One of the most common pests in the vegetable garden is the tomato hornworm. These pesky little critters can devastate a tomato plant in a matter of days. But as this article highlights, you will discover some natural ways to get rid of them.
One is to simply handpick them off the plants and toss them into the chicken coop.
Another is to use diatomaceous earth. This is a fine powder that is made from the fossilized remains of algae. It works by cutting through the worms’ exoskeletons and dehydrating them.
Below we’ll expand on these remedies and highlight more ways to control tomato horn worms naturally.
What Are Tomato Hornworms?
These critters are a type of caterpillar that can do a great deal of damage to your tomato plants and other crops like pepper plants.
They can strip a plant of its leaves in no time, and if you turn a blind eye, they can quickly take over your entire garden.
Tomato hornworms can do a lot of damage in a short amount of time, so it’s important to be able to identify them.
First, look for big, green caterpillar-like creatures munching on your plants. If you see any of these, it’s a good chance you have a tomato hornworm infestation.
Second, take a closer look at the caterpillars themselves. They are large, green, and have a horn-like protrusion on their rear end. They also have distinctive markings, including white “V” markings (8 of them) running along their backs .
Third, look at the droppings. Hornworm poop is typically green or black, and you’ll often find them on the leaves and sometimes on the soil around tomato plants.
How to Get Rid of Tomato Hornworms Naturally
If you’ve got a tomato hornworm problem, don’t worry! As we’ve highlighted earlier, there are a few things you can do to get rid of them organically. Below we’ll talk about these in detail.
1. Pick Them Off
This may seem like a lot of work, but it’s actually quite satisfying to pick off and squish those little buggers.
If you don’t want to squish them, throw them far out, away from your garden, so wild birds can pick them up. You can also drop them in some hot soapy water.
2. Row Covers
Another method you can use to prevent tomato worms and tobacco hornworms from attacking your prized crops is to cover them with a row cover. This will keep the moths from getting access to your plants.
Once there is no way for them to lay their eggs on your plants, there will be no caterpillars to deal with later.
3. Soap and Water
This is another excellent tomato hornworm control home remedy. That’s right, soapy water.
All you have to do is mix up a little soap and water and put it in a spray bottle. Then, just spray your plants with the mixture and the critters will wiggle around so you can easily spot them.
Some may even fall to the ground where you can squish them or feed them to predators. Alternatively, drop them in a bucket with soapy water. This method will kill the hornworms within a few minutes.
4. Companion Planting
This is a plain and simple act of planting certain crops together to reap the benefits of their symbiotic relationship.
One of the most sensible things you can do for your garden is to companion plant with marigolds. These flowers produce a chemical that deters tomato hornworms and other garden pests, so planting them near your tomatoes can help keep them away.
You can also try planting basil, which is another plant that these green worms on tomato plants don’t like. Other plants that repel tomato hornworms include dill, nasturtiums, chamomile, and borage.
5. Trap Crops
You can plant trap crops around the perimeter of your garden, or wherever you see signs of these horned caterpillars. These plants keep certain critters away from your main crops.
The best trap crop for tomato hornworms is flower tobacco plants. The hornworms are attracted to flowering tobacco plants and will leave your tomatoes alone.
6. Crop Rotation
Crop rotation is a method of planting different crops in the same area of your garden each growing season .
Therefore, you will place another crop in the tomato spot next growing season. This helps to break the life cycle of pests, and it also helps to improve the fertility of your soil.
By growing tomatoes in a different spot each season, you can help keep the population of tomato caterpillars in check. This method also helps prevent plant diseases from taking over.
7. Natural Predators
Tomato hornworms are no match for their natural predators. Ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps all help to keep these pests in check.
Keep these creatures around and let them do their job to help control caterpillars on your tomato plants.
8. Cayenne Pepper Spray
Make a homemade cayenne pepper spray from a mixture of cayenne pepper, water, and soap.
The soap will help the spray adhere to the plants. The hot pepper spray will deter the pests from eating your beloved plants.
For the recipe, mix 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper with 1 cup of water, and 1 teaspoon of dish soap. Apply to all plant surfaces.
9. Bacillus thuringiensis
Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt for short is a bacteria that specifically targets worms on tomato plants, tobacco hornworms, cabbage worms, pepper hornworms, and other caterpillars.
It’s completely safe for humans and animals and is often used in organic gardening. Following the package instructions, mix up a solution of this organic insecticide and spray it on your plants.
10. Neem Oil
Neem oil is a natural, organic remedy to kill pests, and it’s really easy to use.
Just mix one tablespoon with a teaspoon of liquid soap and a gallon of water and spray it on your plants. The hornworms will die off eventually.
11. Till the Soil
If you had a tomato hornworm infestation the season before, all you need to do is till the soil around your plants at the beginning of the next season. This will destroy overwintering larvae.
12. Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
This is a powder that comes from tiny fossils, and it’s very sharp. It’s deadly to green horn worms and other soft-bodied insect pests.
When they crawl over it, it will irritate their bodies to the point where they will later die.
Just sprinkle some on your plants or make a DIY spray out of it by combining one part DE with four parts water. Shake well and coat your plants. The spray starts working once it dries.
13. Hose Them
These pesky pests are no match for a gardener armed with a hose. Simply turn the hose on and direct the water at the hornworms.
The force of the water will knock them off of the plants. You can then collect them and dispose of them.
14. Beneficial Nematodes
Beneficial nematodes are tiny, parasitic creatures that can kill the pupating larvae in the soil. Moreover, they’re safe for humans and animals, and they’re easy to apply.
You just mix them with water and apply them to your garden according to the instructions that come with our purchase.
15. Azera Gardening
There’s no need to reach for the toxic insecticides. Azera Gardening’s organic insecticide is just as effective and much safer for you and the environment.
It’s made with all-natural ingredients — Pyrethrins and Azadirachtin. This pesticide kills the worms on contact.
16. Bug Buster-O
Bug Buster-O is another powerful, all-natural formula that is perfect for those looking for an environmentally friendly way to get rid of caterpillars eating tomatoes and other garden pests.
17. ECOWORKS EC
This product is specially formulated to control a wide range of insect pests, including these. Moreover, it’s safe for use around children and pets. It also works against fungal diseases.
If you’ve ever grown tomatoes, you know that those pesky tomato hornworms can ruin your entire crop in no time. Luckily, these safe and natural ways can help to keep them under control.