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10 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Corn Earworms

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10 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Corn Earworms

If you’re looking for natural ways to get rid of corn earworms, you’ve come to the right place. There are a few different methods you can try, and we’ll go over all of them here.

The corn earworm (tomato fruitworm) is one of the most common pests in the garden, and they love to feast on corn, cotton, tomato, soybeans, and other crops [1].

If you have a corn earworm infestation, you’ll need to act fast to get rid of them. The good news is that there are a few natural methods you can use to control these pests.

Identification

The corn earworm is a damaging pest of sweet corn, field corn, and other vegetables. The corn earworm is the larva (caterpillar) of a moth in the family Noctuidae.

These common little pests are actually quite easy to identify. The adult moth is brown or gray with black stripes and has a wingspan of 1 ½ inch. The caterpillars are often green or brown with black stripes and can grow to nearly 2 inches long.

However, to be more thorough, look for a small, brownish-black, maroon, green, tan, or even pink caterpillar with a light-colored and dark stripe running down its back.

Additionally, check for damage to the corn ear, such as holes or chewing. Also look for the caterpillar inside the ear of corn, often near the tip.

How to Get Rid of Corn Earworms Naturally

Corn earworms can really ruin a good ear of corn. Here’s how to get rid of them with home remedies and other natural means.

1. Natural Predators

These pests have a few natural enemies that can help keep their population under control. Introducing beneficial insects into your garden will help keep the corn earworm population in check.

Green lacewings, Ladybugs, and parasitic wasps are all effective predators of corn earworms. What’s more, you can find them at your local garden center or online.

Damsel bugs and minute pirate bugs also make a feast out of corn earworm eggs and larvae.

2. Bacillus thuringiensis

Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt for short, is a naturally occurring bacterium that you can use to get rid of worms on corn. This bacteria produces a toxin that is fatal to corn earworms, making it a safe and effective way to get rid of these pests organically.

Moreover, Bt can be purchased in powder or liquid form and is safe to use around humans and animals. Just mix it with water and spray it on your corn plants according to the instructions that come with your purchase.

3. Diatomaceous Earth

To prevent corn earworms from taking over your crops, another effective organic control method is to apply diatomaceous earth.

The product is made up of the fossilized remains of tiny aquatic creatures called diatoms. When these creatures die, their shells fall to the bottom of the water and accumulate over time.

DE’s particles are razor sharp and can cut through the soft bodies of sweet corn worms and other pests, making it an effective pesticide. Just dust your corn plants with it and it will keep away the earworms.

4. Beneficial Nematodes

Beneficial nematodes are tiny, parasitic worms that kill pests like corn earworms. They’re safe to use around humans and pets, and they’re effective against a wide range of pests.

They are also easy to apply. Just mix them with water and spray them into the corn silks. You can find these nematodes online or at your local garden center.

5. Spinosad

Spinosad is a natural product that’s derived from a soil bacterium. It is a pesticide that’s been shown to be effective against corn earworms.

It’s also highly effective against a number of other garden pests such as leafminers, fire ants, and thrips. Monterey Garden Insect Spray is a good brand.

6. Oil

To control worms in corn, you can also try using oil. This home remedy is said to be effective in killing the pests.

You can either use vegetable oil or mineral oil. Simply apply the oil to the tip of the corn ear and leave it there.

However, wait until the silks have turned brown on the end before applying. The oil will suffocate the critters.

7. Close the Top of the Ear

Another smart move to keep corn earworms out of your corn is to close the top of the ear. Simply close the top of the ear with a clothespin or a piece of string.

The moths will lay eggs on corn silks but the young caterpillars will not be able to burrow into the ear.

8. Pick Them Off

There’s nothing worse than finding a big, fat corn borer worm munching away on your precious cob. But there is an easy way to fight back, and that’s by picking them off.

This method is effective, but it does require some patience. You’ll need to inspect each ear of corn carefully and remove any worms you find. But don’t worry, the worms won’t hurt you.

9. Till the Soil

One other corn worm prevention method is to till the soil around your corn plants to disrupt the corn earworms’ life cycle. This will also help to control any other pests that might be lurking in your garden soil.

However, be sure to do this in the early spring to expose the pupae to predators. And if you see any worms on your plants, pick them off and dispose of them.

10. Soapy Water

Soap may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of getting rid of tomato fruitworms or any pest, but it can be surprisingly effective.

To get rid of these pesky critters, simply mix some soap and water together and spray it on your corn plants. It will kill corn worms by way of suffocation.

Takeaway

If you’re like me, you love fresh corn on the cob. But nothing ruins a good ear of corn like finding corn bugs inside. Ugh! These pests are not only gross, but they can do a lot of damage to your crops.

But before you reach for synthetic pesticides, consider these natural options above. These tips will help you eliminate these pesky pests without resorting to harmful chemicals.

Image via commons.wikimedia.org

Andre Campbell

Organic farmer and co-founder of Dre Campbell Farm. He appreciates everything in nature -- sunshine, plants, animals, and human life.

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