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How to Get Rid of Tomato Hornworms Safely and Naturally

Lynn has been a professional organic farmer for the last 35 years and runs a 210-acre farm in Western Colorado with her husband.

Learn what you can do about this pest.

Learn what you can do about this pest.

How to Keep Tomato Hornworms Away

Tomatoes are the number-one vegetable grown around the world. They are the iconic taste of summer, and homegrown, vine-ripened tomatoes are the ultimate summer experience—until the tomato hornworm comes along and eats the growing tips out of all your plants. All that hard work down the drain, and no summer tomatoes. Organic farmers face this very same tragedy, and they have come up with some very good ways to eliminate the tomato hornworm from the garden safely and naturally.

5 Ways to Control Tomato Hornworms

There are safe and organic ways to eliminate this pest from the garden. Here are five natural ways to keep the tomato hornworm from destroying your tomato plants.

  1. Bt
  2. Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew
  3. Sluggo Plus
  4. Row Covers
  5. Pyrethrins
There are safe and natural ways to get rid of this pest.

There are safe and natural ways to get rid of this pest.

1. Bt

Bt is a bacterial pathogen that is used for biological control over the larvae (the worms) and is widely used by organic growers. It is safe for plants, animals, and humans. Once you start to see any butterflies or moths in the area of your garden, you're going to want to spray Bt on the plants about once a week.

2. Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew

We use Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew once a week from the time we see moths flying around in the spring until our third hard frost; that way we know that we've broken that cycle. We'll spray it once a week if the population is low and twice a week if the population gets high.

3. Sluggo Plus

Sluggo Plus is an organic listed product that has iron phosphate and spinosad as the active ingredients. It is effective on tomato hornworms, and it comes in pellet form. You're going to need to sprinkle this up in the plant's leaves, especially near the growing tips, because that's where this pest is going to be eating.

4. Row Covers

A row cover is a physical barrier that's really thin, lightweight fabric—or you can use small screen. The goal of this is to keep the moths from getting to the plants and laying the eggs.

5. Pyrethrins

Pyrethrins are extracts from the chrysanthemum plant, and it is toxic to the tomato hornworms. You want to spray it on the plants or use it in dust form 2 times a week until you don't see any damage anymore.

You may see this pest in the spring.

You may see this pest in the spring.

Look for Signs of Tomato Hornworm Damage

The biggest thing with the tomato hornworm is just vigilance. If you've had them in the past, you will probably get them again, so spend time looking at your plants for:

  • any chew marks
  • any feces

If you're watching your tomato plants and notice any damage, then you can start looking for the worms. (You know, I'm kind of lucky: My cat likes to catch them and eat at least half of one and leave the other half on the bathroom rug. So, I get to see half a tomato hornworm.)

If you see any signs of the tomato hornworm, you can get them out of the garden safely and naturally. With a few organic ingredients and some vigilance, you can have a tomato hornworm-free garden. I want to thank you for reading, and until next time, may your garden be easy, fun, productive, and always organic.

More About Organic Pest Control

More About Growing Tomatoes

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Lynn Gillespie

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