The Q&A Archives: Tomato Pests

Question: I have been growing tomatoes for about 5 years and for the first time I have hookworms which I discovered, fortunately, before much damage was done. I have found about 8 of them on my five plants and they were HUGE, 3-4 inches long. My question is how did they get there; how can I find them (or eliminate them) before they get so big and damage the plants; and how can I prevent them next year? Also, how many should I expect to find on a plant and when will I know they are gone?

Answer: What you've discovered are tomato hornworms, the larvae of large and colorful moths. A mature hornworm (so named because of the horn on its back end) can grow to 4-5 inches. Because of its size, a hornworm can consume an entire leaf in a very short period of time. When the adult (Meduca) moth finds a suitable feeding ground she lays her eggs. They hatch into the impressive larvae you've found. The moths are also attracted to dill, so next year plant dill with your tomatoes and you'll have a better chance of discovering and eliminating the pests before they do much damage. (Hornworms are much easier to spot on dill foliage than on the leaves of tomato plants.) Continue to hand pick and destroy these critters. The population of hornworms in your garden is anyone's guess - carefully inspect your tomato plants on a daily basis and remove any that you find.

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