Tobacco Worms

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Joined Mar 31, 2011
Last year I lost my entire crop of tomatoes to Tobacco Worms..they are creepy and big and nasty, and they ate across every tomato in my garden.  Any ideas how to prevent them from coming to my garden?
 
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Joined Jan 31, 2011
Tomato Hornworms! Ugh! Plant lots of French marigolds or Calendula (pot marigold) in the rows with the tomatoes. You'll see few, if any, of the worms.

BTW, it works to keep tobacco worms away from tobacco, too. They're not exactly the same thing, but they're related and just as ugly.
 
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Joined Mar 31, 2011
I did plant marigolds, but maybe they were not the right kind! I wll try the two you mentioned instead! thanks much!
 
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Plant the marigold seeds when you set out your tomatoes. Plant a lot of them. I save my marigold seeds every year, so I have a ton of them. I practically mulch in the rows with them. I never see a tomato hornworm. (Well, I did see one year a few years ago, but it was covered in parasitic wasp larvae, so I left it alone)

If you can find them, Calendula is the best, IMO. Mine get taller than me (I'm almost 5'6") You can also use the Calendula petals to make a healing salve, so it's a twofer. (You know, twofer the price of one)
 
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Nothing against marigolds, which certainly can work. You want the so-called French marigold as a companion plant. They're great as a general pest deterrent.

The best hornworm deterrent, however, is borage. Interplant it with your tomatoes. The pretty blue flowers are edible, incidentally, so it's a double dip in that regard.

As to calendula, if I were forced to choose just one medicinal herb, that would be it. It's uses are legion. Fortunately, I don't have to face that choice.

You can also purchase parasitic wasps. Not the cheapest thing in the world, but once you introduce them you won't have hornworm problems again. Just make sure you recognize how they work. The worms do not initially die. As soon as the wasp eggs are laid, however, they stop feeding. Then, once the eggs hatch, the wasp larvae eat the worm.
 
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I can't grow borage. We have rabbits around here and they love the stuff! They'll go out of their way to eat my plants to the ground, usually as soon as I plant them.

The parasitic wasp larvae are fascinating to watch as they hatch out and eat the hornworms from the inside out. It takes them a few days to do it and the worm holds onto the tomato branch through the entire process, until it's nothing more than a skin, then it drops off. 
 
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When I first saw Hornworms I did not know what they were. They were huge and looked like something out  of  Jarastic Park.
 
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They're big and ugly and they sting. When I was a kid, Papa (my grandfather) would have us wander around his garden and knock them off the tomatoes with a stick and step on them. It grosses me out now, but it was fun back then.
 
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I saw them on my tomatoes for the first time this year. I must have gotten them early, because I picked only 3 and didn't see anymore for the rest of the summer and I had a great crop this year
 
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Get a chicken. Let her roam around your garden. She'll eat every one.

Get two chickens and watch them fight over who gets the hornworm-funny.

Then you get the extra benefit of a nice fresh egg, maybe two, every day.
 
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I go with the advice to get chickens and let them into the garden.  There is nothing they love more than juicy bugs, insects, larvae, whatever they are called.  The fatter the better. 
 
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Get a chicken. Let her roam around your garden. She'll eat every one.


Get two chickens and watch them fight over who gets the hornworm-funny.



Then you get the extra benefit of a nice fresh egg, maybe two, every day.
You can't leave chickens unguarded in a garden. They will scratch up and eat some plants as well. Guinea Hens are better cause they don't scratch up plants, will hunt down bugs and are not big plant eaters. Also if your garden is fenced in you have a good chance of finding the eggs as Guinea Hens don't have regular nesting sites and tend to lay eggs kinda wherever.
 
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I know what you mean about chickens, but I never really had that problem. 

I had to keep a close eye on mine anyway as there was a dog down the road that had it in for them. 

Plus, my hens liked me, I think. They always came when I called them. They were all named Gertrude.
 
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I put bird netting over my garden (especially tomatoes), the hummingbird moth that lays it eggs that hatch into hornworms its wing span is to large (5 inches) to fit through the netting.  Since this, I have had no more hornworms. 
 
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If you've got the space, grow flowering plants that have umbrels. Things like Cilantro, Queen Anne's Lace, etc.  Grow a lot and grow it close to your target area (in this case the tomatoes).  Buckwheat (although not an umbrel type) is a great cover crop to use as well, one of my favorites and works in this method.  Watch in amazement as Brachonid Wasps lay their eggs on those guys, hatch and kill the hosts.  It's very satisfying, but the flowers provide natural food and habitat which will keep those beneficials close by the targets.  It's not a guarantee, but will absolutely help.  In my case I saw them completely taken care of and I was growing around 25-30 heirloom indeterminants, so BIG tomato plants.  The other thing is, an afternoon of picking will get rid of many of them.  Don't look for the worm, look for the damage and follow it, they don't go far.  So yeah if you see one with what looks like pins sticking out of it's back, leave it alone and let nature take care of your Hornworms. :)
 
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I can't grow borage. We have rabbits around here and they love the stuff! They'll go out of their way to eat my plants to the ground, usually as soon as I plant them.

The parasitic wasp larvae are fascinating to watch as they hatch out and eat the hornworms from the inside out. It takes them a few days to do it and the worm holds onto the tomato branch through the entire process, until it's nothing more than a skin, then it drops off. 

Yeah this, didn't see the post.  This is absolutely cool to watch happen.  I've seen it happen with ladybugs and aphids that were on Soybeans I was growing.  I thought they were done for (the beans) as they were covered by Aphids.  I didn't have the time to spray them off with a hose (they were an experiment anyway) so I left them go.  About 2 or 3 days later I went back and looked and they were covered with Ladybugs and a few days after that, the plants recovered pretty well and actually bore a meal or two worth of pods.  It was really wild.
 
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