Controlling Tomato Hornworms

Silver Post Medal for All Time! 418 Posts
August 23, 2017

Parasitic Wasps Help Control -Hornworms - hornworm covered in wasp cocoonsIn the spring, we planted one tomato plant in a large container beside our deck. Now it is enormous and has grown above the deck rail. I have babied this plant and in return, we have been enjoying delicious tomatoes, much better than the ones from the garden which have suffered from the hot, dry weather.


While picking tomatoes, I found a green worm eating the plant. I didn't want to touch it so I got a paper towel and pulled it off. The worm is called a tomato hornworm. It turns into a moth. The white things attached to the worm are Parasite Wasp cocoons which are beneficial for killing the hornworm. Yet while the hornworm is dying, he is devouring the leaves of my tomato plant which to me, that's not good.

I put my glasses on and started searching for more worms on the plant. I found out that they don't bite or sting so I just started picking them off. After removing 18, I lost count.

The article I read said to remove the worm and place it in a jar with some leaves and let the parasite wasp do its job. I placed some of them in a container and I'm just waiting to see what happens. I think the worms are dying and I don't know what will happen to the parasite wasp cocoons. I wonder if my neighbor's chickens would love to have these worms.

Parasitic Wasps Help Control Hornworms - closeup of damaged leaves and cocoon covered hornworm
Parasitic Wasps Help Control Hornworms - damaged tomato plant
Parasitic Wasps Help Control Hornworms - tomato
Parasitic Wasps Help Control Hornworms - large tomato plant
Parasitic Wasps Help Control -Hornworms - green tomatoes
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6 Questions

Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community.

July 16, 2010

There was a huge caterpillar eating a green tomato on one of my plants. It was as big as a man's finger; colored the same as the tomato vine; it had cream colored lines running downwards on its sides. It had about 8 black claw-like feet and, had a spike-like thorn on its tail. Any idea what kind of bug it was? How do you rid insects from tomato plants that won't be harmful to humans?

Hardiness Zone: 6b

By Doody from Dayton, OH


July 17, 20100 found this helpful
Best Answer

Did it look like the one in our photo? If so, they are Horn Worms. We had them this spring. They can strip a tomato plant overnight to stems only. Pesticide free way to be rid of them is to pluck them off, what you do with them after that is up to you. If left unchecked, they eat to get their fill and then cocoon up for turning into a moth. Then fly away.


Do be aware, before they leave, they lay eggs in the soil below the ravaged plant. Later the eggs hatch out and the next generation will eat through your tomatoes the next season. What's on the plant and what's in the soil are both problems. Hope you get lots of suggestions on how to eradicate them. I will post a photo of the moth in a moment.

July 17, 20100 found this helpful
Best Answer

Horn Worms turn into Five Spotted Hawkmoths. Here is a photo of a Hawkmoth below our tomatoes last spring. We innocently thought, "What a pretty moth." Because we didn't know better than to ignore the visitation last spring, we had an army of Horn Worms hatch out to torment our garden this spring.

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July 15, 2007

How do I get rid of tomato worms?

Hardiness Zone: 6a

Crafty Critter 8 from PA


Silver Post Medal for All Time! 267 Posts
July 15, 20070 found this helpful

To keep tomato horn worms off my tomatoes, I plant marigolds next to them. I plant tomatoes in groups of four with two to three marigolds in between them. In twenty plus years of gardening, I have only had three horn worms I had to remove.


By Steve from Dorr, Michigan


Silver Post Medal for All Time! 267 Posts
July 15, 20070 found this helpful

Here are some good tips on ThriftyFun. Just follow this link.


July 17, 20070 found this helpful

here, I grow a spare tomato plant just FOR the hornworms.... see, I like the moths....the hummingbird moth....

when I find one, I pick it off and put it on the 'spare' tomato plant... and then I get to watch the moths enjoy my flowers.....

By busdrivr (Guest Post)
July 19, 20070 found this helpful

I use peppermint flavoring mixed with water.They can't stand the smell.

By b (Guest Post)
July 19, 20070 found this helpful

I used sevin dust and what I had overlooked trying to pull off....crocked almost immediately!

July 3, 20180 found this helpful

plant a marigold, dill or parsley near your tomato plants in the spring this discourages the moth from laying its eggs i learned this from my elders

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July 23, 2011

I removed big green worms from my tomato plants. Should I cut off the parts he ate from or let it be? Please advise.

By laplant


July 26, 20110 found this helpful

Sounds like you might have a tomato horn worm. Here's a link with some helpful info,

July 27, 20110 found this helpful

Definately sounds like the evil tomato horn worm. They are dangerous to your tomato plants because they eat the plant, but they are not a danger to you. I've always planted marigolds around my tomato plants and that seems to deter them. In 20 years of growing tomatoes, I've only ever had 3 worms that made it past the marigolds.


The biggest danger from these worms is the pesticides most people use to kill them, it's far better just to pick them off individually than risk killing all the beneficial insects and poisoning your crops. Hope this is helpful to you.

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August 13, 2009

Thanks in advance to any advice. I have been growing tomatoes starting in March of 09, the problem I have is horn worms. Yesterday morning I was outside planting some heather on the side of the house. As always I stopped by the tomato plants to inspect, checking to see if they need water or dead leaves removed. Everything appeared normal.

Then in the afternoon I walked out to pet the kittens and noticed most of the tomatoes had been half eaten. Only this one particular container plant has been affected so far. I know that horn worms are products of moths which is what did the damage. I pulled 2 horn worms off the plant. My question is: How do I protect my plants from this cruel act of nature?



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Check out these photos.

Gold Post Medal for All Time! 523 Posts
November 5, 2013

I don't grow tobacco. It seems the Tobacco Hornworm likes a bit of variety in its diet. I found this devoted mother proudly supporting a clutch of eggs while munching lazily on my grape tomato leaves.

Tobacco Hornworm (North Carolina)

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