So, you have tomato hornworms in your garden chewing up your plant leaves and you need to get rid of them. Pronto.
These voracious, large, green caterpillars are coming out overnight and destroying your tomato, eggplant, pepper plant, or maybe even your tobacco plant!
They’re truly a hungry hungry caterpillar indeed.
So, how do we get rid of them naturally without chemicals and just use plain old DIY home remedies?
Read on, friend. Let’s protect your veggies from these little, hungry buggers. Don’t be afraid of their large size, they’re gentle giants that just have a big appetite.
But we can help with that, right?
In this guide, we’ll talk about:
- Why you have hornworms
- Where they’re coming from
- How they’re getting on your tomato plant
- Various ways to get rid of them naturally (DIY style)
- Natural techniques to keep them away permanently
- Other goodies notes, and common questions about hornworm control and elimination
By the end of this pest guide, you should have a solid foundation to manage and eradicate them from your garden plants with ease.
Bookmark this page because you’ll want to easily jump back to it for reference.
If you have any questions, please post a comment at the end of this page and I’ll get back to you ASAP (as always).
Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This specific article contains affiliate links to relevant products, which means I may receive a small commission if you complete a purchase. This does not affect/bias the content in any way, nor does it cost you a cent more than what you’d normally pay for helpful products. Please read the Terms of Service for further information. Thanks for supporting the site.
Sound good? Let’s send those hornworms out of your yard!
What’s a hornworm?
Hornworms (Manduca quinquemaculata) are those classic hungry, hungry caterpillars you see outside eating your crops, especially tomatoes!
These aren’t actually worms, but rather caterpillars that are still larvae.
They eventually turn into a gray-silver moth, which is a lot uglier than the original caterpillars (but that’s just my opinion).
Hornworms are commonly found on tomato plants and will be consuming those fresh harvests rapidly.
They have a voracious appetite and will chew holes, destroy leaves, and eat your tomato harvest before you get a taste yourself.
In this guide, we’ll cover various ways you can control, manage, and eradicate hornworms for good from your garden.
Many different names have been made up for tomato hornworms.
Because they eat a variety of plants, they usually get the traditional “plant name” + “caterpillar” attached to their original alias.
Here are some of the most common names for hornworms:
- Tomato worms
- Eggplant caterpillars
- Eggplant hornworms
- Eggplant worms
- Pepper caterpillars
- Potato hornworm
- Potato worms
- Potato caterpillars
- Tobacco hornworm
- Tobacco hornworms
Note that tobacco hornworms are a different species, but the two are often confused and used interchangeably.
Appearance – What do hornworms look like?
Tomato hornworms are known for their large size.
A single caterpillar can be up to 5” in length!
This means you could potentially see a giant green caterpillar crawling across your tomatoes when you harvest.
Don’t drop the crop!
Each caterpillar is green or yellow, sometimes pale, and has a sharp horn coming out of its rear end.
They also have noticeable patterns that go down their dorsal (top side) shaped like “V”s.
The markings are usually yellow while the majority of the body is green. Their head has visible eyes and many tiny white spots throughout the body.
The strips are accompanied by a pair of spots on both sides, which are usually orange or tan.
See the pictures throughout this guide for more info on identifying hornworms.
Don’t get them confused with other caterpillars like cabbage loopers, Mandevilla caterpillars, and woolly bear caterpillars.
Tobacco hornworms (Manduca sexta) vs. tomato hornworms
Both of these hornworms are very similar in appearance and habitat, so it’s easy to get them confused.
The terms are often used interchangeably because they’re so alike. But it’s important to note that they’re different species.
You can tell the difference between the two hornworms by looking for these clues:
- Tobacco hornworms have white markings going down their backs
- Tomato hornworms have yellow stripes that are shaped like the letter V
- Tobacco hornworms have dark, black spots at the end of their white stripes, while tomato hornworms don’t have any spots
- Tobacco hornworms have diagonal white stripes
- Tomato hornworms have a black pointed end
- Tobacco hornworms have a red pointed end
- Both species feed on the same plants- tomato hornworms don’t only eat tomato while tobacco hornworms don’t only et tobacco
- Both species eat potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, etc.
- They both eat the same Solanaceae family of plants.
You can use the same techniques to get rid of either pest because they respond similarly to various home remedies for eradication.
