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Tomato Hornworm Control

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Date:  July 28, 2021
Agent:  Donna Teasley

Hello, this is Donna Teasley, horticulture agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Burke Center.

The absolute favorite crop grown by home gardeners is the tomato. What’s not to love? They’re versatile and no matter which way you prepare them, they’re yummy.

But, tomatoes can be finicky to grow and they have a long list of pests. A real mid-summer aggravation is the tomato hornworm. This large green monster can grow to 4 inches and can devour a plant in just a few days. Green with white Vs on its sides and a black horn on one end, the tomato hornworm is a scary sight. But, even with their distinctive markings, they can be hard to spot. Most often, defoliation of the plant and large black droppings are the first signs of hornworm damage.

When mid-summer approaches, a twice weekly inspection of the plant is advised. Picking these worms is a pretty good way to control them. Insecticides such as Spinosad or carbaryl are also effective. But, if the worms have white oval shaped bumps on their backs, they should be left alone. These bumps are eggs laid by a small wasp. The eggs hatch and kill the hornworm. The tiny wasps quickly search for more worms to attack so leaving the affected hornworm alone is best. Once it has become infected it no longer feeds so there is no more damage.

This is Donna Teasley with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Burke Center. If you would like more information about this program, you can call us at 764-9480.