Pest alert: the tomato hornworm

Seaway News
Pest alert: the tomato hornworm

The tomato hornworm is a formidable yet fascinating pest, capable of causing substantial damage to crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and potatoes. Understanding this caterpillar is crucial for farmers seeking to safeguard their yields. Here’s what you need to know.

Identification and appearance

The tomato hornworm is identified by its distinctive horns and large size. It can grow up to 13 centimetres long. These caterpillars blend in well with foliage, making early detection challenging. They’re pale green with black and white markings and eight V-shaped stripes on their bodies.

Feeding habits and crop damage

Tomato hornworms are voracious feeders, capable of consuming large sections of plants in a short period. Their preference for popular crops like tomatoes increases the risk of substantial economic loss. It’s important to quickly spot feeding damage to deal with pests effectively.

Parasitoid wasps: natural predators

Tomato hornworms have natural enemies. Parasitoid wasps lay eggs on the hornworm, and as they hatch, the wasp larvae feed on the caterpillar, ultimately killing it. Encouraging the presence of these beneficial wasps can be a sustainable method of controlling tomato hornworm populations.

Farmers must also adopt integrated pest management (IPM) to address tomato hornworm infestations. By incorporating natural predators, rotating crops and judiciously using insecticides, farmers can mitigate the impact of tomato hornworms while minimizing environmental harm.

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