SHOP PRODUCTS
Houzz Logo Print
snoop92

how do I stop this thing eating my tomatoes?

snoop92
15 years ago

I saw that a some of my growing tomatoes (Eva's Purple Ball) have bites out of them. And I am mad because this plant has so few fruits to begin with!

But, I have no idea what is doing this (bird, or whatever else) and how to prevent it.

If it's a bird, I suppose putting netting over the plant would not help?

For protection against deer, rabbits, etc., I've sprayed the "Liquid Fence" spray around the garden.

Any suggestions?

Comments (24)

  • buck1173
    15 years ago

    horn worm or a conn ear worm? go snooping around after the sun gets off them, or early in the am... look for little piles of poop on leaves or on tomatoes,.... when you find poop look directly above it, and look hard, look for anything that looks chewed (stems, holes in leaves, etc) when you find poop and chew marks, the culprit is close.

    both hornworms and cornear worms take bites out of my maters, it drives me nuts... I go on worm patrol every evening, and snip the little buggars in half when I find them....

    I actually had a hornworm so big the otherday, it fought back! bit my scissors!

  • digdirt2
    15 years ago

    Green or ripe tomatoes? Up in the plant or near the ground?

    Hornworms would be my first guess too if they are ripe ones high up. They will easily eat half a tomato. Tomato fruitworms (cornear worm) like green ones also higher up. Birds go for ripe ones. Squirrels prefer ripe but will eat green too but they usually take it with them. ;)

    Dave

  • Related Discussions

    How do I stop critters from eating my bulbs?

    Q

    Comments (0)
    I planted a bunch of really pretty tulips last fall and I think it's a mole or vole came along underground and ate all but two of them. UGH. What can I do to prevent this from happening again?
    ...See More

    What is eating my plants and how do i stop it?

    Q

    Comments (1)
    Even though the attack is spotty, it's probably deer. Nothing else would eat a whole perennial like that (rabbits are too short). BTW, cuts from rabbit teeth are sharp and clean as if they were made with pruners. Deer cuts tend to be ragged since they pull and don't cut clean. I suggest spraying with a good repellent--Deer Off, Liquid Fence, Plantskydd, and try to concentrate on plants deer don't like. Strongly aromatic plants are not only unappealing, but also have some repellent value as the scent jams deer's predator defensese, their sense of smell. Such plants include Agastaches, Perovskia, Nepetas, Calaminthas, Geranium maccrorhizum as well as 'Bikovo', 'Karmina' et. al (but not other Geraniums). Growing plants that they really like, like Phlox, is asking for trouble. Now that they're in the restaurant, it's only a matter of time before someone tries the other items on the buffet.
    ...See More

    Who's eating my leafy veggies and how do I stop them?

    Q

    Comments (12)
    It is an adolescent wood chuck! I suspected as much and so set a Han-a -hart trap for him but the only animal that took the bait (lettuce) was one of my dogs. He must be able to climb over a f foot high rabbit fence to get into the garden. The two kinds of repellent I have used are useless. Is there a better bait I can use? Is there a better way to keep him out of my garden? (Build a 6 ft fence (and have him or Mexico pay for it?)
    ...See More

    Small bees are eating my ripe tomatoes. What can I do to stop this?

    Q

    Comments (9)
    There are lots of variations on this kind of wasp trap: https://www.bobvila.com/articles/homemade-wasp-trap/ I made several that I hung in my fruit trees, using not two-liter bottles but plain 20 oz ones. Punched holes in the top of the sides, and ran a big nail through to keep the trap together, then used wire around that nail to make a loop for use in hanging the traps in my trees. When the traps fill up I can remove the nail (I use barn nails, they're about 6" long, maybe you have other comparable materials handy), disassemble, clean, and refill. Wasps love Coke, and it smells enough to bring them in fast. But plain old sugar water like you'd use in a hummingbird feeder will do just fine. Lots of people mention cider vinegar, banana peel (huh??!), etc. Wasps are always after me when I have either red or white wine in the back yard, at certain times of year. I have to cover my glass when I put it down. There's no absolute rule about what bait to use. The point is to make it sweet and if convenient fragrant, and drown the nasties. I hung one of these in each of my apple trees and presto, no more fruit damage.
    ...See More
  • snoop92
    Original Author
    15 years ago

    Well, this tomato plant is about 2.5- 3 feet tall and the fruits are green, unripen small tomatoes, the size of a ping-pong ball. The fruits are 3/4 or 1/2 eaten.

