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Tomato Hornworm Control with Safer® Brand

Tomato Hornworms

If your vegetable garden includes tomato plants, there’s a good chance that it will attract the attention of the pesky tomato worm at some point. The tomato hornworm caterpillar is a greenish caterpillar measuring about 4 1/2" long. It has a spike or "horn" on its tail, giving this insect pest its name. Tomato worms can be found in just about every region of the United States, and they can wipe out your plants in no time at all.


Holes in the leaves, fruit and stems of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants may indicate the presence of the tomato hornworm.


Thwarting a Tomato Caterpillar Invasion

Eliminating this pesky insect can be difficult. When it comes to getting rid of tomato worms, control techniques should include thoroughly tilling soil at the beginning and end of the gardening season to destroy the larvae. If your garden is small, you can pick the tomato worms out of the soil by hand; they are completely harmless and won’t bite or sting.


The Best Form of Tomato Worm Control

Eliminating this pesky insect can be difficult. Using a product such as Safer® Brand Garden Dust can quickly and easily be used for tomato hornworm control. The active ingredient in Safer® Brand Garden Dust is bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally occurring substance that causes the worm to stop feeding in a matter of hours when ingested. The tomato caterpillar typically dies in just a few days. Safer® Brand Garden Dust is an OMRI® Listed product, meaning it contains ingredients that are certified for use in organic gardening practices. For best results in controlling tomato worms, thoroughly cover plant leaves with the product and reapply every 7-10 days or as often as necessary.


So... What's a Tomato Hornworm?

The tomato hornworm caterpillar is a greenish caterpillar measuring about 4 1/2" long. It has a spike or "horn" on its tail, giving this insect pest its name.


The larval stage of the tomato hornworm is the only destructive stage since it feeds on the leaves, fruit and stems of plants.





Reproduction Patterns of Tomato Hornworms

Adult moths will lay eggs in late spring. After the eggs hatch in about 6-8 days, the larvae will go through development in stages that last up to four weeks.


Then they will go below ground to spend the winter in the pupal stage, emerging in June or July of the following year as adult moths known as sphinx or hawk moths.





Tomato Hornworm's Habitat

Tomato Hornworms live throughout the North American continent. They can be found on tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and other members of the nightshade family.


The tobacco hornworm, a relative of the tomato hornworm, is found on tobacco plants throughout North America.





Symptoms of Tomato Hornworm Damage

Holes in the leaves, fruit and stems of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants may indicate the presence of the tomato hornworm.


With a size of 4/ 1'2", the tomato hornworm might be visible on plants, although it's coloring does camouflage it very well.


Brown droppings from the hornworm may be seen on plant leaves and parts.





Results of Tomato Hornworm Infestation

With the larvae eating the leaves and new stems of plantings, the planting may die. Later in the season, when the tomato hornworm feasts on the actual tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, it will make the fruit or vegetables unmarketable.





Natural & Organic Controls


Safer® Brand Garden Dust with B.T.

Products such as Safer® Brand Garden Dust and Safer® Brand Caterpillar Killer II with B.T. Concentrate are organic pesticides that can be used for effective tomato hornworm control. Safer® Brand Garden Dust provides a safe, effective method of eliminating your garden or field of the tomato hornworm without environmental concerns or harm to wildlife and beneficial insects.


Insecticides containing B.T. such as Safer® Brand Caterpillar Killer II with B.T. Concentrate can also be an effective method of controlling the hornworm.



Safer® Brand Garden Dust kills hornworm larvae, thereby preventing further damage. When the worm ingests the B.t., it works as a gut rot poison that makes the worm stop feeding. The tomato hornworm will stop feeding immediately and die within days of malnutrition.


B.t. usually comes in a dust or concentrate and kills a variety of caterpillars and worms, including the destructive hornworm. It will not harm beneficial insects, children, pets or wildlife.

Safer® Brand Tomato and Vegetable Insect Killer

Sprays containing pyrethrin such as Safer® Brand Tomato and Vegetable Insect Killer paralyze the insects and result in their death.


Safer® Brand offers a variety of tomato hornworm control products to help control and eliminate this garden pest and revive your plants. Please check out our tomato hornworm control products for more details about how they work and how, when, and where they should be applied.


It is recommended with any pesticide to test plants for sensitivity to the product. Spray a small section of the plant in an inconspicuous area and wait 24 hours before full coverage.



B.t. is generally applied when it is a cooler time of day, preferably later in the afternoon or early in the evening since the product breaks down in sunlight and heat. Carefully read and follow all directions on the product's label.


When applying pyrethrins to infected plants, carefully read and follow all directions on the product labeling for safe and effective application.  Do not spray plants in the peak of the day or when temperatures exceed 90°F


Tomato Hornworm tomatoes

Why Choose a Natural Solution?

Natural solutions break down quickly into their natural elements. They are preferable to chemical pesticides that leave residuals where they are sprayed causing long-term detrimental affects on the environment.





Natural Predators


The parasitic wasp and green lacewings are two beneficial insects that help to control tomato hornworm problems. They can be attracted naturally to your cornfield or garden area where your corn is planted, and there are some companies that grow these insects and sell them to consumers.



parasitic wasps

The parasitic wasp lays its eggs inside the tomato hornworm's egg. These have shown success rates of over 50% and higher. Upon hatching, the green lacewing larvae will eat the larvae of the tomato hornworm.


Planting pollen and nectar bearing flora near the tomatoes and peppers may attract these beneficial insects. If trying to attract them doesn't work, they can also be purchased from companies who raise them.



Plant the pollen or nectar producing flora as soon as possible according to the temperature of your area. Most local greenhouses and garden centers can help you determine the right planting time.


Contact a company that raises beneficial insects to find out when they should be purchased and released for maximum hornworm control.


Images courtesy of Oklahoma State University and Forestry Images.
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Safer®Brand brings you a variety of effective insect control products that are gentler on the environment! Most of them proudly display the OMRI Listed® organic seal and comply for use in organic gardening!


organic gardening products with the OMRI listed seal



Covers up to 200 sq ft
Makes 256 gallons
$150  $124.99 Sale