I was in creepy awe the day when we first met.
Hornworm: The larvae stage of the Sphinx or Hawk Moth
Appearance: Thickly coated body with a horn near the rear.
Color: Significantly Camouflaged in Green.
Size: Large 3 – 4 inches
Eats: tomato, potato, tobacco, eggplant, pepper…very fast!
Footprint: Defoliating plants – Yellow green eggs on underside of leaves – Small specks of dark colored droppings.
Found: Usually under the branches and closest to the trunk.
Companion Plants: Marigolds, Borage, Anise, Petunia deter the Tomato Hornworm while inviting predatory insects.
Predatory Insects: Braconid Wasps, Lacewing, Lady Beetles
Treat the Soil: Give the soil a thorough treatment by tilling as deep as 6 inches to destroy any cocoons after harvest. Kills nearly 100%
Removal: Hand pick to remove. Yuck!
A Braconid Wasp laid eggs inside this Hornworm. The white, rice-like larvae are Braconid Wasp cocoons. The larvae live off of the Hornworm eventually killing it thus preventing it from transforming into yet another Sphinx/Hawk Moth who would lay more eggs that would eat more host plants like tomato plants. The baby wasps eventually break out of their cocoons. Their mission is to find even more Hornworms to lay eggs inside. Infected Hornworms never live long enough to form a cocoon, fly like a moth, or lay more eggs.
Leaving the wasp cocoon covered Hornworm alone will insure the wasp cocoons mature into wasps to hunt and destroy more Hornworms. The infected Hornworm will die & turn brown long before it can transform itself into an egg laying moth.
Adult Hornworms who continue their life cycle eventually fall from the host plant, (our food), and tunnel as deep as six inches into the soil to transform into the pupae stage. Eventually adult moths emerge from the cocoon, mate, lay more eggs, eat more plants. Eggs laid during the fall remain dormant until spring when they will emerge as moths. This is why tilling the soil at least six inches down after the harvest in the fall will likely prevent an infestation in next year’s crop.
Working with our earth by planting companion plants to attract specific predatory insects is a sustainable method of urban farming without chemicals or pesticides.
Urban Farming? How do you combat hornworms?