Gaah! Tomato Hornworms!

For the past week or so, I’ve been fighting an uphill battle against these smegging things, I’d come home from work and my tomato patch would be just a little more denuded than before, last week I found one of the culprits, a big, bloated hornworm caterpillar

I pulled it off the plant, and it became intimately familiar with the law of Gravity and falling at 32 feet per second per second, ending in blunt-force trauma

I’m normally a live-and-let-live kinda’ guy, I don’t enjoy killing any type of animal (except biting/blood drinking insects), but these hornworms are no longer satisfied with the foliage, now they’re going after my nice heirloom beefsteak tomatoes, eating them when they’re still green…

So, the gloves have come off, and I have a take-no-prisoners approach…

I made the mistake of looking for them during the day, they hide then, they’re more nocturnal, problem is, looking for a green caterpillar on green plants with a flashlight can be difficult…

…unless said flashlight is actually an Ultraviolet flashlight, tomato hornworms don’t exactly “flouresce” per se, they just reflect more UV back than the plants, so, shining a UV light on the plants makes the hornworms easier to pick out from within the foliage

I just got back in from a hornworm removal session, and pulled off at least eight of the frakking things, they won’t be eating any more of my tomatoes now <squish>…

Things I’ve discovered about the Tomato Hornworm;
they can actually give a painful nip, grab them as close to their head as possible when you pull them off the plant
they seem to prefer heirloom/open pollinated plants, they love my Beefsteak and Pineapple Tomato heirloom plants (the poor Pineapple has lost about 75% of it’s foliage), yet they basically ignore the hybrid Sunsugar cherry tomato plant (the sunsugars in the main garden have only been about 10% defoliated, the sunsugar in the backup garden is untouched (so far…)
They stand out against the foliage at night when lit by a UV light
they mostly only come out at night…mostly…

They cannot withstand Saturn…
(2007 Saturn Ion)

Next time plant an eggplant in with the tomatoes, it will turn the worms purple. Much easier to see purple worms =)

Ever think of getting a lizard? My bearded dragon loooooved hornworms.

Well, I could, I guess, but what would I need to get to eat the bearded dragon when it’s done with the Hornworms? :wink:

According to Google, a 6.5+ foot Sand Monitor will do the trick.

I was just out looking for them this evening. I’ve only found one this year. The garden chickens are much better about finding them than I am. Of course, they eat all of the low-hanging tomatoes, so what are you going to do?

In the last few years, I have only seen a couple of tomato worms, and they have looked like this.

I…I’m really not sure that’s an improvement. Gives me the complete set of willies. Eeeyugh.

We had a neighbor who once owned a tomato-worm-eating dog. Good old Toby. He’d nose around and slurp those awful things right off the plants, nom nom nom. Good boy. That’s a good dog. No, NO, no kissies…

If they are like tobacco hornworms, they are delicious. Tastes like shrimp.

This memory may be filtered by childhood, but I seem to recall one getting sucked up by the pool filter, and blowing up to 3x it’s size by the end.

The moths are very cool looking, though. I haven’t seen either in years for some reason.

Breed for shorter chickens? Or make little Ultraviolet miner’s caps for them?

Buy some ladybugs and release them in your garden. They eat the hornworm eggs, hence, no hornworms! To ensure ladybugs stay in your garden, wait until dusk, sprinkle the plants with water, and then place the ladybugs on the plants. If you try to release them during the day, they’ll just fly away.

You could also try sprinkling cornmeal around the base of all your plants. Hornworms eat it, but can’t digest it, so they actually explode! Saves you the trouble of having to smash them yourself.

No offense but this sounds too much like “don’t throw rice at weddings because birds eat it and their stomachs swell up and they die” to believe without evidence. In googling around the only place I’m finding it is on home remedy and organic gardening sites, which all use virtually the same phrasing so it looks like they all copied it from one source.

Has anyone who’s done this ever found an exploded hornworm with cornstarch goo splattered around it in their garden?

What works for me is to plant basil near the tomato plants. Basil does seem to keep Tomato Hornworms away, and delicious served with vine-ripened tomatoes. This is perhaps the most fortuitous combination since corn and beans.

Wait, what? Really?

Actually the tobacco hornworm is a cheep tobacco substitute that is eaten by the poor that can’t afford the tax.

and if you believe that…

I have a chicken that eats tobacco hornworms and lays packs of cigarettes.

In addition, they’ll fly away if their house is on fire and their children are in danger of burning to death.

Just in case there are any bearded dragon owners out there who have hornworms and are reading this; DO NOT feed hornworms off a tomato (or tobacco) plant to your lizard! They are poisonous if they have been feeding off of those plants. The hormworms bought for feeders are fed a different food, which I think is cornmeal based actually, putting lie to the exploding hornworm idea from earlier. I just wanted to say this because I would hate for someone to kill their Beardie or make them sick because of misinformation. Actually, most people say you should never feed any wild caught bug to a Beardie (or any other pet lizard I guess) because they might have pesticides or something on them.

I did not know that* I’m glad I always got mine from breeders.
*I take that back, I may have known it back when I had lizards.

Well, I just caught a couple about a week ago and had the exact same thought, but for whatever reason I looked it up to be sure it was ok before I fed them to my (my son’s, really) lizard, and found that they concentrate something from the plants in their body which makes them poisonous to the bearded dragons. Tomatoes aren’t good for them either.

They are super gross caterpillars though. I usually like little bugs and stuff, but not those guys, ugh! Fortunately we only have one runty little plant, so it isn’t too hard to see them on there.

A few years ago the gardener found a tabacco hornworm, which is nearly the same thing. I named it Noa(h), and kept him/her in a tupperware box.