    Upon further inspection, after I submitted this post, I noticed that some of the side stems look like they've been cut off, with no leaves...perhaps deer is the culprit?

    Initially, I didn't think deer did this because they would have eaten the whole tomato and not just part...right?

    But then, I don't know what else would be able to do damage to branches 3 feet off the ground...

  • digdirt2
    15 years ago

    side stems look like they've been cut off, with no leaves

    Sure sounds like hornworms. Do you know what they look like and how to find them on the plant? If not search tomato hornworm for photos. If you can post a photo of the damage we might be able to narrow it down.

    Otherwise, deer is a possibility.

    Dave

  • sautesmom Sacramento
    15 years ago

    If it is hornworms, you will see green poop about the size of pinheads underneath the eaten parts, either on the tomato plant or on the ground. That's the easiest way to spot them, that or a blacklight.

    Carla in Sac

  • deep___roots
    15 years ago

    I know my varmint. Squirrels. They are out of control this year. I am going to war. I did not plant tomatoes so squirrels could eat them all.
    Good luck with your varmint.

  • buck1173
    15 years ago

    snoop, sounds like hornworms... a big 'un will cause damage that looks like a deer came along and ate from your plant... its amazing how much damage they cause.

  • tom8olvr
    15 years ago

    Pictures might be helpful??

  • snoop92
    Original Author
    15 years ago

    Thanks to everyone for your responses....

    It looks like 2 of my 15 tomato plants have been victimized by this mad-devouring THING...

    The side stems look like someone sawed them off, so imagine a central stem with the tips now blunted (cut off) and leaves gone. You guys think it's hornworms? I haven't seen any yet around the garden bed, where my plants of concern are.

    See, if it was deer, wouldn't they just eat the whole tomato? This thing left the tomatoes looking like a carved out letter "C," if that makes any sense.

    Regarding a separate incident just today...In one of my container tomato plants, I noticed a brown fat worm lying on top of the soil, with like a black diamond pattern on the back. It looked like a hornworm but wasn't green. It was about 1.5 inches long.

    I really wish I could show you pictures because it's hard to describe accurately in words...but I am not with the times yet and don't have a digital camera!!

    What is the best thing to do to get rid of hornworms? If this is the culprit...

  • digdirt2
    15 years ago

    I haven't seen any yet around the garden bed, where my plants of concern are.

    That's because they are on the plant itself - hiding -and very difficult to see as they are the exact same color as the plant. Did you Google tomato hornworms as suggested so you know what you are looking for? All you have to do is find him hiding in the plant (the hard part), pick him off and stomp on him.

    You don't have to worry about how to "describe accurately in words" because we all know what hornworm damage looks like - unfortunately. ;)

    a brown fat worm lying on top of the soil, with like a black diamond pattern on the back. That's a tomato fruitworm - substantially smaller than a hornworm.

    Dave

  • snoop92
    Original Author
    15 years ago

    Is there anything I can do to get rid of hornworms beside trying to hunt them down and pick them off?

    I do sometimes see white moths flying around the tomato plants.....is that a that indicative of hornworms?

  • tom8olvr
    15 years ago

    I'm no expert, but to stop them you have to pick them off.

    You can spray BT on your plants but the 'worm'
    (caterpillar) will still have to eat your plant (with the
    BT on it) to die. :)

    Hornworms can defoliate a plant in one evening - it's NUTS!
    I know it's hard to believe how much damage a caterpillar
    can do...

    Good luck!

  • digdirt2
    15 years ago

    Ok, I did the Googling for you. The link below shows you the pictures of the worms, tells you exactly what to look for and how to find them, and it also shows you a picture of the adult moths and no they aren't the white moths you are seeing.

