tomato caterpillarsIf you have a vegetable garden or you are considering planting one, it is not enough to prepare the soil, plant the seedlings and add a little water. You must also guard against pests that can damage and even destroy your crops. One of the most destructive is the tomato hornworm, also known as tomato caterpillars.

The hornworm may have worm in its name, but it is actually an extremely large caterpillar that can be as large as four inches in length, making it one of the longest caterpillars around. Its dark green and black horn appear scary, but it is solely there to scare away predators and does not sting.

True to its name, the tomato hornworm consumes tomato plants and can do a fair amount of damage in a very short time. Left to their own devices, the tomato hornworm will consume leaves, stems and, in some cases, even the fruit. Almost overnight, tomato caterpillars can eat through an entire garden.

So what can you do to protect your garden from tomato caterpillars?

The first step is to turn over or till the soil in the area around the plants to find and remove remaining brown pupa. What was once a tomato caterpillar became a chrysalis that will turn into a moth and eventually lay eggs on your leaves. When they hatch, these eggs will become an army of tomato caterpillars that will wage war on your garden. In addition to tomatoes, these pests also like potato plants, peppers, eggplant, and tobacco.

If your garden is under siege, immediately handpick the tomato caterpillars and remove them from the plants. When you remove the caterpillars from the plant, drop them into a bucket of soapy water, so they cannot reproduce.

Adding ladybugs and other beneficial insects can be a very effective natural prevention, as they will attack the eggs. This technique works best when there aren’t very many tomato hornworms. If the infestation is significant, use one of our safe, natural products to get rid of unwanted pests and to maintain control.

To learn more about DIY pest solutions, visit any of our five Bug & Weed Mart locations and speak to one of our in-house experts.