What plants do they eat?
Hornworms love small stems, unripe fruit, and entire leaves. They eat a variety of plants.
Here are some of the most common plants hornworms have been seen eating:
- Jimson Weed
- Solanaceous plants (nightshade)
- Mulberry leaves
Do hornworms bite?
Hornworms are harmless to humans as they can’t bite or sting.
The sharp thorn sticking out of their posterior may look like it can hurt you, but it’s quite soft
Caterpillars will scurry away and hide rather than try to fight.
They’re a very easy target to catch for their natural predators like birds and small rodents.
Can you touch them?
Yes. You can handle tomato hornworms because they don’t bite, even though their “horn” looks scary.
hey’ll likely wiggle and squirm away. Many people raise them as pets or as live food for their reptile. You should avoid touching when possible and wash your hands if you must.
Note that hornworms may excrete a brown liquid when you try to touch them. This is also known as “tobacco juice” which is a defense mechanism to scare off predators.
Use gloves and protect your body from this secretion and wash your hands with soap afterward.
Avoid contact with eyes, nose, mouth, etc. Use common sense.
Where do hornworms go during the day?
Hornworms feed during the evening and hide during the day.
This can make them hard to spot, but if you go out at night with a flashlight, you can often catch them munching on your plants.
Sometimes they may be seen in the daytime if they’re foraging or disturbed, but often, they’ll be hiding in the stems, leaves, and camouflaged with the rest of your tomato plants.
Like most other caterpillars, hornworms are active at night (nocturnal) rather than during the day.
They know they’re an easy target for birds, rodents, and other animals, so they come out when it’s safest to do so.
Conversely, their main predators are active during the daylight hours, so they never meet.
But if you use natural predators to control them, they’ll dig through your tomatoes to find any struggling hornworms and eat them. They can’t hide forever.
If you’ve ever woken up the next day only to see your tomato destroyed by hornworms, this is likely their work overnight.
Remember that they eat plenty of food and will do it quickly.
A single night is enough to do visible damage to your plants- especially if there are a lot of them.
Where do hornworms come from?
Hornworms are found in most areas of the United States and some southern areas of Canada.
Depending on where you live, the species of hornworm you deal with vary. There are over 1400 different types of species (including the moths).
The most popular species are:
- Tobacco hornworm
- Elephant Hawk-moth
- Hummingbird Hawk-moth
- Pellucid Hawk-moth
- Oleander Hawk-moth
- Convolvulus Hawk-moth
- White-lined Hawk-moth
- Privet Hawk-moth
- Striped Hawk-moth
- Tetrio sphinx
- Lime Hawk-moth
- Poplar Hawk-moth
- Eyed Hawk-moth
In the garden, they come from large adult moths that deposit their eggs on the leaves.
These moths are known as hummingbird moths because of their large size and distinct patterns. They’re also called hornworm moths or sphinx moths.
They hide the eggs on the bottom of the foliage so that they’re well hidden from human eyes.
The adult moth will leave the eggs and abandon them right after she lays them.
The eggs sit there and incubate for about 7 days, then they hatch into tiny caterpillars. These are the larvae that eventually update into the original adult moth.
The caterpillars then start foraging for food and wreak havoc on your tomato and other plants in the nightshade family.
They feed for about 6 weeks, depending on species type and local conditions (temperatures, food availability, competition, pests, predators, etc.).
After they’ve eaten enough of your tomatoes, they’ll spin a cocoon and undergo pupation.
After about 3 weeks, they emerge from the cocoon as adult moths and repeat the cycle.
Hornworm moths lay eggs in the spring, which is shortly after they come out of their cocoon.
Warmer conditions generally mean more moths, faster pupation times, and widespread hornworms munching down your crops.
Industrial farmers use heavy compounds to eliminate them.
But for typical gardeners, we can resort to organic or natural ways to get rid of hornworms.
Damage from hornworms
Other than seeing the actual hornworm eating your plant, there are some other telltale signs that your plants have a hornworm problem:
- Spotty leaves
- Chewed leaves
- Brown foliage
- Damaged or eaten crop
- Visible eggs on the bottom of leaves
- Visible adult moths hovering around the plant
- Plant damage, defoliation, or destroyed flowers
- Burned plants
- Poor leaf count
- Holes in the leaves
- Worm droppings on the leaf surfaces (frass)
- Visible hornworms on the foliage, stems, or dirt (the obvious sign of hornworms
Veins remaining behind on the leaves or stems
You should see the large adult moths laying eggs in the spring by flying on the bottom of leaves. You can see them in the act.
