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Tomatoes and horned worms

 
master gardener
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Every July 1 or so my tomatoes are covered with horned worms.  I have not had any this year.  I am a little worried about the little guys.  You dont suppose something happened to them do you?  

Is anyone else suffering from this level of misfortune?
 
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On my 40 plants this year I've found 3 large ones....and that's it.  My neighbors have had a few as well.  This is pretty low density for us.  I was just hoping it meant that my biology at all trophic levels was WAY up, as it seems to be this year, but perhaps there is more going on?
 
John F Dean
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Hi Greg,

Given your location and mine, I will be watching this thread with interest.  We have had a good deal of rain and somewhat cooler temperatures.
 
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maybe they just came here, i’ve fed dozens to the chickens, and a lot of the pawpaw hornworm too.  they’re hawkmoth caterpillars...i’ve seen a few of the adult moths as well.

edited to add, weather here has been very humid, lots of rain, and pretty warm for here.
 
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Very interesting observation.

For the last 3 years, my tomatoes have been devastated by the hornworms. I have been waiting all summer for the buggers to make an appearance, and they never did. Have not seen a single one, and have not seen any damage to the tomatoes.

Wonder if they are cyclical, sorta like cicadas?  The weather was certainly unusual here this spring and summer - very late frost mid-May, very dry June and July, and very wet August (12” worth of wet, in what is normally a very dry month.).

Maybe the boom over the last few years spawned a predator boom that made a quick meal of most of them.

 
John F Dean
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Lady Bugs seem to be a natural predator,  and we have had a number of those.  I also did a good deal of work on my raised beds that might have disturbed the egg habitat.   But in the end,   I suspect there are other factors.
 
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Same situation in NW Missouri. Had all of one or two horn worms this year, back in late July I think. Haven't seen them since *knock on wood.*
Bag worms were bad this year, but they're pretty easy to spot and even easier to dispose of since their little bag contains the mess of squishing them :)
 
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No, I have definitely not had the "misfortune" of not having horned worms this year. They are worse than ever. I saw one that was incubating some nice wasp larvae, I meant to get a picture to share here but didn't have my phone and forgot to go back later.
 
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We don't usually get them at all though last year the hornworms almost devastated our honeysuckle.

Dear hubby was saying the deer was eating the honeysuckle which they usually leave alone.

I pick them off and dropped them in a bucket of water. That took several trips because they just keep coming.
 
John F Dean
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I would love it if the horned worms went after the honeysuckle.  The honeysuckle is a bigger threat than the horned worms.
 
greg mosser
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there are dozens of species of hornworms in the u.s., and they’re all pretty dependent on one type of food - there are different species for tobacco and tomato, for instance, even though both plants are in the same family. the hornworms that eat honeysuckle are in a different but closely related genus...the adults are clearwing  moths, mostly day-flying bee-mimics (but with a fancier paint-job if you look close).

/bug geek
 
Anne Miller
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Greg, thanks for the clarification and explanation.  

I knew they were hummingbird moth larva though that is about all I knew. What I found when trying to find out why they were eating honeysuckle is that they were the tobacco ones.
 
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I have had just one in western MO.
 
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We had a lot of hornworms early in the season this year. The parasitic wasps eventually showed up but I picked many before I saw any sign of them. After I saw one hornworm with the little wasp cocoons I saw no further hornworms of significant size.
 
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Aww darn.  Pick them off and squish them, or mash them under your foot.  They won't bother for long with that treatment!
 
Jordan Holland
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Jen Swanson wrote:Aww darn.  Pick them off and squish them, or mash them under your foot.  They won't bother for long with that treatment!


I throw them alive to the chickens! MWAHAHAHAH!
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10 Podcast Review of the book Just Enough by Azby Brown
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