Hornworms

Prairie Rose

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I have had too many hornworms this year, I can't keep up with picking them off my tomatoes by hand and they eat more of them every day. I am using DE to deter them, but that really is only slowing them down.

A quick search with google tells me that tilling the ground breaks their life cycle, and I haven't tilled my garden spots in years. Tiller is too big for me to use safely, and in dire need of maintenance besides. On top of that, it's the one piece of lawn and garden equipment my father is territorial over. His knees are bad enough he can't really use it right now either, it's a project for after his replacement surgery.

Anybody else do no till gardening and have experience with this? Is this just a transitioning thing? Will it get better in time? Are there any kind of natural predators that I can attract to help keep the population down? Any other kind of control methods I can try?

Help!

(And thanks in advance!)
 

flowerbug

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every year is different, this year i've found 14 tomato worms on 38 plants. i think it might be close to where they're done as i didn't find any today and i only found one yesterday. last year i don't remember finding many at all. some years i've had none

i rotate my tomato plantings each year.

i don't till entire gardens. i might dig with a shovel in parts of a garden to bury garden debris or left-overs from processing. i rarely disturb more than 5-10% of a garden each season.

the moths can fly from some distance away. local tilling might help or not, but i don't think they'll ever be eradicated.

the most natural control i've found so far is me going out each morning early and checking the gardens as i have to do this for Japanese Beetles too. the earlier the better. i don't think they have natural predators that will eat them before they do damage, but there are some parasitic species of wasps that will lay eggs in them, but it won't kill them in time to prevent damage to plants and the same for any spray i've ever seen that was touted to be natural. the other kinds of sprays i won't use at all.

to make it easier on me to notice new damage if i'm having a busy year i'll trim off the chewed up parts of a tomato plant so that the next day any new damage will be easier to spot. also looking under the plants for newer droppings (light green to olive colored vs. the darker or black ones that have already dried out).

someone noted here on TEG recently about using a black light flashlight to find them on the plants easier, but i've not gone that far yet. i seem to be able to see them still, helps if i have my glasses on. :)
 

Milosevich Garden

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Get Lady Bugs, Green Lacewings and Parasitic Wasps.
The three will work together to get rid of the tomato hornworm and you can get all three online if need be.

 

digitS'

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When I first had sunflowers in the vegetable garden I became convinced that they helped with hornworms.

I noticed some hornworm damage and found one but didn't have time to search the tomato plants. The next time I was out to that distant garden, more damage and still no time. "Okay, next time I'm coming out with the Bt spray!"

The next time the plants were healing and there was no more damage 🤔 . Above that group of tomatoes there were sunflowers, regularly visited by birds. I blamed the Chickadees and think that they were primarily responsible. They are known for eating sunflower seeds but also feeding lots of bugs to their young.

I have identified the small birds constantly present in a nearby fallow field as Pine Siskins. Their feeding habits on both seeds and insects fit. LBJ's (Little Brown Jobs) they are so busy with weed seeds but are really something to watch when they team up on a month flushed and flying off trying to escape!

Anyway, birds just might have saved my tomatoes from hornworms; I haven't seen one for years.

Steve
 

baymule

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Birds. Yes they will peck the tomatoes, so I don’t let them completely vine ripen. I have LBJ’s (thanks Steve!) and Summer Tanagers that flit in and out of the tomato vines. I need to put a bird bath on the garden. We have a bird feeder by the house.
 

Prairie Rose

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Thanks for all the replies...I have picked more than 20 off of 8 tomatoes so far this year. They're leaving the brandywine and the green zebras alone, but the others? are just skeletons of plants right now. I have a pretty good population of ladybugs, so I will work on drawing the birds to that part of the yard. I added a little solar fountain up there a few months ago, so at least there is already water.

Always happy for an excuse to get a new bird feeder, right?
 

flowerbug

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i've always had plenty of aphid/bug eaters and birds in the gardens and still get tomato worms at times.

i would not put a bird feeder or bird bath in a vegetable garden (do not want to attract raccoons or other animals into the garden, but you don't mind if they are around :) ). we just use bird baths as those will attract birds well enough. feeding birds just means trouble here - we instead just want them to forage around, so feeding them defeats that purpose.
 

digitS'

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Yes, I should add a caveat.

This is a year when I can say that House Sparrows are my biggest problem in the garden. Here at home is not where I have most of the 30+ tomato plants. It is where I would like to have a bit of a salad garden. Bored with my neighbor's birdseed, those sparrows have denied me the lettuce, nearly 100%. They have even chewed on every leaf of the escarole. They have cleaned up some pests and damaged things, themselves.

I don't know if there is a garden friend that isn't some trouble. (@beeper may have found one.) Wile E Coyote carries off the rabbit in the big veggie garden but breaks my trellis in the process.

Steve
 

flowerbug

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Yes, I should add a caveat.

This is a year when I can say that House Sparrows are my biggest problem in the garden. Here at home is not where I have most of the 30+ tomato plants. It is where I would like to have a bit of a salad garden. Bored with my neighbor's birdseed, those sparrows have denied me the lettuce, nearly 100%. They have even chewed on every leaf of the escarole. They have cleaned up some pests and damaged things, themselves.

I don't know if there is a garden friend that isn't some trouble. (@beeper may have found one.) Wile E Coyote carries off the rabbit in the big veggie garden but breaks my trellis in the process.

Steve
are they using the plants as a water source? are there birdbaths around? might be worth a try... :)
 

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