They’ll fly to the underside and sit there for a bit as they deposit the hornworm eggs.
The hornworms will also be seen on the top of the host plant at first.
They feed on the top-down, so you should be able to spot any leaf damage.
Check for leaf tears, holes, and jagged edges. The caterpillars will make this impression when they first start feeding, so you can catch them before they get to your crops.
Tomato hornworms will also leave behind droppings.
Their poop looks like black or green spots that are usually left on the stems or leaves of your plants.
If you see droppings on a single leaf, turn it over. You’ll probably see a hornworm there. Remove it and get rid of it.
Stems that are dropping or wilted with the leaves hanging down are usually full of cocoons. Find any hornworms or cocoons on that specific branch.
They eat the most when they feed to get ready for pupation into an adult.
The adult moths rarely do any damage of concern. The damage to worry about comes from the caterpillar because its only job is to feed and grow. That’s it.
It has nothing else to do other than to get the proper nutrients for development and pupation. This is why the larvae are the problem and the biggest threat to your plants
Since they’re green, they can camouflage and blend in with their host plants to hide from predators and humans.
This makes them hard to see unless you know where to look.
Even though hornworms are huge, they can still make themselves nearly invisible when properly blended in with the plant’s natural color.
How long can Hornworms live?
What is the life cycle of a tomato hornworm?
A tomato hornworm has a lifecycle just like most other caterpillars. The process starts with an adult moth laying eggs on the undersides of leaves.
This moth (hawk, horn, hummingbird, or sphinx moth) is large with brown, black, silver, and other dark-tone patterns. The moths will lay eggs in late spring, which are green-white and hidden from view.
After a few days to weeks (4-5 days on average), depending on local temperatures, the larvae (caterpillars) come out and begin to feed.
They’ll eat all night until they’re ready to pupate in the soil. They’ll fall off the host plant, dig into the soil, and begin pupating into a cocoon.
They overwinter in the soil so the cold doesn’t kill hornworms or their moth counterparts. The soil protects them from the cold weather and ensures that they’re OK.
The adult comes out of the soil in the spring and the process starts over again.
What do hornworm eggs look like?
Hornworm eggs look like small white pill-shaped capsules that are loathed on the bottom of the leaves.
Sometimes, they’re deposited on the top side of leaves. The adult moths lay eggs in late spring and they hatch about a week later.
They can be anywhere from white to yellow to green in color and are about 0.10cm in diameter (short side).
How do you kill hornworm eggs?
The easiest way is to prune off the leaves that have visible eggs stuck to them.
You’ll be getting rid of a large population of them at once with each leaf you prune. The eggs can be dipped into a soapy water solution to fully eradicate the caterpillars.
Additionally, using Bt can help stop moths from depositing the eggs because they’ll never be born.
Bt will kill the caterpillars before they can pupate into the adult form, so this will stop them from ever laying eggs in the first place.
If you want to get rid of the eggs without peeling off leaves from your plants, you can use a sponge or toothbrush to brush them off.
Dip the brush or sponge into a mild soap and water solution to gently remove the eggs from your leaves.
This is useful for younger plants where the foliage shouldn’t be removed so they can gather sunlight and grow. If you spot eggs on your seedlings, clean them off.
on’t prune off the foliage because they’re critical at this point.
Do tomato hornworms eat other plants?
Tomato hornworms don’t only eat tomatoes, as their name suggests. These large green caterpillars also eat other members of the Solanaceae family.
These are nightshade plants, which include peppers, potatoes, tobacco, and eggplants.
Because of this, hornworms have had many different aliases created but they all refer to the same pest!
If you’re growing other nightshade plants in your yard, the tomato hornworms can easily discover your other crops and start feeding on them.
Remember the infestation can start on ANY of their common host plants- not only tomatoes.
You could find hornworms on your potatoes first, then later on your tomatoes. Or on your peppers, then on your eggplants. Depending on where the moths lay their eggs, the hornworms typically don’t leave their host plant.
