Something is eating my tomatoes!

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Joined Nov 6, 2004
    Hi All,

  I have two gardens, one at home...and one at work.  The soil at work isn't all that great (ph too high) but I'm trying to address that each year.  Besides having the soil problems we also have some heavy winds too (which doesn't seem to help much)

   Having a few strikes against us already...I would like to enjoy the fruit that we are getting...BUT SOMETHING IS EATING OUR TOMATOES! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/mad.gif

     I don't know what it is for sure.  I haven't seen fruit eaten quite like this (I'll have to get a picture).  Usually half of the fruit is eaten in what looks to be many channel type bites.  

     We have just about everything you can expect in northern Illinois.  Rabbit, ground squirrels, coyote, plenty of birds (which include pheasant)...I've even seen a medium sized turtle climbing up the hill toward our garden.  Recently someone mentioned that it may be pheasant.  I haven't heard this before...but something is certainly enjoying them.

    I plan to put some chicken wire around it...but would still like to know what it may be.

    I'll get some pictures posted in the next couple of days.

  thanks,

 dan
 
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Sounds like a Tomato Horn Worm . They are big but very hard to see. They blend in with the stems of the plants. They look prehistoric.
 
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Hard to tell, without seeing the damage, what's causing it, Dan.  But pests are unlikely, based on your description. I'm betting on furry critters.

Hornworms do not eat the fruit, they eat the foliage. Besides which, northern Illinois is covered up with predatory wasps, so hornworms, if present, are not a long-term problem in the home garden.

Tobacco worms, which are more of a problem with tomatoes than tobacco (go figure), are similar to hornworms, but ugly as home-made sin. Think of a large worm that looks like a strand of green pop-beads.

There is a tomato fruitworm that eats the fruit, but it burrows in and takes up housekeeping. You'll know if you have them, because you'll find them in the fruit.

I would doubt that it's birds, because with them the damage usually is a bunch of holes drilled in to the fruit. Birds generally are after the moisture, rather than the tomato flesh per se. Pheasants do enjoy tomatoes, but most of the time they eat them on the ground.

Channel cuts usually indicate incissor teeth. But it's probably not raccoons. Raccoons are great on causing damage, because they tear down the plants, then take one or two bites from each fruit. Opposum do less damage, but you'd still find the plants torn down.

Squirrels are more likely to eat part or all of the fruit and then depart. There's also a possibility that it's rabbits. If your plants are caged they actually stand up, leaning against the cage, and munch away.

One solution would be to take a damaged fruit to the nearest Extension office and ask them if they can identify the cause.

Wish I could be more help.
 
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   Well, I'll have to wait a while before I get a picture.  All the mature tomatoes are already gone from the plant.  

    dan
 
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If it was eaten half, it might be a worm or a bird... anyway, I'm interested to see what kind of creature attacks your tomato. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/rollsmile.gif
 
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phatch

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I found a Horn worm on one of my tomato plants this morning. It was huge, shaped, colored and textured like a tomato stem. Ate 2/3 of the leaves off the plant and some parts of tomatoes. Hope it survives.

The other plants looked fine.
 
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Been told that planting mint around tomatoes helps keep the worms at bay. Don't know if it's true but i have mint all over my garden and have only lost tomatoes to marauding sheep, not worms. they plowed right through fences that keep deer at bay the dirty rotten so and so's.
 
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Mint is a great companion plant, Gunnar. But I never heard of it deterring hornworms. Mint helps with ants, aphids, even flea beetles. The downside, of course, is that mint is invasive, and takes over the whole neighborhood.

To deter hornworms, the companions of choice typically are borage (which has the secondary benefit of providing edible flowers), sage, and pot marigold. Calendula serves the same purpose, and is a great medicinal herb as well.

Maybe somebody should start a thread on companion plants and what they're good for?
 
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    I pulled my mint years ago, yet I still battle with it when it comes back.  My mint was always a magnet for slugs and also for a certain type of caterpillar (identity I don't know).  During a certain part of the year the underside of the leaves would be covered with tons of caterpillars.

   I think there may be a ground squirrel eating the ripening tomatoes.  

  thanks,

dan
 
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I've just checked my book and  tomato moth could be a culprit. If thats the culprit, destroying the crop is the only treatment.

Sun scald leaves bite sized chunks in the fruit.No treatment butthey do reccommend painting glass with cool glass?
 
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Firstly, I plant extra for any crtters that decide they want to munch. They will not eat it all and if the plant is established, it will do alright.
Think of it this way, I believe ( believe ) that the tomato worm will turn into a gorgeous Luna Moth once it pupates. Don't you want to

help that critter to thrive ? I do.

If you want to stop them caters: you can sprinkle sifted wood ash on at night after you water, and wash it off in the AM.

Sprinkle cayenne pepper around base of plant .

Also watch out for squirrels and cats. While tomatoes is a night shade, those guys will eat the strangest things.

 
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Nice picture of a luna moth, Bellybones. But I believe you're confused. The tomato hornworm is the larval form of the 5-spotted hawkmoth, not the luna.

Also, why are you watering in the evening? That's a great way of promoting fungal diseases.
 
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  That's what they looked like.  

???

   We would see several different types of critters on the property.  Coyotes, rabbits, ground squirrels, pheasants, doves, other birds, fox and even a big ol' snapping turtle was seen making the trek up the hill to the garden.

  dan
 
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I should correct, moisten is more the term. Simply wet 'em and drop on the ash.

Works great for slugs .
 
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Rabbit, ground squirrels, coyote, fox, plenty of birds (which include pheasant)...I've even seen a medium sized turtle climbing up the hill toward our garden
   I have no doubt I'm forgetting quite a few other creatures.  The culprit feasted on many of the tomatoes from the beginning of the tomato harvest on through until about the middle of the harvest.  We are actually still getting a lot of tomatoes at work and whatever was eating them has stopped or gone away.  But it's pretty late in the season and I'm surprised we're getting any tomatoes...let alone this many.

    dan
 
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   I keep thinking that it looks like a like a beak.  I have thought before that a turtle has to have a pretty good reason to climb a hill and I maybe right.  I don't know if he was the culprit or not...and I did not take this video.  I just decided to search for turtles eating tomatoes and this is what the search gave me.  


   The tomato being eaten does look remarkably like it could be from a turtle.  I'm not sure what tomatoes look like once a rabbit has eaten half of it.  Surprisingly I had an easier time finding a video of a turtle eating a tomato than I did finding a rabbit eating one.

  thanks,

 dan
 
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Maybe, it can be. As I saw the video, the tomato is almost similar to your pictures. /img/vbsmilies/smilies//smile.gif
 

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