by Jennifer Poindexter
Are you growing tomatoes in your garden this year? Have you seen signs of the tomato fruit worm? Maybe you aren’t even sure what this pest is, but you’d like to know more. Whether you have fruit worms or want to stay ahead by gaining knowledge about them, you’re in the right place.
I’m going to walk you through what you should know about the tomato fruit worm. I’ll also tell you how you can spot signs of it in your garden and what you can do to combat the issue.
If you want to do all you can to protect your tomato harvest, check out this information, and put these tips into practice. Here’s what you should know about the tomato fruit worm.
How to Identify the Tomato Fruit Worm
The tomato fruit worm may be seen in your garden in various forms. This pest lays its eggs on the foliage of plants throughout your growing area. The eggs are as small as a water droplet. They don’t look like what you might expect of an egg. Instead, they’re flat and white in color.
Once the eggs hatch, the larvae appear. They’re white and covered in small black hairs. As the fruit worm grows, it will change colors. A larger larvae might be green or yellow, but it still maintains the black hairs. It will then transform into a brown pupa.
When the fruit worm reaches adulthood, it will be a tan moth. You should look for this bug in any of the above-mentioned forms to ensure you recognize any potential threats loitering in your garden.
This pest is sometimes confused with the tomato hornworm. Be advised of their few differences. The tomato hornworm is larger than the tomato fruit worm by approximately two inches.
The hornworm is typically four inches in length, where the fruit worm only grows to be about two inches long.
Also, the hornworm is bright green. The fruit worm may be green, but it’s typically covered in black hair where the hornworm isn’t.
Now that you understand how to identify this threat in your garden, let’s discuss why the tomato fruit worm is a threat to begin with.
What the Tomato Fruit Worm Does in Your Garden
The fruit worm is a busy pest in the garden. Though the worm is frequently called the tomato fruit worm, it also goes by a few other names. They are cotton bollworm and corn earworm.
This should let you know the pest doesn’t only feed on tomatoes. In fact, the tomato fruit worm will also feed on eggplants, peppers, soybeans, and okra.
The way the process works is adult fruit worms lay eggs, overnight, in the garden. Remember, they lay their eggs on the foliage of selected plants.
As the eggs hatch, the worms will move into the fruit of the plant. They do this right as the fruit is forming.
Fruit worms prefer green fruit over mature fruit. This way, as the fruit grows, the larvae will grow as well. The pests feed on the inside of the fruit until they reach adulthood.
The fruit provides all the nutrients they need to survive and thrive. If you have fruit worms in your garden, you’ll notice the fruits of your crops will begin forming holes.
These holes will ooze liquid, the fruit will ripen early, and will have hollow spots. If you see this occurring in your tomatoes, you know you have an issue which must be handled.
Now that we’ve discussed what a fruit worm does in your garden, it’s time to learn how to prevent them.
How to Prevent the Tomato Fruit Worm
Preventing tomato fruit worms means that you catch the issue before the pests move into your fruits. Once they’ve penetrated the product of your crops, it’s difficult to stop them.
Therefore, you must understand that most fruit worms will overwinter in your garden. With this in mind, be sure you till your garden multiple times per year.
It’s wise to till your soil going into winter to disturb any pests which might be hiding out in your dirt. This will bring them to the top and frost will take care of them.
You should till your soil again coming out of winter. This could expose any lingering pests which survived the cooler portion of the year by hiding in your garden soil.
The process of tilling is difficult on the larvae and should kill them. Once you’ve tilled your garden, it’s time to protect it by planting crops appropriately.
Avoid planting corn and tomatoes near each other. These are both hosts for the same pest and could make life for the pests too easy. In turn, you could lose both crops.
You should also consider planting herbs in your garden. Dill and parsley will attract beneficial insects which will prey upon the fruit worms.
By taking care of your soil, adding the right plants to your garden, and planting specific crops away from each other, you should be able to stay one step ahead of the fruit worms.
How to Treat Your Garden for Tomato Fruit Worms
What should you do if you missed the window to protect your crops against tomato fruit worms? Maybe you didn’t till your soil enough, planted the wrong crops near each other, or don’t grow herbs.
Either way, you don’t know what you should do now to protect your crops from the pests which have invaded your growing space.
It isn’t too late for you to put up a great fight and protect your garden. The first step is to pay attention during specific months of the year.
Around July, if you have a problem with the tomato fruit worm, you’ll notice adults flying around your garden. This is a sign that they’re there and laying eggs.
You should act quickly to stop the larvae from wreaking havoc on your garden in the next month. Once it’s clear that you have an issue, begin examining your fruit.
Is there any fruit which is ripening faster than other fruits on the same plant? Do you see any fruit which looks damaged? If so, remove these items from your garden.
If you notice any plants with foliage that have eggs on them, remove the foliage from your garden as well.
After you’ve done all you can to remove the visibly damaged or impacted items in your garden, begin treating your crops.
You can treat the plants one time per week with neem oil, insecticidal soap, or an insecticidal powder. Any of these options should kill any remaining pests which reside in your garden.
At this point, you should be ready to take the battle to your garden. Remain vigilant to know what’s happening with your plants.
Take the necessary steps to avoid tomato fruit worms in your garden. However, if they’ve already moved in, it’s our hope that these tips will help you save your crops while giving fruit worms the boot.