Our journey in building the homestead of our dreams.
Monday, August 6, 2012
Who is eating my tomatoes? Hornworms.
Ever gone out to your garden to find the tomato you were hoping to eat with a large bite taken out of it? I have lost about eight tomatoes so far this year to this pest. The large
bite is actually many little bites taken by a tomato horn worm. They creep around on your tomato plants and eat just enough of your big beautiful tomato to cause it to fall off of the vine and rot on the ground before you can eat it. They blend in fairly well so unless you are aware that they are around you may never see them. I found this one while picking cherry tomatoes last night. It was just sitting there not moving so I guess
that night time is a good time to find them. I have also gone out in the morning to find them and if you are quiet enough you can actually hear them crunching away on your precious tomatoes. If you look at the picture to the right, you can see the bites taken out of the unripe cherry tomato. I snipped the branch off to dispose of this nasty thing before it got to anymore of my babies. I also found one other horn worm
tonight. It, however, has succumbed to organic pest control. The little white things hanging from this worm are parasitic wasp eggs. When the eggs hatch, they will eat the horn worm which means that the horn worm can no longer eat tomatoes. All you need to do to get the parasitic wasps to come to your garden and eat your caterpillars is to feed the adults. They need flowers that their tiny little heads can get to. Yarrow, mallow, parsley, angelica, and marigolds are all good potential food sources for parasitic wasps that I have in my garden. Other good options are dill, cilantro, fennel, alyssum, and queen anne's lace. If you find a hornworm that looks like this one, loaded with parasitic wasp eggs, leave it in your garden. The one I found without any eggs I got rid of, but you want to keep this one. Once the eggs hatch, they will turn to adult parasitic wasps and they do a much better job finding caterpillars than you ever could. I doubt they can do too much more damage once they are infested. I was very excited to find this in my garden. I would have been more excited to find ripe tomatoes I could eat, but at least the problem was being dealt with.