But if they’re disturbed or knocked off, they may crawl across your yard and find their way to your other crops.
This is why isolation and identifying the affected crop right away is important.
They’ll eat your crops extremely quickly and destroy them.
What does hornworm poop look like?
Hornworm poop is dark brown or black and is often found on the bottom of leaves or the surfaces (topside).
They have segmented portions and look like small pineapples.
The frass can be a sure sign of a hornworm problem on your tomato, pepper, eggplant, or another nightshade plant.
What are those white things on the back of the hornworm?
Those are the larvae of braconid wasps. These parasitic wasps lay their eggs and their larvae feed on the hornworm.
If you see a worm crawling around with these white eggs on its back, it’ll die on its own.
Pretty scary, right?
Should you kill tomato worms?
Although some people keep hornworms as a pet and raise it until it becomes a moth, they do more harm than good to your plants.
If you let them be, they’ll spiral out of control if there’s enough food.
They breed until the ecosystem in your garden can’t support them anymore.
But by then, your tomato plants will be gone and destroyed.
Hornworms are also used for feeding reptiles other than a neat temporary pet.
Besides that, they should be ridden of if you’re growing plants.
How do hornworms get on tomato plants?
Hornworms come from eggs, which are deposited on the tomato plant’s leaves.
They’re usually hidden on the bottom of the leaf which makes them hard to see.
They hatch within a few weeks and the young caterpillar will begin to devour any leaves it comes into contact with.
The plant where it was born is considered the host plant.
They rarely leave their host plant and will often spend all their time eating from the same foliage until the plant has nothing left.
If this happens, hornworms will drop from the plant and crawl to a neighboring one.
Tomato hornworms don’t only eat tomato plants. They also eat other plants in the nightshade family and love the leaves.
How to get rid of tomato worms naturally
Here are some ways you can get rid of tomato worms on your plants without using chemicals.
Depending on the severity of your hornworm infestation, you’ll want to try different techniques to see what works for you.
No single technique works for everyone. So experiment and see what does.
Use a combo of different DIY home remedies at the same time for efficiency’s sake.
Remove them manually
Because hornworms are so big, removing them with your hands is very damaging to their population and can get them under control.
If you have a small infestation, manual removal may completely eliminate them entirely.
Put on some garden gloves and get a bucket. Fill it up with dish detergent and water.
The mixture doesn’t need to be exact- a few tablespoons of dish soap and a quart of water should do. Mix it so it produces suds. Head out to your tomato plant.
Using your gloves, pick off any hornworms you see and toss them into the bucket. The soap water will kill them in a few minutes.
Check your plant thoroughly, especially the undersides of leaves. This is where they like to hide.
Also, check on the opposite side of stems and around the base of the soil surface. These worms are excellent hiders and will do what they can to minimize exposure to predators (like humans).
They also blend in with the green foliage very well, so they can be right in front of your eyes without you knowing.
Any hornworms that you see, pick them off and toss them away.
Hornworms are harmless to humans and can’t bite, so don’t be afraid.
But you should be aware of any other insects around that may bite or hurt you- such as bees and fire ants.
Manual removal is a pain and is very slow.
But it works for small infestations, especially if you also control the eggs (which we’ll cover later in this guide).
If you only have a few hornworms (you see 1-2 a week), simply peeling them off your plant by hand may work to fully eliminate their population.
Spray them with a hose
You can use a hose to spray them off if you’re afraid of touching them with your fingers.
The hose pressure is enough to knock them off your tomato plants on minimal settings.
All you need is a nozzle (or you can use your thumb) to regulate it. These caterpillars have very poor grip and will fall off your plant easily without effort.
You can water and remove those pesky caterpillars at the same time.
Spraying them off won’t kill the theme, but it will help disturb them and possibly get them to go away.
If you have the time, toss them into a bucket of soapy water after they fall off to fully eliminate them.
Shake the plants
This method removes a ton of bugs at the same time.
The trick is to get a shallow bowl large enough to cover the entire span of your plant. You can use an oil drip pan or laundry pan.
Fill it up with a mixture of soapy water just like the prior steps. Then place it under your plant’s foliage.
Go ahead and shake your plant. The caterpillars will fall off and land in the pan and drown.
This method is easy, efficient, and effective because you can leave the pan there and just walk by and shake your plants before nightfall and in the early morning.
