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tomato Worms

 
Christina Darling
Posts: 71
Location: East-Central Illinois
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I see the damage they are doing but I can't find the nasty green things on the plant. Where are they hiding? I found three in the spring and squished them. I have looked very carefully all along the stems and the leaves BUT I CAN'T FIND THEM!!  Maybe I should try diatomaceous earth but I don't like to kill the good bugs.  Does anyone know?
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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I don't think DE will be very effective. Bt could be what you're after.
I try to avoid using it though: the parasitic wasps take a while to get going, but when they do it's quite dramatic!
I have a hard time finding caterpillars too. I look for 'frass', aka poo, on the leaves and they're generally nearby. I note and try to memorise the colour when I find a caterpillar, they're usually brighter green than the plant .
 
Christina Darling
Posts: 71
Location: East-Central Illinois
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I have looked and looked for them, but can't find them. Do they hide during the day? Maybe I need to go out with a flashlight at night to get them. Excuse my ignorance, but what is BT? This is the first garden I have had in many years. We have raised beds and my husband did the planting. All the tomatoes together, all the carrots, lettuce, etc.  Next year will be different - polyculture, hugelculture, permaculture. I want to get rid of the railroad ties and bricks (years ago [before he married me] he laid a weed blanket and covered with cobblestones - pretty but now the blanket is kapput and the garden is filled with weeds) and do green manure. We have a lot of work ahead of us to get to that point.

Thank you SO much for your advice & help.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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they generally don't harm the tomato itself, just the leaves..so..if you can allow them to go they make beautiful humming bird moths...
 
Christina Darling
Posts: 71
Location: East-Central Illinois
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They have already eaten some tomatoes, I am sorry to say. And they eat the branches, leaves and all, down to the nub. One of my neighbors has had the same situation. Almost all of my tomatoes have some denuded stubby limbs. 

I'm going to try spraying with insecticidal soap in the evening because it seems most of the damage occurs overnight.
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Sorry, forgot to elaborate. bt is Bacillus thuringiensis, commonly sold as 'ipel'.
It's a bacteria with a limited target (lepidoptera family larvae).
It's never as simple as just making a problem go away though... There's evidence that some species are becoming resistant; bt kills ALL lepidoptera larvae, problem and otherwise and also deprives the wasps of their dinner, making for trouble down the road.
It may seem that I'm backtracking on my advice, but it's more a "do your homework first" kind of thing I suppose.
I keep the old physics chestnut 'every action has an equal and opposite reaction' in mind every time I want to fix a problem...
That said, If you're talking the long, bright green loopers like I have (not hornworms, which I don't), they turn into a fat grey moth. I definitely squish any moths or caterpillars I find on my tomatoes. And they LOVE the green fruit.
I don't think they're active at night. It's a matter of 'getting your eyes on', as they say. Aside from finding frass, focus on the new growth.
I've also found that a good, sharp shake of the plant knocks them off. Can't be good for the plant though.
 
Christina Darling
Posts: 71
Location: East-Central Illinois
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The three I found in the late spring were the bright green guys. I spotted them right away which is why I am presently perturbed-I don't see anything except the frass!  And they are eating the green tomatoes. Grrrr.  Hope those wasps show up soon.
 
Christina Darling
Posts: 71
Location: East-Central Illinois
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Got one this morning. Squished it!  It seems they like to hang upside down on the stems.
 
Troy Rhodes
Posts: 573
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Spotting them efficiently is a skill that improves with practice.  Scissors are my favorite weapon when I find them.  One little snip and they're done.  They make an interesting clicking or snapping sound after you snip them. 

One of the reasons I trellis my tomatoes on "hog wire" (6" x 6" squares) is that it makes it easier to spot pests like those giant green monsters.

HTH,

troy

 
Christina Darling
Posts: 71
Location: East-Central Illinois
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solarguy2003 wrote:

One of the reasons I trellis my tomatoes on "hog wire" (6" x 6" squares) is that it makes it easier to spot pests like those giant green monsters.


How do you do that? Do you train/tie them to the wire?
 
Troy Rhodes
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As the tomato plant grows, you gently push the branches through the wire and weave it into the fence.  Occasionally, you get a branch that's determined to grow away from the fence, and I cut that one off.

HTH,

troy
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
pollinator
Posts: 1401
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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Tomorrow I finally battle the tomato worms.

So far this season I have used nothing, with great success.  I prune my tomatoes HEAVILY at the beginning of the season, until they get as high as my head,  and then just let them go.

Usually cut  the tomatoes a little green and sit in the window sill - I have 13 windows in my sunroom and they are all filled with tomatoes all of the time.  Out of every basket of fruit I pick I may lose 1 to pests - I give that to the chickens or turkeys - or smash it into the hugel bed for next year.

Today I picked about 5lbs of tomatoes and gave an additional 2lbs to the birds because of worms and other pests.  That tells me it is time to take action.

I will HEAVILY prune all of the plants again in the morning, give them a dust bath of DE, then in the afternoon I will rinse off DE (other wise it seems to dry out the leaves too much) and then I will give them a shower with Murphy's Oil soap and finally a heavy dusting of DE around the mulch at the base of the plant.

Seems like a lot to go through but I haven't paid attention to these plants in about two months other that to pick fruit.  The effort now should keep me in tomatoes until the first frost.
 
Christina Darling
Posts: 71
Location: East-Central Illinois
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Wow, I never thought about pruning tomatoes. Does that keep the worm situation down?
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
pollinator
Posts: 1401
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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I can't really say that it prevents worms.

It does help the plant produce more and larger fruit.  I think it may also help to prevent pests in that there is less vegetation for them to hide in and more sunlight and air circulation to all remaining parts of plant.
 
Christina Darling
Posts: 71
Location: East-Central Illinois
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I have so many tomato plants this season I can try it on one of them. Thanks for the suggestion!
 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 202
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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We prune our tomatoes to one stem generally unless a sucker is coming out near a blank spot in the garden.  It does help find the bugs quickly.  However as you will see in my next post, I'm having a problem with something that I can't find and it's not hornworms.
 
                              
Posts: 13
Location: NH
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definitely prune your tomatoes, they can be finicky and pest prone, but you shouldn't ever have to use any kind of insecticide for hornworms.  Look for droppings around the plant and if your plants are pruned you'll spot them no problem.
 
brett watson
Posts: 100
Location: Northern California Zone 8b
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we catch 'em up at night, it seems easier to find them then. THEN we feed them to our chickens and ducks. The ducks eat them up whole, it takes the chickens a while to get them down, might be easier if we cut them up first.
 
Christina Darling
Posts: 71
Location: East-Central Illinois
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So they DO come out at night!?  I thought that might be the case as I couldn't find them during the day but would always see the damage in the morning! The only time I've been able to find ANY was if I got up really early, before sunrise, and then I found a few.

Well, I've already pruned my plants to one third of their former selves. The fruit is just starting to ripen. I've eaten one tomato so far and it was yummy.
 
                              
Posts: 13
Location: NH
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They are out in the day as well, they are just harder to find.  They tend to nestle themselves in nooks and crannies and the undersides of leaves and stems to avoid the intense sun.
 
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