The tomato worms are one common pest that bothers tomato plants and they can ruin your plants. Tomato worms may look fierce and dangerous, but do they bite?
The huge green tomato worm can grow up to 4 or 5 inches long and they are one of the longest types of caterpillar. There is nothing more devastating than finding tomato worms in your garden feeding on your sweet tomato fruits.
The fact that tomato worm has stinger-like horn shape, some may be scared of them. So, if you’ve got tomato worms in your garden and you’re wondering if they bite then you should read on to know the answer to this. We will also discuss what you can do to get rid of these troubling worms.
What Are Tomato Worms?
Tomato worm also knows as hornworms are huge caterpillar that has a tail that looks like a horn. They love to chew on tomatoes meaning tomato is their favorite food. They not only fruits, but they can also feed on plant leaves as well as their stems. These worms will eat plant leaves and can render your plant leafless.
Tomato worm will as well feast on other plant’s fruits such as eggplant, pepper, potato, and tobacco plants.
Do Tomato Worms Bite?
Even though these worms may look scary and savage, they are not stinger. Therefore tomato worms do not bite. They are harmless to humans and you can even pick them up off your plants anytime you sight them.
Where Do Tomato Worms Come From?
Tomato worm comes from eggs laid by the adult moth. These moths are huge heavy-bodied insects that have narrow front wings. They are gray-brown and can have yellow spots on their abdomen.
The tomato worm life cycle begins as eggs laid by the adult moths. These eggs are laid by the female after mating around summer and the eggs are laid on the host such as tomato, pepper, eggplant, etc. The eggs are oval and smooth with a light green color.
Next, the eggs hatch into caterpillars and the caterpillars are the worms that begin to feed and grow. The caterpillars can feed up until late summer or early fall.
Once they begin to feed and grow, in about 3 to 4 weeks, they become matured green caterpillars. This matured caterpillar will drop from the plants they are feeding into the soil and burrow into the soil. In the soil, they will change or transform into pupae. The pupae will stay in the soil and thrive through winter.
After surviving through winter, the pupae will emerge as adult moths during spring. Then the moths start another generation around mid-summer by depositing their eggs on their host plant.
Identifying Caterpillar On Tomato Plant
The tomato worm caterpillars may be hard to notice because they are green and can blend with your green plants. But once you notice any caterpillar of about 4 to 5 inches of green color and horn-like shape on your plant, then that’s a sign of tomato worm infestation. You need to act fast. If you delay any longer, they will continue to spread causing even bigger problems.
They are capable of devouring your plant leaves and causing serious damage in a night. Once they grow bigger and older, they consume more and more. Those fully matured tomato caterpillars can consume a lot at that stage.
So, because of their green camouflaging color, you may not notice them on time. However, you should look closely and also look for droppings and follow the trail.
You can as well identify these worms with black lights. Once it gets dark, scrutinize your plant with the black lights. Tomato worm usually comes out in the dark to feed and they will glow in the dark.
Let’s take a look at some control measures we can take to mitigate the situation.
Controlling Tomato Worms
There are various methods of getting rid of tomato worms and they include:
Tomato worms will not bite you so you can simply handpick them when you notice them in your garden. This process may take a while, but it’s totally worth it as you will be saving your plants.
After handpicking them, you can simply drop them in hot soapy water to kill them. You can as well feed them to your chicken or any birds if you raise one.
Spray Plant With Soap And Water
Another natural way to get rid of these worms is to spray them with liquid dish soap mixed with water. Spray your entire plant and worms until they are all covered. Doing this should eliminate them without causing any havoc to your plants.
Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT)
If the two natural methods we mentioned above don’t work, you can go for natural pesticides. It is safe to use on your plant and also safe for humans. Bacillus thuringiensis is a natural bacteria found in soil. The worm consumes these bacteria and their digestive system becomes paralyzed and they will eventually die.
Beneficial insects can as well be used to control tomato worms. However, they can only work for a small population. Examples of these beneficial insects are ladybugs, lacewings, paper wasp, and so on. You can obtain these beneficial insects online or from your local garden stores.
Chemical insecticides can be used to control these worms. However, they may not be safe for your organic garden. Notwithstanding, there are good options such as sevin insecticides which are non-systematic. This means they will not penetrate plant tissues and you can simply wash them off after their job is done.
Signs Of Tomato Worms Infestation
When you begin to notice your plant leaves having holes or becoming wilted, then you need to have a close inspection of your plant.
You may also notice droppings of these worms on your tomato leaves or on the ground. Also, if there are any green caterpillars around your plants, that may be a sign of tomato worm infestation.
Tomato worms may look fierce and dangerous but they do not bite humans. However, the damage they will do to your plants can be very serious. Ensure you monitor your plants closely especially their favorite plants which are tomato, pepper, eggplants, and tobacco plants.