Geez! Tomato Hornworms

Hey all -- was gone for the weekend and went to take a look at the garden yesterday (which up until this weekend was doing A-OK). Well, my beautiful tomato plants were all branches and limbs. No leaves. No tomatoes. Got to looking closely to see what the heck happened to my plants and there were horrible green horned caterpillars. Looked them up and discovered they were hornworms. Some of the biggest, fattest, ugliest caterpillars I have ever seen. Peeled off and destroyed as many as we could find and then sprayed herbicidal soap on what was left. Are my plants ruined? Am I done for the season? Or will they come back and produce?
-- Lisa
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wrote:

Hungry little buggers, aren't they? I sure hope that what you sprayed was insecticidal soap (even though it would do no good on a hornworm) rather than herbicidal. (both exist) Depending on where you are (length of season), the plants will likely come back and bear. You must have had them for a while, as it takes a week or more of eating for them to get finger sized. Odd that they got the fruit. Mine usually eat nothing but leaves and young stems. Of course, the missing foliage eventually ruins the fruit, too.
Make sure you check out any other tomato relatives (solanacea) like capsicums, tomatillo, and eggplant. They will do a job on these as well.
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my parents used to gather the hornworms and when they had a cupfull they put them in a blender and then sprayed the concoction back over the infected plants. it seemed to take care of the problem for the season and no chemicals were used.
On Wed, 02 Jul 2003 09:25:34 -0500, B.Server <> wrote:
"wrote: " ">Hey all -- was gone for the weekend and went to take a look at the garden ">yesterday (which up until this weekend was doing A-OK). Well, my beautiful ">tomato plants were all branches and limbs. No leaves. No tomatoes. Got to ">looking closely to see what the heck happened to my plants and there were ">horrible green horned caterpillars. Looked them up and discovered they were ">hornworms. Some of the biggest, fattest, ugliest caterpillars I have ever ">seen. Peeled off and destroyed as many as we could find and then sprayed ">herbicidal soap on what was left. Are my plants ruined? Am I done for the ">season? Or will they come back and produce? " " "Hungry little buggers, aren't they? I sure hope that what you sprayed "was insecticidal soap (even though it would do no good on a hornworm) "rather than herbicidal. (both exist) Depending on where you are "(length of season), the plants will likely come back and bear. You "must have had them for a while, as it takes a week or more of eating "for them to get finger sized. Odd that they got the fruit. Mine "usually eat nothing but leaves and young stems. Of course, the "missing foliage eventually ruins the fruit, too. " "Make sure you check out any other tomato relatives (solanacea) like "capsicums, tomatillo, and eggplant. They will do a job on these as "well.
-
To Explain Oneself Is A Sign Of Weakness!
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Can I just say "Ewww". LOL -- It was all I could do to pull the little things off. I couldn't imagine actually blending them in my kitchen.
Lisa

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Apalled at finding my first hornworm, I went to the kitchen to fetch tongs to remove the creature. It held on so tight to the branch I ended up tearing it in two. They must be alien, green inside as well! YUK! But putting them in a blender? iiiieeeccck~! Roz az usa
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Hi Roz, I had a tomato plant with about half dozen of these monsters and decided to see if my chickens would eat them. I really thought they'd taste too nasty! But when I tossed them to my little PeepPeep she shook them and shook them and them gobbled them down! What a nice surprize! Eileen
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Eileen One of the chicks found one this a.m. Don't know how he ended up in the chicken yard, but he certainly regretted it. They played keep-away with it for a while till Blanche, Jr. hid and gobbled. Such a feast. I havent' seen any on my maters this year. Odd. Roz az usa
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Yep -- insecticidal soap. Got mixed up. They ate the undersides of most of the green tomatoes, but on the plus side -- I've got lots of flowers on the stems they didn't manage to scarf down. We must have pulled off at least 10-15 of the things on about 4 plants. It was horrible. LOL -- I almost cried.
Lisa
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wrote:

I see you have since posted that you are in SE Texas, so I am guessing that you will have a tomato growing season until at least the end of November. Plenty of time for the plants to recover. We have had cool enough nights here in Austin that some of our tomatos are still setting fruit even though they usually give up toward the end of June. I often grow new plants and set them out during the first 2 weeks of July for fall tomatos.
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Thankfully, some of my leaves are already starting to grow back on the bare stems. Of course, now I'm paranoid and have been checking my plants twice a day. LOL. Haven't seen any more of those nasty boogers. I've planted 1/2 and 1/2 det/indet varieties, so I've still got lots and lots of flowers and fruits. This is a new garden area (square foot beds) and I don't have my soil exactly right, but the 'maters were the best thing growing.
I'm about 30 miles south of Houston. How cool is it getting there at night? We're still in the mid to upper 70's at night, so we don't get a chance to cool down much at all. This heat wave has totally destroyed my attempt at lettuce. What didn't wilt, scorched and burned.
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I'm here in Southeast TX -- Zone 9. Hopefully they'll be okay. I read that about the wasps, but I haven't seen any eggs on any of the ones we've pulled off.
Lisa

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>> Hey all -- was gone for the weekend and went to take a look at the >> garden yesterday (which up until this weekend was doing A-OK). >> Well, my beautiful tomato plants were all branches and limbs. No >> leaves. No tomatoes. Got to looking closely to see what the heck >> happened to my plants and there were horrible green horned >> caterpillars. Looked them up and discovered they were hornworms. >> Some of the biggest, fattest, ugliest caterpillars I have ever seen. >> Peeled off and destroyed as many as we could find and then sprayed >> herbicidal soap on what was left. Are my plants ruined? Am I done >> for the season? Or will they come back and produce?
Aaron> It's hard to say. The branches that were eaten back probably won't Aaron> grow again, but tomato plants usually have a lot more foliage than Aaron> they need, especially if you don't prune them like some people do. Aaron> I've seen some very shorn tomato plants produce quite a few tomatoes.
Aaron> The best defense against tomato worms is to check your plants every Aaron> day. The worms themselves can be hard to spot, but the damage usually Aaron> stands out quickly. Also, if you happen to see a worm with a bunch of Aaron> white things sticking out from his body, those are the eggs of some Aaron> sort of wasp. Don't kill that worm; the eggs will hatch soon and the Aaron> wasp larvae will eat the worm, which is the sort of thing you want to Aaron> encourage.
I have found Bt very effective against all forms of caterpillars. The hornworms are very hard to find in 18 large plants, and usually I only find them by looking for extensive damage.
I encountered my first hornworms when growing tomatoes in pots on a 17th floor balcony in NYC.
--
Andrew Hall
(Now reading Usenet in rec.gardens.edible...)
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wrote:

I guess I lead a charmed life in this regard <looks around nervously, and taps on wood>.
So far, I've grown tomatoes in Northern NJ, Delaware, Southern NJ, and now northern PA - I've never seen a hornworm or had any damage from them. This is a total of more than 25 years of tomato-growing.
<taps on wood again, crosses fingers>
Long may it continue!
Pat In one of the colder areas of Zone 5
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They should come back with some weekly liquid fertilizer. The hornworms are just coming out in my tomatoes too. I found several "droppings" and leaves and tomatoes chewed off. It's been raining since yesterday (remnants of Tropical Storm Bill), so this morning we had a dry spell between some more nasty looking dark clouds. Well, I went out and dusted all my tomatoes and peppers with Bt Powder or Dipel Dust (same thing). It is a biological (organic) that targets caterpillars and chewing larvae (hornworms). Within 24 hrs. I should see dangling caterpillars hanging from the branches. I'll probably re-apply this weekend, as I'm sure the rain will wash some away. I'm just hoping to get round 1 of them killed off.
Good luck.
Penny Zone 7b - North Carolina

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use BT, not insecticidal soap. IF your plants have enough stored energy and enough foliage to do some photosynthesis...you may get some life yet. I wouldnt expect great tomatoes or anything free of sunsacald tho. Peppers plants are great about that. I've seen some with no foliage and just a twig totally bounce back.

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