Nothing gets me more upset in the garden than when I discover tomato hornworms have been munching on my plants. They fluster me to no end.
This year I feel as though all of these critters have zoned in on my garden and are turning it into a full blown buffet.
How do you know if you have tomato hornworms present? Walk out to your garden and look at the tops of your tomato plants. If you see only stems and no leaves, there is a good chance that tomato hornworms are in the area.
Another way to know is if you see their droppings. I think they appear similar to looking like a tiny grenade, but be sure to note what color they are, too. Yes, I’m asking you to look at the droppings of a garden creature. You can learn a lot this way. If your tomato worm is still at large in the area, the droppings will be green. If they are brown or black, then they already moved on to the next plant in the area.
Tomato hornworms are large green worms that are remarkably close to the same color green as the green on an actual tomato plant, so sometimes it takes a bit of looking to find them. Once found, you will notice they have a sharp looking red hook on one end that makes them look even scarier. In my entire life, I have never been harmed by a hornworm.
When you find tomato hornworms, you have some options. You can leave it be and hope it doesn’t kill your plants by reducing their chances of photo synthesizing with minimal leaves.
You could remove it and take it to an entire other location and leave it there. I use this option for when the tomato hornworms have little white sacs on their bodies. Those white sacs are the larvae to parasitic wasps and will feed on the tomato worm as they grow.
Another option is that you could cut them in half with your pruners, or step on them. Be aware that they will squirt their insides at you if the entire worm isn’t covered by your shoe when you step on it. We take ours and feed them to our chickens and give them to friends to use as treats for their bearded dragons.
Hopefully all of the tomato worms are at my house and not yours, but, if so, try your best to find a way to remove them so you are still able to enjoy some tomatoes
Sacha Burns is an organic gardener and owner of Sunkissed Organics in Pinola. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.