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Hornworms!

 
                                
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Found a large hornwom on my brandywines today.  Advice?
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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Save any with white wasp larvae sticking out of them.  Move them to lower-value plants: dill, jimson weed, petunia, tobacco, any tomato plant too far-gone to survive, any nightshade crop you expect surplus from and can stand to set back a bit (pepper, potato, eggplant...).

They're big, so they're few...search carefully and kill any you find that aren't parasitized.
 
                                
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Got it.  I haven't checked, but if there are no wasp larvae, I read it possible to release these types of wasps.  Worth it?
 
Leah Sattler
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well. I squish them or holler at the chickens which sometimes seem to like them and other times won't touch them. not sure if they really eat them. one usually does a grab and run job just to keep others from getting it. sometimes they just look at it like "you called me over here for that!"

you can buy different species of parasitic wasps but I am not sure about which species does what and if it is available, maybe someone more knowledgable will chime in. I just start carefully going over each branch of the tomato plant (when i see some defoliated parts) until I find the bugger.
 
Jennifer Smith
Posts: 714
Location: Zone 5
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chickens, ha!  My chickens love hornworms if I pick them off and put them on a silver (ok chrome, they are after all chickens) platter.  If I toss them one they ignore it or eye it suspiciously.  Put it on a plate and they gobble them up...silly birds.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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Interesting.  I would think the alkaloids a given worm had built up would have some influence too.

I could imagine feeding them something different-smelling for a day or two before tossing them to the birds.

I had one tiny hornworm this year, but dry-cropped tomatoes seem not to be as enticing...knock on wood.
 
Leah Sattler
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listenstohorses wrote:
chickens, ha!  My chickens love hornworms if I pick them off and put them on a silver (ok chrome, they are after all chickens) platter.  If I toss them one they ignore it or eye it suspiciously.  Put it on a plate and they gobble them up...silly birds.


that is funny! thats why I haven't been able to figure out wether they really eat them or not. I I guess I will have to experiment with different presentations.......maybe a sprig of parsley.....
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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they make beautiful hummingbird moths so i try not to destroy them unless they are really causing a problem with my plants..so far i haven't seen one in my greenhouse on my tomatos..think we had one or two last year..
 
Leah Sattler
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one plus for greenhouses! if there is a hornworm it is gauranteed to fatten itslef on my tomato plants and will almost completely defoliate it. even if the plant lives the tomatoes are sunburned and it never really recovers. this year I had at least five tomato plants completely gone from them. I just didn't have the mindset to stand out there and find the buggers.
 
rose macaskie
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Leah sattler do your hens really come when you call tham thats magic. rose
 
Leah Sattler
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rose macaskie wrote:
Leah sattler do your hens really come when you call tham thats magic. rose


sure. they know when holler chick chick chick.....that means I have food. they aren't coming cause they are obedient. they are coming because they like juicy grubs, bugs, termites and scratch feed. it only takes a few times of feeding them and repeating the phrase and they make the association. it probalby helps that I have always had older hens around that know the routine and any newer birds pick it up pretty fast.

sometimes they are sure I have something good for them to eat when I don't.  its kinda creepy to be walking quietly across the property and hear lots of soosh soosh soosh in the grass behind you and look back to see 10 or 20 chickens following you that have spied whatever it is you are carrying and think its food. when you walk they walk. when you stop and turn around they stop and stare at you tilting their heads looking up at what you are holding.  its sort of a game here to pretend to be afraid of the chickens stalking you. little kids thinks its hilarious. attack of the chickens!!!
 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2523
Location: FL
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Sounds like your chickens are up to something.  You better keep an eye on them.  Have you found any maps, charts, maybe duct tape in their coop?  Are you missing any tools?  Do they talk amongst themselves and hush up when you approach?
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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I keep an eye out for the frass (caterpillar poop) if it is building up anywhere I know to look above and that is where I usually find the big horn worms or other big caterpillars.  It is important to glance at the plants regularly to catch the hornworms before they strip a plant too far.  I usually only find one big horn worm but once I had a plant absolutely covered in many smaller ones.

If you really can't be bothered to inspect plants regularly for caterpillars, then perhaps spraying with BT or dipel dust regularly would be appropriate for you.  I only sprayed BT once this past year, and otherwise I've been lazy and only grabbed caterpillars for the fish or girls when I notice them.  So far so good but I fear I may need to assist the cabbage with a spray if I want any non wormy ones.
 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2523
Location: FL
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I've put bT in the worm tea while aerating.  They will propagate just like everything else.  Its a good way to increase your supply.  When using the tea, I leave about 1/4 of the stuff behind, add more water/molasses/alfalfa and turn on the pump.  Couple of days, I got all I need.
 
brett watson
Posts: 100
Location: Northern California Zone 8b
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We just realized the other day that we have a lot of hornworms on our tomatos. We caught and gave them to the Muscovies and .... the catapillars barely had time to touch the ground, the ducks loved them. Almost makes me want to propagate them as feed.
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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I'm not sure I would be into propagating hornworms as muscovy feed but to each ones own I guess.

