All About the Tomato Hornworm: From How to ID Them to Best Tomato Hornworm


Tomato hornworms are common garden pests. This post will show you how to identify them and the best tomato hornworm control methods.

About the Tomato Hornworm

The tomato hornworm becomes the five-spotted hawk moth. In its caterpillar form, it is incredibly disastrous to gardens and landscapes.

How to ID the Tomato Hornworm

The tomato hornworm is 4-5 inches long, once full size. Typically they are the largest caterpillars you will see in your garden. Green in color it has white V-shaped marks. Their color and markings help camouflage them in your garden. In fact, you may see their destruction before you see the actual caterpillar.

Tomato hornworms have enormous appetites, destroying entire leaves, stems and immature fruits.

Given their name, many incorrectly assume they only attack tomatoes. However, they also attack eggplants, peppers and potatoes. In a matter of days they can completely defoliate a plant.

If you don’t recognize their damage or spot one, you can ID these vicious pests by their black droppings, called frass, found at the base of plants or on leaves.

How to Control Tomato Hornworms

One of the simplest ways to control tomato hornworms is to pick them off whenever you see them. They are large and easy to grab when you spot them. Either squish them or spray them with organic pesticides.

Handpicking, however, can be time-consuming. Only best for very small gardens, handpicking will ultimately leave behind some of the caterpillars. And because even just one caterpillar will cause extensive damage, handpicking is often not the most effective way to end their infestation.

Beneficial Insects

There are insects that eat the tomato hornworm, such as the praying mantis. However, beneficial insects may not be in your garden. If you add these beneficial insects, they will end up leaving for other food sources once they can’t find pests in your garden anymore. Thus, relying on them as your sole form of pest control gives the pests another chance of infestation.

Applying BT

BT, or Bacillus Thuringiensis, can be used to treat a tomato hornworm infestation. However, it only works on small larvae, leaving the plant-destroying adults behind to continue their extensive damage.

Best Organic Tomato Hornworm Control

They make really effective organic pesticide products. They are easy to use and kill the tomato hornworms at all stages, ensuring you a healthy organic garden.

Available as sprays and powders, the most effective ones:

· Kill 45 different insect species

· Exterminate them at all stages, from eggs to adults

· Are ready-to-use

· Are OMRI Listed, which means they’ve been reviewed and approved for use in organic gardening.

Guest Author Byline This guest blog post is written by Michelle Anderson who specializes in insect control, including organic pesticides and insect killer.

8 Responses to “All About the Tomato Hornworm: From How to ID Them to Best Tomato Hornworm”

  1. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    One additional tip, if you happen to see a hornworm covered with white “spikes” let him be. This one has become a parasite host for some baby wasps and when hatched will help in the fight to eliminate your hornworms.

  2. Deana Wood Says:

    Don’t pick them off & feed to your chickens though. They can be poisonous to poultry. Tomatoes are a nightshade so if the hornworms have been eating much of the plant they can kill your birds.

  3. Valerie Says:

    I was lucky enough to get some of those brachnid wasps on the only one I saw in my garden!

  4. Maria Says:

    My grandfather never showed much interest in my garden, until my tomato plants were devastated by hornworms. Oh, the fun he had showing my 4 yr old how to pick them off and throw them on the roof so the birds would eat them.

  5. Misti Says:

    I just found 2 huge ones on my tomato plants. I couldnt stand to squish them they were so fat and would have been gross lol so I put them in a cup and tossed them into the empty lot accross the street. I hope they were bird food. 🙂 Great article!

  6. chris Says:

    I had a huge problem with these things last year. I went out of town for a few weeks and had a friend watching my garden… came back to find it decimated by worms. Thanks for the tips!

  7. David Says:

    Love this post. Clear and easy to understand. You may need to elaborate more when using organic pesticides. Nevertheless, this post is informative and I am recommending it to our readers.

  8. Alisa Says:

    Thank you for this post. This is great! Hopefully you could give us maybe a step-by-step process on dealing with this organic pesticides. This would help newbies like me.

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