    Please understand, that while the are difficult to see on the plant, it is not impossible in any way - especially since by now the ones you have are likely 4 inches long - and once you find and see the first one, any others are much easier to find. Your eye gets trained to spot them. ;)

    Trying to find them in the heat of the day is the worst time because they are hiding deep in the plant. Early morning they are working out on the branches. Just trace the branches one at a time, especially around any new damage, and you will find him.

    Gonna have to get used to these guys if you want to grow tomatoes. They are an annual problem for all tomato growers.

    Dave

    Here is a link that might be useful: Tomato Hornworm

  • snoop92
    Original Author
    15 years ago

    Yes, I had googled hornworms and had seen this webpage before so I knew what hornworms looked like, but never thought that I would ever encounter one since I did not have this problem last year.

    But, this morning, I looked around the vicinity where the branches had been eaten and literally jumped back in shock when I saw this thing 4 feet off the ground chomping on my plant!! I could NOT believe how big this thing was...fat, and about 3 inches long!

    I dropped it at first, had to hunt for it on the ground (they ARE really hard to see) and then dumped it far, far away from the garden.

    I then realized that there were dark brown-black clumps of poop on OTHER plants, and saw that even more branches were eaten off on those! :( Low and behold, I saw another giant one chomping away.

    So, in total, I got rid of 2 giant ones and a 1 inch baby one. Then, how many more are around? Does it mean that that the garden is infested with them?

    I'm still in shock!

  • digdirt2
    15 years ago

    Kinda blows your mind, right! Infested? No. Some years are worse than others, true, This one has been mild for me. But the more you get rid of now the less you'll have next year...in theory anyway. I usually remove the stripped leaves/branches too as it makes it easier to see new damage and I don't waste time search for one there.

    Honestly, most of the time you will seldom find more than 1 per plant and not every plant will have one. And they are here for a specific time frame so make a note on your garden calendar of your hatch dates (mine in July 12th +/- a couple of days) and then start watching for them around this time next year.

    Now that you have developed the "hornworm eye" you'll find them easier to spot - find the damage on the plant and explore nearby.

    Have fun! ;)

    Dave

    PS: scissors work well for snipping in half

  • jmsimpson9
    15 years ago

    PS: scissors work well for snipping in half

    Ewwwwwww

    I put them up by the bird feeders. The bird love them!.

    I discovered that looking down on my plants that most of the time the hornworm eggs are being laid on the top side of the leaves.

    So far this season I have found at least a dozen eggs and only 3 worms.

  • snoop92
    Original Author
    15 years ago

    Scissors?? As I was trying to pick off one with the chopsticks, it spewed out this dark greenish-bluish stuff....I'm STILL in shock. Can't believe how enormous they are.

    It looks like they've done damage to 4 of my plants, so far as I can tell.... booo...

    Can you tell me what the eggs look like so I can try to get rid of them if I see them?

    Bleck...this is giving me the chills!

    Now, I am getting obsessed with getting rid of these creeps!

  • k2marsh
    15 years ago

    I had several Toabco Hornworms early this year that I picked off. Last year I planted some carrots that bloomed this year, and attracted wasps and bees. It seems they have taken care of my hornworms as I haven't seen any for a long, long time.

    Squirrels eat the tomatoes on the fence.
    Rats eat the bottom out and leave the fruit hanging.

    Karyl
    =====

  • gman68558
    15 years ago

    A sharp stream of water every once in a while will knock pests of your plants, including the hornworms. Then you can just step on them or collect them in a jar for "show and tell" with the neighborhood kids!

  • tomakers
    15 years ago

    sautesmom said: "If it is hornworms, you will see green poop about the size of pinheads underneath the eaten parts, either on the tomato plant or on the ground. That's the easiest way to spot them, that or a blacklight."