A somewhat easier option for propagating insects to feed to your birds might be to get a Black Soldier Fly larva bin going, I believe zone 8 is warm enough for them and it is a great way to get rid of kitchen scraps too and the BSF larva are self harvesting if you set up your bin right.
 
                                
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We moved from city life to a rural 40 acre home in SE, KS last year.  We are suburbanites looking to learn to be as self-sufficient as we can.  That said, I have LOTS to learn. 

Discovered this site today and am excited to learn a lot from you folks.  Hope I don't become a pest. 

I planted about 25-30 tomato plants.  Yesterday I noticed some Roma tomatoes with damage to them.  Looked online, and the wounds on the tomatoes looked to be done by a Yellowstripe Army Worm.  Those 2-3 Roma plants also had much damage to the tops (leaves/stems).  I know what a horn worm looks like.  Did not see any worms, but it was really hot yesterday.  This morning, I looked over the tomatoes again and on a different plant I noticed a yellowstripe worm on a half eaten leaf.  Ugh.  Discarded him. 

After reading this thread, realized that a leaf on one of the damaged plants had caterpillar frass on it.  (See, I already learned something  Now wondering if I have both horn and army caterpillars.  Can't see any.  Should I spray with something before they kill all my tomatoes? 

I'm trying to employ organic gardening measures.  However, if it's the only way to save the tomatoes is with a spray, then I'll have to resort to that, but really don't want to. 

The garden is next to a 30 acre natural prairie grass hay field.  Last year when we bought it, there were more butterflies here than I had ever seen.  Not so much this year.  Also the hay field was full of red clover.  Haven't hardly seen any this year.  Problem is, I don't know which caterpillars will be beautiful butterflies for the field or which will destroy my plants such as those above.  Ugh. 

Have free-range chickens, but they have to stay out of the garden, because they tear things up. 

Thanks for any help. 
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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There are some sprays or dust that can be used on plants to kill leaf eating caterpillars while still being fairly safe and organic.  You will be looking for something like Thuricide or Dipel dust where the active ingredient is Bacillus Thurgensis. Not sure about my spelling though.  It takes a few days to kill the beasts so till then keep hand picking them off as you can find them.  They are sometimes really hard to see.
 
Janet Branson
Posts: 176
Location: Missoula, MT
54
bee hugelkultur rabbit tiny house trees
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I just observed four hornworms, in 3-4 different stages of their development, on one container-planted beefsteak. With DE already in hand I doused them and tried to pry them off the stem with my hand scoop, which as you probably know did not work. Was the DE a bad move? One of them was parasitized, which I didn't realize explained the little white spikes until reading this thread.

For those of us with incomplete systems, i.e. no chickens, what do you recommend as immediate and long term solutions or mitigations?

 
Sean Banks
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plant some natives....in my area parasitic wasps are attracted to the native mountain mint....these wasps find hornworms on my plants and lay eggs on them...their larve then hatch and eat the hornworm....great organic pest control
 
Janet Branson
Posts: 176
Location: Missoula, MT
54
bee hugelkultur rabbit tiny house trees
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Thanks Sean, I have been planting mint near the house to deter flies and never would have thought it would attract wasps. In the spring I will certainly plant some borage, mint, and basil near my tomatoes. In the mean time I snipped the stems they were attached to and put them in the bird feeders. For now, I must do half of the work of the chicken.
 
Travis Malloy
Posts: 5
Location: Temple Terrace, FL
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Once you get the parasitic wasps, you won't have any hornworm problem. I've always wanted to do this: catch a hornworm, and keep it well-fed in a pen that would keep it in, but also allow the teeny wasps in (big screen or small hardware cloth on a mason jar, maybe). Keep it alive until parasatized, and repeat as necessary. But after a couple of natural occurances of the wasps, I haven't seen a hornworm in a couple years.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
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I haven't seen a hornworm in years either. We have a lot of various types of wasps.

If I did have hornworms and I didn't have chickens I'd pick them off and step on them. Composting in place! I look for frass that looks like tiny raspberries

Some enterprising folks here fried up some fat tomato hornworms and ate them a few years ago. Word is, the toxic alkaloids don't kill you, neither do they taste good.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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