All the loose hornworms will fall off and drown. Plus, you remove a lot of them at the same time so it’s less time you need to waste on your part.
Of course, you’ll want to empty the pan and clean it every now and then.
Leaving the caterpillars there will attract other pests to your yard to eat them- especially if the soap water evaporates.
Use a vacuum
A vacuum cleaner isn’t just for dust.
Whether you have an upright one or a portable handheld vacuum, both can be a good tool to use to get rid of hornworms.
After they feed, get out there with your vacuum of choice and start sucking them up! A shop vac does wonders to remove bugs.
Suck around the stem and on the bottom of leaves to get any hiding ones.
After you do a good round, empty the canister or toss the bag. They can crawl back out and infest another plant in your garden, so don’t let them do that.
If you only have an upright vacuum, you can do the same with a hose nozzle attachment.
Note that hornworms are huge. They can span up to 5 inches and can clog your vacuum or leave a huge mess.
Don’t use a vacuum that’s not rated for larger objects and don’t use a vacuum that you care about.
A canister vacuum is perfect for the job, but it’s usually going to be wired.
Make your own hornworm spray
You can make a natural insecticide that kills hornworms with a few simple ingredients.
It’s based on the dish soap method, which is the most popular DIY home solution on the planet.
Dish soap is touted to kill anything from aphids to scorpions to lemon bugs.
And caterpillars are no exception. It’ll slowly kill them once you spritz them with a good amount.
All you need is a few tablespoons of dish detergent and water.
You can try adding some jalapeno slices, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, or essential oils to help strengthen the mixture.
This will kill hornworms without any chemicals and it’ll leave behind a residue to keep them off your plants.
Attract natural predators
Hornworms are big tasty treats for a variety of specimens out there that would love to get them in their mouths.
Depending on where you live, check out the native wildlife in your area and see what you can attract.
Bait them to your yard by making it more favorable for them and they’ll find and hunt down the tomato hornworms on their own.
They can definitely reduce the total population and possibly even eliminate it.
What eats hornworms?
Hornworms have no hard shell on the outside (chitin) and are commonly sold as live food in the reptile industry (known as rainbow mealworms- not related to the regular mealworm).
They’re a nutritious food source for many reptiles and animals so they have no problem feeding on them.
Here are some of the most common species that eat hornworms:
- Braconid wasps
- Green anoles
- Adult bearded dragons
- Leopard geckos
- Various amphibians
- Eastern bluebirds
Do birds eat hornworms?
Birds are the primary predator of caterpillars. Make your garden favorable to them by attracting them and luring them in.
Set up bird feeders, birdbaths, and birdhouses to help bring them in.
Both omnivorous and carnivorous birds will happily eat up hornworms like no other.
You can also prune your plants a bit so the hornworms are exposed. Birds already have sharp eyes, but cutting back the foliage will help make the caterpillars easier to see.
Don’t underestimate the power of birds.
The more you have, the more “workers” you have to catch and eat those pesky caterpillars for you.
Find out which of these are already present around your neighborhood and attract more of them.
Search online to see how you can bring more of them to your garden.
Use insecticidal soaps
There are some soaps you can purchase straight from the hardware store that are effective in killing hornworms and other caterpillars.
Use as directed.
Get an organic or natural one if possible.
Use this only if you’ve tried to make your own DIY pesticide and it didn’t work.
Avoid soaps with synthetic compounds.
This is important because you’ll be eating those edibles so you don’t want to spray with a bunch of dangerous residues, right?
Get ladybugs to eat the eggs
Ladybugs are excellent beneficial insects that will help control pest populations.
Although ladybugs can be a pest themselves (especially on your patio or in campers during camping season), they also help eat aphid eggs and swarm live bugs, including hornworms.
Ladybugs will forage your plants and seek out any bugs that are available to eat. They eat anything from eggs to larvae to adults.
Ladybugs will attack hornworms if they’re small enough to eat, and possibly eat the eggs that are hidden on the bottom of leaves.
They’re like a natural janitor that cleans your tomato or tobacco plants for you 24/7. For free.
Not all areas in the US are native to ladybugs. If you don’t have any nearby, you obviously can’t attract them. So buy them online.
Sellers sell ladybugs specifically for pest control by the bulk. You release them into your yard in batches and they take care of the hornworms and their eggs.
