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Pesky Pests: Tomato Horn Worms

Hello VEGheads, Tomatoes are grown in over 80% of home backyard gardens. For good reason, it's an excellent addition to some favorite summer dishes like sandwiches and salads or if your into making your own spaghetti or marinara sauce. Green picked and shipped grocery tomatoes simply can not compete with a ripened on the vine homegrown tomato. But every hero has a nemesis. (Yes, I do believe Tomatoes to be a hero of a summer garden) That brings us to the Tomato Horn/Hook Worm, also known as Manduca quinquemaculata.


First, I would like to state these are extremely common pest. If you have grown

tomatoes you've likely encountered them before. The first thing that gardeners normally will notice is leaves that are chewed on, or whole branches are missing leaves. If you're not one to check on your garden daily, you may go out to find a plant fully annihilated. If you inspect your plants you'll likely find a little or not so little green worms usually under leaves. If you are familiar with these you may also notice the scat they leave behind. Here is a photo of some that I found on a nearby Zucchini plant. This is what tipped me off this year that I have them. The poops size scales with the caterpillar; when the caterpillar gets bigger you are able to see the asterisk shape that it is. Unfortunately, I have no photos of this. The largest caterpillar that I pulled off my plants was the size of my index finger.


Naturally there are different methods to solving the issue of having these caterpillars in your garden. By way of preventing, you could try companion planting. There are a number of fragrant plants that confuse the moths by masking the tomato plants so they don’t lay their eggs to begin with. These include Alyssum, Basil, Dill and Marigolds. I found that Dill works great!

Personally, I’m observant and remove worms by hand and squish eggs as I see them. If its too late and you haven’t got the time or perhaps the problem has just gotten out of hand, BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) is an organic bacteria that you can spray to attack the larvae of many pests including hookworms. It can be harmful to honeybees so spray at night when flowers are closed or carefully spray to not affect the flowers. It is not harmful for mammals. So children and furry pets will be fine. Thanks for reading hope this article, feel free to comment about your experience with Tomato Hornworms.

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VEGheads by Very Excited Gardener

Outside Sources Used:

Jeffrey Hahn. “Tomato hornworms in home gardens.” University of Minnesota Extension, The University of Minnesota, June 30, 2022

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