Tomato worms are not something that you want to find in your garden. As the name reveals, these pests feed on tomatoes and other plants in the nightshade family.
They can also attack:
- And other vegetable plants!
If left unchecked, they will quickly destroy all of your plants and leave you with an infested garden full of rotting vegetation.
What Are Tomato Worms And Where Do They Come From?
Tomato worms are the larvae of a particular species of moth known scientifically as Helicoverpa zea.
These moths lay their eggs in late spring or early summer on tomato, eggplant, pepper, and potato plants.
When the eggs hatch, the larvae will feed on these plants for several weeks.
Can I Tell If I Have Tomato Worms By Looking At My Plants?
Tomato worms or caterpillars can be identified as large green worms with black stripes on their sides and yellow spots along their backs.
A fully grown tomato worm can be up to two inches long
They will also sometimes leave frass (droppings) hanging from your plant leaves.
This is a good indication that you may have a problem. In severe infestations, this frass may even coat the entire trunk of your tomato plants.
How Did I Get a Tomato Worm Plant Infestation?
The answer to the question of where do tomato worms come from is that they crawl into your garden and begin feasting on your crops at night.
This is why you don’t see any damage during the day.
They like to dine within the foliage and on fruit.
So you will need to inspect both areas of your tomato plants thoroughly.
If there’s one caterpillar present, there will likely be much more hiding in other places.
Symptoms Of Infestation With Tomato Worms
This is when things can get really serious.
If you’ve found your tomato plants are infested with worms, then it’s time to start worrying!
At night, these pests will eat holes through the leaves of all parts of your tomato plants.
These perforations won’t always be visible.
But they will cause your leaves to droop, and eventually, they’ll begin to wither, fall off completely, and die.
The real damage, however, takes place when tomato worms feed on fruit.
They love the taste of tomato flesh, so once they find their way onto a fruit-bearing plant, they typically crawl into it and make themselves at home.
They will feast until the entire thing has been hollowed out.
This process can take just a few days or longer, depending on the severity of the infestation.
How to Get Rid of Tomato Worms: Treatment For Infested Tomatoes
It is best to act quickly before your plants are too damaged, or you will have to dig up all of the infected plants.
The tomato worms themselves aren’t difficult to treat.
You can pick them off by hand or use an approved pesticide that targets caterpillars like Sevin, commonly sold as an insecticide for home use.
It’s important to be wary of other kinds of infestations too because these moths tend to lay their eggs at the same time each year.
So, if one generation makes it through a summer, then it is likely that they will come back in greater numbers the next summer.
First, try to pick off any worms that you see on your plants, and then add a layer of mulch around the base of your tomato plants so that larvae won’t be able to crawl up from the soil below.
As a last resort, you can use Dipel dust or Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a type of bacteria known for controlling caterpillars when they eat it.
Prevention For Infestation
If you garden organically, trapping these caterpillars with yellow sticky traps before they lay their eggs in your tomato plants is an effective preventative measure.
How To Avoid Them From Now On
- Use organic methods instead of chemical ones when possible.
- Rotate crops as much as you can.
- Keep an eye out for early signs of infestation so that it doesn’t spread too far into the rest of your garden.
- Also, make sure to clean your garden well at the end of the summer (picking up any fruit that has fallen off and throwing it away properly) since this will help prevent future infestations.
Why Is It Important To Get Rid Of Tomato Worms?
Well, first off, these caterpillars can be harmful to humans since they have stinging hairs on their backs that can cause severe pain and discomfort.
The frass they leave behind is unattractive and makes the tomatoes look unappealing (not fit for sale), which is why farmers want them gone!
To Sum It Up
Tomato worms are a very real pest that can wreak havoc on your tomato plants.
Now you know where tomato worms come from and how to avoid them.
These pests feed on fruits and leaves, eventually killing the plant if left untreated. Thankfully there are organic ways to fight back, like using yellow sticky traps or hand picking them off with gloves (wear rubber ones since they will sting).
Lastly, be sure to clean up fallen fruit at the end of summer so that next year this problem won’t come back stronger.