get a hand held black light for about $10 onlineor at Walmart, lowes, etc. (By the way, once you’ve gotten rid of the hornworms, let the kids use the blacklight to blow Glow in the Dark bubbles in the backyard!)
If you try to just pull them off during the day, you’ll more than likely find them near the tops of your plants. You will also likely miss more than half of the worms because of their ability to blend in well with their surroundings.
Here is what we found on just three of our (10) plants:
Practical Uses for Tomato Hornworms
You may be wondering, are tomato hornworms good for anything? Once they pass the pesky caterpillar stage they do become beneficial pollinators. As such, it may be worth relocating them to a less devastating area away from the garden.
Personally, we think they make great “treats” for our chickens, but you can drown them, squish them, or let them go somewhere else far, far away from your garden. My husband prefers to go catfishing with them!
Entice native birds such as downy woodpeckers, Baltimore orioles, bluebirds, flycatchers, and sparrows but placing these fat, juicy caterpillars in a shallow container near your feeders.
What’s your favorite way to get rid of tomato hornworms? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.