Tips on How to Identify, Prevent & Eliminate Tomato Hornworms


Today we’re going to talk about this disgusting little pest known as a tomato hornworm. They wreak absolute havoc on tomato plants. We are going to show you how we identify where these are on our tomato plants, what we can do to prevent them, and how we eliminate them when they’re already a threat to our tomato crops.

0:00 Tomato Hornworms
1:08 How to Identify
3:15 How to Prevent and Eliminate


Hi, my name is Lindsey and I’m here at the Urban Farm. Today we’re gonna talk about this disgusting little pest known as a tomato hornworm. So this is one in its largest, most devastating state, and they wreak absolute havoc on tomato plants. You can see here just the ends of the stems that have been completely de-leafed and chewed off by this nemesis <laugh>. I’m gonna show you today how we identify where these are on our tomato plants, what we can do to prevent them, and how we eliminate them when they’re already a threat to our tomato crops.

As you can see, this one is very large. This is about as large as they get, and they cling to the leaf stem, and they will just eat entire stems worth of foliage. This really makes it difficult for the plant to photosynthesize, to grow. They’ll eat the tomato buds and the flowers, which just limits production. It’s really important that we get rid of these guys as soon as possible. When you have one this big, if you’re squeamish and you don’t wanna smoosh it, you can drown them in soapy water. When they’re this big, that’s what I have to do. Otherwise, it’s a big squish <laugh> and it’s kind of gross. Totally up to you. Sometimes on the plant, they’ll be really small so they can be hard to identify, especially on tomato plants, if you have a lot of foliage, it can be hard to find them. Something to look for is their poop. They’ll have little black, It looks almost like pepper grains. If you see that on your leaf, that’s a really good early indicator that you might have a problem with horn worm. Caterpillars. Even if you don’t see all of this destruction, but you see poop, that’s a good indication to look now.

The easiest way to find one is to start where you see damage at the end. Here, I can see this stem has been leafed, so has this one. You work your way down until about here is where I see that there’s not as much notable damage, and you keep looking. There’s another culprit. And what I’m gonna do, cause I don’t want to pluck ’em off, let’s just pluck this stem off. That’s the easiest way to find them, is to look for the damage and then follow it down.

Now I’m gonna show you preventative measures and how to get rid of them. When they’re that big, the easiest way to get rid of them is just to remove them off the plant. You can spray them for days, but it’s just a lot easier to pull ’em straight off the plant.

I’m gonna show you two methods. One is you can use a concentrate like this one that specifically says for tomato hornworm, it does. Other, cabbage looper and cabbage worm are very similar to horn worm in their composition and what they do to the plants. They both make holes in the leaves and eat the stems and the foliage. So you can use something like this. This is about one tablespoon for every gallon of water. I already mixed this in a spray bottle. If you have a bigger sprayer, you can use that too, and you just spray down your plant, especially where you see the damage. You don’t have to spray down here. Usually they like to start at the top of the plant and you can just give it a really good spray. The other option if you don’t want to go out and get a concentrate is you can use a basic mixture of water, some dish soap, and about a tablespoon of cayenne pepper. So what the soap does is it adheres the mixture to the leaf. It makes it actually stick on the plant, and the cayenne will be a preventative. It’ll stop other caterpillars from coming. I’m just gonna pour about a tablespoon estimation And then same thing. You’re just going to mix it up and spray your plant.

These are two really good options for both preventative and maintenance when you’re already dealing with tomato horn worms. And again, just going through being really observant of your plant, just making sure that if you see one, knowing that there could be a lot more. So don’t give up. Don’t think that, Oh, I found a really big one. You must be the only problem. There can be a lot of them and they’re green and really small so they can be hard to find when they’re in the younger adolescent stages.

I hope this helps you learn more about tomato horn worms, why they can be so devastating and how we can maintain and get our tomato plants to prosper even after a horn worm infection.


Hi-Yield Thuricide Concentrate:


  • Lynette’s mission is to translate financial noise into understandable language and enable educated, independent choices. All her work is fact and evidence based and she shares these tools openly. She believes strongly that we need to be as independent as possible and at the same time, we need to come together in community to survive and thrive through any financial crisis.

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