Thursday, July 30, 2009

Protecting Your Garden From Tomato Worms

So yesterday, it being Wednesday, and Wednesdays are garden-harvesting day, I went out to the garden to see how things were doing. Everything was looking pretty good until I came across this oddity:

It was the absolute largest green caterpillar-like creature that I had ever seen, and it was covered in a rice-like substance. I could tell that it had been eating the leaves on one of my bell pepper plants.

Not knowing if it was a poisonous creature or not, I did what any sane gardener would do--I cut off the leaf this little bugger was hanging onto.

Then I took a picture.

Then I tossed it to the ground and, well, let's just say that it met its maker last night.

I found out from my friend Meredith that this is not your typical caterpillar. This is, in fact, a tomato horn worm. Also known as a tobacco worm, they are ravenous creatures that love plants such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, and they will strip your plants overnight.

After a bit more research, I learned that the white egg things are actually parasitic Braconid Wasp larvae. So long as the tomato worm continues to feed on leaves and tomatoes and such, the wasp larvae will grow in their little cocoon, eventually chewing their way out and flying off into adulthood to find an unsuspecting tomato worm in which to lay eggs for the next generation of wasps. So, in a way, the wasps are actually good because they will consume their host tomato worm, who will not be able to perpetuate the species.

If you find tomato worms on your vegetable plants, there are a few options you can select from to get rid of them. You can do what I do, and simply pluck them off. Toss them far away from your garden into the yard for a bird to find, destroy them with your shoe, or some other similar means. However, tomato worms typically feed at night, so you might find it difficult to find them unless you try doing this in the evening or early morning. And they make for great camouflage, unless covered in the wasp larvae, in which case they are easy to spot.
Now if you do have trouble finding these critters, look for the evidence on the leaves. No, I don't mean leaves that have been chewed up. I do mean little poop droppings called frass. If you see any on your leaves, look up a little higher and you'll probably find a tomato worm dangling on a leaf.

You can also try to deter the tomato worm by spraying a mixture of liquid ivory soap, water & vegetable oil on your plants, or dust your plants with some red pepper. You will have to reapply these deterrents periodically as rain will wash them off. There's also Bacillus thuringiensis, which can be sprayed on the plants. It will not harm humans, but it will attack the digestive system of some insects.

More info about tomato worms, click here or here. And good luck! I found two more tomato worms this evening after coming home, and I'm sure there will be more when I wake up in the morning. I'll be heading out there with a flashlight when the sun comes up.

1 comment:

  1. Hi good day ! nice post you have . It's very nice , I have plan to setting up my garden can you give me an idea or steps on how to make it beautiful. i have heard some garden accessories such as garden spinner , wind chimes , wind spinners and many more . I want to try this things in my garden but i don't know how to get the right accessories . I hope you can help me . thank you .


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