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How to Control Green Tomato Hornworms

If you’re experiencing destructive green worms on tomatoes, you are in need of ways to control green tomato hornworms. 

And now, you’re wondering how to control green tomato hornworms you’re spotting on the leaves of your precious tomato plants!

Control green tomato hornworms before they destroy your tomato plants. They are fairly easy to spot, but can really blend in to the leaves if you aren’t looking for them. They actually look just like a big caterpillar. And they cause just as much damage or more.

Maybe you’ve heard the story of the Very Hungry Caterpillar? What a cute story, right?

To be honest, most of us gardeners do not think it is cute when we find out plants with caterpillars on them. I just cringe at the thought of the caterpillar eating through “one big green leaf” at the end of the story.  Because insect destruction affects the amount of veggies or fruits you get for yourself!

So, it’s worth it to me to use products and strategies that work in order to save our food source. And I’m going to share some of those strategies I’ve used to control green tomato hornworms in my own tomato garden. 

Listen to the Podcast Episode Here:


In this post, I will cover:

  • How to identify green tomato hornworms.
  • How to spot sneaky green worms on tomatoes.
  • Determining the difference between the green tomato hornworm and it’s cousin the green tobacco hornworm. 
  • And how to control green tomato hornworms before they cause too much damage. 

There are actually several different ways to control green tomato hornworms. But first, we must get to know about these green worms on tomatoes just a little bit more.

Control Green Tomato Horn Worms

Tomato Worms Life Cycle

The green tomato hornworms are a larvae of the five-spotted hawk moth. The baby larvae is pale green in color and has “V” shaped markings with a horn that is often black in color.

Sizewise, the green tomato hornworm is 3 1/2 to 4 inches long. It has five pairs of prolegs with the horn on the last segment. The caterpillar grows very quickly and passes through about five larval stages to reach full size in a tomato hornworm month.

These caterpillars in the larva stage is the most damaging. After they hatch from their tomato hornworm eggs, they eat the leaves and stems of tomato plants. One way to determine that this is indeed the work of the green tomato hornworm is the droppings they leave behind. These droppings look like dark green or black round droppings.

Droppings are just one way you can spot them. The other more obvious way to recognize their presence is to just look at your plants. In just a matter of hours, a beautiful, full, leafy plant can look tattered and battered.

Then, if you look closer at your plant, you’ll probably see green tomato hornworm attached to the leaves or stems of the plant. They really like to hide underneath. They think they are so sneaky and that you won’t find them.

But, you need to find them. You need to control green tomato horn worm. If you don’t you will lose plant after plant after plant. Until you have no plants. Time is of the essence.

So, start controlling this destructive hornworm with you first see it. But, what are you looking for? Let’s take a step back and discuss the physical appearance of the tomato hornworm. 

Control Green Tomato Hornworms

Physical Difference between Tomato Hornworm and Tobacco Hornworm

Look closely at my first picture above. There are two different worms in it. Did you notice?

If you did, then you get brownie points! The tomato hornworm and tobacco hornworm are mistaken for each other constantly. I even mis-identified them in the very beginning of my research.

The two green look a likes are very similar in nature but there are a couple of significant physical differences.

Here’s how they are different:

  • The tobacco hornworm caterpillar has black margins on its white stripes and it has a red horn. The tomato hornworm has green margins on its white stripes and it’s horn is blue.
  • The tobacco hornworm has six orange spots on his abdomen. Tomato hornworm has only five spots. 

Now, here’s how they are alike:

  • Both eat tobacco and tomatoes. 
  • Bright green in color.
  • Very Similar Life Cycle: (Egg, Caterpillar, Moth)
  • Parasitised by wasps.
  • Similar droppings

And control parameters are essentially the same for both tobacco and tomato hornworms. There are a couple of ways to go about controlling hornworms depending on your beliefs. Let’s take a look into how to get rid of tomato hornworms (and tobacco hornworms, too).

Organic Control Method

If you desire an organic method to combat green tomato hornworm, simply handpicking them is actually an effective option. Just pull them off and step on them to kill them. Be careful! If you squeeze them too hard, they will throw up yucky green fluid on you.

Another way to kill them would be to carry a bucket of insecticidal soap. Pick the worms off and drop them into the bucket. That’ll take care of them!

You can also spray the plants with an organic product such as neem oil. The main objective is to make sure these pesky hornworms do not return to your garden spot.

So, the trick to actually using organic methods effectively is to stay on top of checks. And I mean daily. Check for eggs first and then the little caterpillars. Don’t wait until your plants start to look bad. The hornworms are already winning at this point!

And if you’re plants got to the point where the hornworms have won, it might be time to use a stronger method of control. 

control green tomato hornworm

Insecticidal Control Methods

Most over-the-counter insecticides can also be useful if you so choose to use them in your garden. Many gardeners use a product called Sevin to control a multitude of insects. Including green tomato hornworm (and tobacco worms, too). You can buy Sevin in either a powder or spray form. 

There are also many other options for insecticides besides Sevin at your local garden center. You can also check around with mentors or neighbors to see what they are using to control hornworms in their tomato gardens. 

How I Control Green Hornworms

So, I would suggest hand picking as many worms as possible first and then applying spray or powder to the plants. Especially if you have a small garden spot. However, if your tomato patch is more than you can handle to handpick worms, you’ll want to just go ahead and apply the control.

When you’re hand picking, please make sure you’re checking under the leaves. The little boogers like to hide there so physically turning them over is the best way to spot them. 

Again, it doesn’t matter which control method you choose to use to control green tomato hornworms. What matters is that they do not return to destroy the rest of your garden.

Control Green Tomato Hornworms

Save Your Plants From Destruction

In conclusion, it really doesn’t matter what you choose to use to control green tomato hornworm. There are a couple of different methods you could use to control green tomato hornworms based on your beliefs.

Organic and conventional methods both work great to control green tomato hornworm. Choose one or the other for proactive control and regain control of your garden.

Proactive care and decision making are the first initial steps in providing quality control measures for ridding your precious tomato plants from yucky tomato hornworms. Don’t ever think you won’t get them. They are there. Waiting for the right moment. Let them know they’ve arrived at the wrong garden by controlling them on the spot to prevent complete destruction.

What Method Would You Choose To Control Green Tomato Hornworm?


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