If you have potted plants, you can bring them into a greenhouse and release the ladybugs inside.
Then they can’t escape and will continue to forage until there are no hornworms left.
If you find hornworms eating your seedlings you can bring them indoors and use ladybugs to control them inside a miniature greenhouse.
Ladybugs will leave on their own when there’s nothing left to eat. They also won’t harm your plants provided that there are enough live bugs from them to hunt.
They’re one of the best ways to get rid of caterpillars without having to use any dangerous compounds, sprays, or bug pesticides.
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)
Bt is a naturally occurring nematode commonly used specifically for pest control, especially in large farming industries.
This bacterium will destroy the caterpillar’s internals when ingested and prevent them from being able to pupate and propagate, so it directly halts their lifecycle.
The catch is that Bt must be eaten by the hornworm for it to be effective, but can completely eradicate a hornworm infestation if correctly used.
You should only use Bt as a last resort as many people don’t use it correctly.
Proper application requires a multitude of steps and you must follow the instructions from the supplier.
Regardless, you can purchase Bt online and from specialty nurseries in your area.
Typically, you’ll mix it and then spray it on affected plants. The hornworms will consume the Bt indirectly and then it’ll eliminate them over time.
Bt is not instant and takes time to work. Avoid using Bt for smaller hornworm problems- only use it for larger infestations in your yard.
Note that Bt will be useless if it rains or if you have irrigation systems that wash away soil additives.
Bt is considered an organic pesticide and safe for vegetable crops, as it doesn’t harm plants, people, and animals.
Does neem oil kill hornworms?
Neem oil can be very effective for caterpillar control.
It’s one of the most touted essential oils in the pest control community because it can wipe anything from flea beetles buzzing around your lights to spiders in your house.
Neem oil is concentrated and needs to be properly diluted before you apply it to anything.
Here’s a video that shows one example of dilution:
After you dilute it to your mixture, spray your tomato plant early in the morning or after sunset.
Never spray when the sun is up or will be up soon.
Neem leaves behind a residue that covers your plant’s foliage, which protects it from further pest infestations and even fungal problems.
The neem burns your plant’s leaves because it traps heat and prevents natural oxygen exchange. After you spray you should also wash off any excess neem oil stuck on the foliage.
The neem will help keep hornworms off your plants naturally.
And it keeps them off. The sticky residue leftover on your leaves helps repel them.
Use as directed. Note that neem can be dangerous for some animals and individuals. Read the MSDS of your particular concentrate before you use it. It contains important info on the hazards of the oil.
Here’s one MSDS, for your reference.
Do your research before using it, especially because you’re applying it to edible plants.
Does diatomaceous earth kill hornworms?
Diatomaceous earth is reported to dry out hornworms and kill them slowly.
DE is commonly marketed as a pool cleaning product or as a supplement for humans. If you decide to try using DE for hornworm control, make sure you get the SUPPLEMENT (e.g. edible) version.
Harris (Amazon) makes a food-grade DE that has a powder duster for easy application.
Do NOT use the pool grade DE for pest control.
Sprinkle the crystals around your tomato plants as a barrier that forces the hornworms to cross.
You can also place the powder in a small circle around the base of each plant stem so that the green caterpillar needs to climb over it to get on your tomato plants.
This can act like an invisible wall for each of your tomato plants.
Just make sure that none of the foliage droops down or touches some other fixture like a trellis for the wall.
Or else the caterpillars will just climb up those structures and bypass the diatomaceous earth.
DE is safe to use around plants because it’s an edible dietary supplement.
Get an organic one if possible. Read labels and follow instructions and warnings when using.
Use plastic mulch
Plastic mulch can help prevent any adult flies from coming out of the soil.
Hornworms will pupate into adult moths which come out to mate in the springtime. If they can’t escape the soil, then they get stuck under the substrate and can’t breed.
This stops their lifecycle and greatly reduces the number of horn moths flying around, which then means fewer worms to deal with. Darker mulch works more effectively.
Use synthetic plastic or rubber as natural mulch degrades. If you want to stay organic or natural, apply a layer of mulch thick enough to prevent sphinx moths from coming out.
How do you prevent hornworms?
After you’ve taken care of the hornworms and eliminated the infestation, you’ll want to take steps to prevent and control hornworms to keep them away from your tomato plants.
