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Controlling Tomato Hornworms in the Home Garden

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Controlling Tomato Hornworms in the Home Garden

Tomato Hornworm Caterpillar (larva)

National Geographic, Courtesy of Getty Images
Identification
Adults are large gray moths with a 4"-5" wingspan while larvae are green 4 1/2" long caterpillars with a black horn on their tail and 8 diagonal white marks on their sides.

Damage to the Garden
Found throughout North America, larvae of these voracious feeders will munch on leaves, stems and fruit of nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplants.

Life Cycle
In the summer months adults emerge from pupae in the soil and lay eggs on the underside of leaves which hatch in 1 week. Larvae dine on the garden for 1 month and then return to the soil until the cycle begins anew the following summer.

Control
Remove the caterpillars by hand from the foliage, feed them to chickens and ducks or drown them and throw onto a compost pile. Bacillus thuringensis, variety kurstaki,(BTK) can be sprayed on the plants when caterpillars first emerge.
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