    Are you saying a black light will show up hornworms? If it does I will have to get one. The darned things are soooo hard to spot. I've got 50 tomato plants in the ground, but i haven't found one hornworm as yet. Knock on wood. :-)
    I usually have the wasps to get rid of them anyhow.. If you see one with white dots (look almost like a grain of rice), let it go. It is the trichogamma(sp?)wasps. They will eat the caterpillar from the inside out and reproduce to kill more hornworms. Hooray!!

  • jmsimpson9
    15 years ago

    Can you tell me what the eggs look like so I can try to get rid of them if I see them?

    The ones I have found are very visible and bright green spheres. They are usually just single eggs. If you look for them they really stand out against the tomato foliage. I have read they are laid on the upper surface and the lower surface but I have only found them on the upper so far (maybe thats the 3 worms I found)

    I stake mine so its alot easier to find them than tomatoes in a cage. Just look on the upper surfaces of the leaves, once you see one they get real easy to spot.

    Heres a picture of a egg I found on the net, exactly what I have been picking off my plants:

    http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y89/PucPuggy/TobaccoHornwormEgg.jpg

  • TJG911
    15 years ago

    This thing left the tomatoes looking like a carved out letter "C," if that makes any sense.

    thw do that and i have never seen them eat a ripening tomato just green ones. they are extremely hard to find, i spent 15 minutes the other day looking at just 1 sun gold plant and finally gave up. the damage is typical thw but no droppings were seen. i sprayed bt that'll take care of all of them.

    you can pick them off but finding them "all" is difficult. how do you know whether there is 3 or 5 or 10? my advice is use bt. if you find a thw with dozens of white sacks on it leave it in place. those are eggs of a parasitic wasp and you want those eggs to hatch. at this point the thw will not eat much if anything.

    tom

  • littleonefb
    15 years ago

    Never saw a hornworm in 26 years growing tomatoes, that is until year 27. Didn't even know what one looked like and had never heard of them before either.

    Year 27 was last year and anyone who wonders how quickly they can destroy a tomato plant, trust me, it doesn't take very long.

    This was a tiny tim on Monday. 14 inches tall.
    {{gwi:434385}}

    It rained all day Tuesday, so was not outside to check anything or even see anything that was going on.

    Same tiny tim 9AM Wednesday morning.
    {{gwi:434387}}
    {{gwi:434386}}

    There was nothing but a few stems left and a couple of tomatoes.

    Luckily though, there was enough left in the season, half of August and all of Sept. for regrowth and toms before the frost set in.

    regrowing tiny tim


    This was on the other side of the yard, so none of the other tomato plants where affected, but trust me, i was going through those plants with a flashlight several times a day looking for any sign of them and found none.
    By the way, those hornworms measured 4 inches long and there where 2 of them on that poor little plant.

    So far this year no sign of them.

    A question though.

    My grandparents had a summer veggie and flower farm and my grandfather always swore by companion planting of marigolds and tomato plants.
    He always had marigolds surrounding his tom plants. and he had at least 150 tomato plants.

    I've always done the same thing when I plant them in the ground and when I use pots for the toms, I always plant a small growing marigold in the pot, right at the edge of the plant.

    I've never had an insect problem before in now 28 years of growing my toms, until last year.
    That one tiny tim didn't have a marigold in the pot with it, all the others had marigolds surrounding them and in pots with them and they never got any hornworms.

    Does anyone think that the marigolds help to keep the hornworm away or was last year just a coincidence and I've just been lucky all these years?

    Fran

  • dave1mn2
    15 years ago

    At least 3 generations of my family have used Marigolds, garlic and onions as companion plantings for as long as I can remember. All but this one are gone now so I can't ask why or where they learned of it and when.

    Some have said that Marigolds are a vector for thrips but I don't have that problem and plant, as you do a marigold in each pot. Its likely that you will find no study that passes as a standard of proof. Whether it helps or not, I can't say but I see no problem and they make me smile.

    You've been very lucky to have dodged the hornworm bullet for so long. Not many here this yr but a few and caught them before they were much more than an inch long or did much damage.

Sponsored
WellCraft Kitchen and Bath
Average rating: 5 out of 5 stars61 Reviews
Virginia’s Full Service Design-Build Remodeling Company