While it’s hard to get rid of hornworms for good, there are still things you can do to make your plants not as favorable as before to these buggers.
Here are some tips to keep tomato worms away and get rid of them- for good.
Use natural companion plants
Some plants will help deter hornworms from getting on to your plants.
You can companion plant them with your tomato, eggplant, pepper, or other crops prone to hornworms to help naturally repel them for good.
Here are a few that may deter hornworms from your garden:
Depending on your hardiness zone, do some reading to see which ones grow in your area and plant them next to your veggies.
You can plant them around your crops like a barrier or plant them between your tomatoes.
Either way helps deter them from your garden.
Choose plants that won’t compete for soil nutrients with your tomato or vulnerable plants.
Companion planting works to help keep the hornworms out without using any dangerous compounds.
Plus, visitors will never even know the difference since it all blends. Be sure to choose the right plant that does well in your hardiness zone.
Dill plants do especially well to lure the caterpillars away from your tomatoes and to your dill instead. It can be used as a decoy/fake bait to get them off your tomatoes.
Practice crop rotation
Regular crop rotation will help prevent hornworms from infesting future plants.
Avoid planting crops that are prone to caterpillar infestations in the yard.
Plant with something other than vegetables or fruits, then rotate back after a few years. This will help prevent the worms from staying in the same place because they have an endless supply of food.
Check for hornworms when tilling
Similar to checking your foliage daily for hornworms, you should also check the soil when you till.
You’ll often find hornworms in the soil when you till it- what you’re getting ready for replanting or rotating your crops.
The soil will contain pupae that are soon to emerge in a horn moth that’ll go off breeding and making more caterpillars.
Dig these up and dunk them in some soapy water. This will kill them and prevent them from emerging as adults.
If you must resort to using store-bought pesticides for hornworms, here’s what to look for.
I strongly suggest avoiding commercial sprays because they contain some pretty nasty compounds and lingering residues.
After all, you’ll be eating the plants that you spray.
So that doesn’t sound too safe.
But if you don’t plan on eating the harvest or you just want to get rid of hornworms on non-edible plants, these ingredients can help:
- Bacillus thuringiensis (var. kurstaki)
- Carbaryl (avoid on edible plants)
Some of the more popular brand names on the market are the following:
- Monterey Bt (Amazon)
- SaferBrands Caterpillar Killer (Amazon)
- Thuricide by Bonide (Amazon)
- Dipel Pro DF (Amazon)
- Bonide Bt (Amazon)
Read all directions before use. Use as directed. Avoid using synthetics and stick with natural or organic methods to control, manage, and eliminate tomato hornworms when possible.
Will Sevin Dust kill tomato hornworms?
Sevin Dust is a highly popular dust application (also available in a sprayer applicator xyz) that eliminates hornworms upon contact.
For some reason, a lot of readers ask about this particular insecticide. I think it’s because it’s so commonly sold in stores. So people are curious about it.
Yes, it does kill hornworms and targets them directly. If you decide to use Sevin Dust, be sure to read the labels and use as directed.
Again, try to use some natural or organic home remedies first before you take out the big weapons.
Here are some additional references you may find useful:
Did you get rid of the hornworms on your plants?
You should now have everything you need to know to quickly and effectively get rid of the hornworm caterpillars on your tomatoes, eggplants, tobacco plants, etc.
The process is straightforward and they’re relatively easy to control, manage, and eradicate compared to other, smaller caterpillars.
Hornworms are large and can be removed manually. Traps can be used. Deterrents and repellents can keep them away naturally.
Be patient and persistent!
If you have any questions, drop a comment below and let me know.
If you’ve dealt with these pests before and have any tips or suggestions for other people, please share your experience by leaving a comment.
Lastly, if you found this page somewhat helpful, please let me know as well!
Consider telling a friend in your gardening community who may find it beneficial.
Thanks for reading!
Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.
I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).
Fight nature with nature.
2 thoughts on “How to Get Rid of Tomato Hornworms Naturally (DIY Remedies)”
Excellent information that I needed. I appreciate all the information on getting rid of hornworms naturally.
Did you know that hornworms glow under UV? I picked 20 off just last night and this morning using a popular UV flashlight I got on Amazon. I’ve probably picked 80 off in total.