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Beware, the Hornworms!

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Beware, the Hornworms!

Post  quiltbea on 8/23/2013, 6:10 pm

I am in shock.  Two days ago I found 5 horworms on 3 of my tomato plants in the flower beds and they hadn't done much damage.  These were lush plants heavy with large green tomatoes.  They escaped the blight so I was thrilled with my potential harvest.
Today when I got out to those tomatoes, more hornworms (I found 6 more) have nearly devastated both my Red Zebra and my Valencia plants and made inroads on one Indigo Rose.  I was planning on picking those beauties next week.  Now I've picked them off, with lots of hornworm damage, and saved them for the compost pile instead.
Some hornworms were huge (I used my shears to cut them in 3 pieces) and a couple were still small.
I'm hoping if I check more often each day I'll keep ahead of the culprits.  Now there's just 2 Indigo Rose and 2 Wapsipicon tomatoes that might give me a good harvest.
Make sure you keep checking your tomatoes a couple times a day for hornworms.  In the blink of an eye they can ruin a good crop.

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Re: Beware, the Hornworms!

Post  Triciasgarden on 8/23/2013, 9:49 pm

Oh my goodness, that is terrible Quiltbea!  I found a good article about preventing and getting rid of the hornworm.  http://www.vegetablegardener.com/item/8000/how-to-prevent-hornworms-from-devastating-your-tomato-plants

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Re: Beware, the Hornworms!

Post  Marc Iverson on 8/24/2013, 12:01 am

Very sorry to hear that, quiltbea. We have hornworms, and I figure between them and perhaps turkeys or squirrels, I've lost a third of my crop of tomatoes and will probably lose about a third more. I'm not growing large tomatoes in that area again. (They didn't touch any of my cherry tomatoes.)

Anyway, I know how it feels, and feel bad for ya there. I hope you can save your remaining crop.

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Re: Beware, the Hornworms!

Post  Nicola on 8/24/2013, 12:12 am

Quiltbea, did you save tomato seeds, for next year  before actually putting 'em in the compost bin?
And were there any of those beneficial wasps  on any worms?

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Re: Beware, the Hornworms!

Post  quiltbea on 8/24/2013, 12:36 pm

I went out with my scissors this morning and cut another few in thirds.  Ugh.  I've grabbed them before, with paper towels or napkins, but its simpler to just find the worm and cut it in half or more.

See this Red Zebra skeleton.  Five days ago it was flush with two dozen large fruits, still green.  No blight.  Two days later there was only this one.  I've been checking this plant and my others daily and so far no more hornworm.  Maybe this fruit will get to ripen.  I love the flavor of the Red Zebra tomato.  Its fab.  I found another on my Valencia tho and it was huge.  A half dozen nearly-ripe fuits damaged here as well but only a few leafy parts missing on that one so far.
Their color makes them so hard to spot so I run my hand along the branches and feel for something soft.  Ugh!

No, I didn't find anything on my hornworms during my hunt the last two days.  By the way, they hit my eggplant bed and devastated two since yesterday.  Another biggy found in that bed.

I don't save the seeds on any tomatoes unless they have been covered with net bags to prevent any cross-pollination.  I happen to have 3 bagged from one of my Indigo Rose plants so I'll save that seed for sure.  Not that I like the variety, but its health properties are a benefit in a mixed salad with other tasty toms.

Keep hunting.  A scissors makes it much easier, believe me.

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Re: Beware, the Hornworms!

Post  quiltbea on 8/24/2013, 12:52 pm

Marc....If you only have cherry toms in the bed, the hornworm will go for them.
In fact, that's how I first discovered the hornworm 4 years ago.  I thought deer or something was eating the tips of my tomato branches.  My Sweet Million was devastated and looked like a skeleton.  I never knew about hornworms at first but soon learned.  So just remember, the cherry plants aren't immune to hornworm.  Maybe they like to go for the biggies first which means you can save your cherry plants if you keep hunting them down.

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Re: Beware, the Hornworms!

Post  camprn on 8/24/2013, 1:09 pm

I went on a worm hunt amongst the tomatoes this morning... low and behold, one of my eggplants has some type of wilt. Sad And there are spots that look the beginning of blight on one bed of tomatoes. No horn worms were found. I wish I had found worms instead.

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Re: Beware, the Hornworms!

Post  garden_gals on 8/24/2013, 11:10 pm

Surprisingly, I had no horn worms here this summer. But, I also didn't have a lot of tomatoes. Lots of rain in June and then the July heat kept them from setting well. I was sad not to get to can at all, although we did get some delicious meals out of them. The good thing about 9A though? Time to plant again! Maybe I will get another crop.

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Hornworms

Post  Sgt Relic on 8/26/2013, 11:44 am

I've learned to hold down on the hornworms by carefully checking the soil when I prepare for spring, especially in the large pots I use for cherry tomatoes, for the larvae of the Hawk Moth. I found four this spring just in the two pots I use for the cherry tomatoes. One had apparently already emerged. Within a week of planting my sets I found a mature moth on one of the plants and managed to catch it by hand.

With a moth literally in hand, I decided to test a theory of mine. I put the moth in a large mouth jar and covered the top with bird-netting to see if he could figure a way out. Short answer: No! I put up my anti-Mockingbird netting early and had no trouble with Hornworms until I removed the netting in early August to facilitate harvesting.(The birds are done nesting by then and no longer trouble the tomatoes.)

I got hit by a second round in mid-August but they were really easy to find and did little damage since my friend the parasitic wasp had covered them all with white cocoons. The wasp larvae paralyzes the worm, the wasps emerge, hopefully increasing their population for next year, and the worms die in place without causing any damage.

I see it as a win for the tomato lovers. The Hawk Moth is a beautiful creature and I really hate to kill them, so I'll settle for frustrating them if I can!

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Re: Beware, the Hornworms!

Post  Dunkinjean on 8/26/2013, 12:12 pm

This is the first year I have hornworms on my tomatoes!
I did some some with white spikes sticking out which were the wasp eggs.
But I also tossed all of them....gross...affraid 
So far my cherry tomato plant does not have a worm on it.
I am going out now to check on the plants...wish me luck!

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Re: Beware, the Hornworms!

Post  CapeCoddess on 8/26/2013, 12:14 pm

I'd never seen a hornworm until a few weeks ago on a Sweet 100.  It must have been a teenager - not too big, not too small.  I put him into the neighbors woods far away before much damage was done. 

Now I'm dealing with wilt...only one plant though. Mad 

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Re: Beware, the Hornworms!

Post  mollyhespra on 8/26/2013, 1:03 pm

What a great idea, Sgt. Relic!  How large are the holes in "anti-mockingbird" netting?  Same as with "regular" bird netting?  Oh, and welcome to the forum!

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RE: Hornworms

Post  Sgt Relic on 8/26/2013, 7:05 pm

Thanks for the welcome!

I usually buy the smallest mesh netting I can find. The holes are only about 1/2 inch square. I'm sure an industrious Hawk Moth could probably squeeze through but they seem to prefer being on the wing when visiting the plants. I make no guarantees. The evidence is purely anecdotal and we all probably know; correlation is not necessarily causation.

I likely would have picked the worms effected by the wasp off the plants, in the normal course of events, however, since it is late in the season here in zone 7-8, I felt like risking some foliage to see if the worms really were paralyzed. They were!

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Re: Beware, the Hornworms!

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