Monday, August 30, 2010

Oh No! Hornworms in our garden

Oh woe is me! The horrible hornworms have invaded! Friday morning I noticed unusual droppings below the big Brandywine tomato plant. I was heading off to work, so I swept them aside and  hoped there wouldn't be more strange black blobs when I returned. But a nagging voice in my head said, "I hope it isn't doo doo..."
Well, sure enough, later that evening, when Mitch got home, he found more droppings. He then discovered the nasty green goblins chewing up our plant! Four of them no less! Those creatures are incredibly destructive. The last time we saw hornworms in our tomato garden was years ago, when we bought starter plants from the Union Square Green Market. We haven't had the problem since we began growing from seeds. I don't know how long they've been hiding among the green leaves this season. I certainly didn't see any obvious signs. A quick tour of the Internet told me that these creatures come from giant hawk moths. The pupae could have been in the soil for a year!  The green monsters can grow up to 4 fat inches long. At any rate, I'm sure glad we caught on before the nasty bugs devoured too many of our juicy tomatoes. They did get their tiny little jaws into two Brandywines (see photo below.) To be sure none of their brethren were lurking in the leaves, we got out the bottle of Schultz insect spray. (We try to use that very sparingly as it is a toxic insecticide, but for hornworms, we decided to make an exception.) I did find one more on Sunday, on the yellow cherry tomatoes. Once again I followed the poop! They're so hard to spot that one must look directly up from the droppings, which were on the ground and the leaves just under the worm. We'll have to keep a much closer eye on the plants for the rest of the season and pluck off any worms immediately. That's the best defense that I can think of. Has anyone else out there experienced these icky pests? Please let us know how you think they got into our garden and our best bet to get rid of them for good.


meemsnyc said...

Oh no! Sorry to hear about the worms. That is terrible! I'm sorry it ate your tomatoes.

Daina said...

I had this same problem in the early summer. How did you get rid of the little (or big after eating your plants!) buggers?

urbangardener said...

Since our terrace has pink tiles its easy for us to see droppings, so we pluck them right off the vines when we see the signs, which include eaten leaves and tomatoes. In total, we found six of them and haven't seen any for the past 10 days. I'm hoping that there aren't any others lurking. We're just keeping a keen eye out for signs. We did spray with insecticide, but that is a last resort.