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  • Big Caterpillars — Hornworms?

    Created by budwaggles on

    After being de-foliated by two monstrous tomato caterpillars will my container-grown plant survive? How can I get rid of this big bug?

  • Author
  • #205807

    Eric Vinje

    Hello –

    Sounds like you’ve got a tomato hornworm problem! They are very large (3-4 inch) caterpillars that are green with seven to eight white V’s across their bodies and a black or brown horn on the rear. These guys are highly destructive of plants in the nightshade family like potatoes, tomatoes, tobacco, etc. Here are some tips to prevent future horn worm damage:

    • Hand pick and manually destroy the large caterpillars (best method)
    • Release beneficial insects — lacewings or trichogramma wasps to prey on the pests
    • Utilize a Bt (Bacilus thuringensis) or Spinosad based insecticide
    • Till up soil after harvest to destroy pupae in the soil

    Depending on the severity of defoliation and the length of the growing season, your plant just might survive. If the damage was not so severe as to kill the plant and there are still enough days left before the first frost in your area for the plant to leaf out again, flower, and fruit then you can still expect to harvest something. Check your USDA hardiness zone. If growing season length is an issue you could utilize frost cloth to slightly extend the season or bring your plant inside and finish it out under a grow light.

    Good luck!

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