How You Can Identify a Hornworm Problem Before You Spot the Worm

I brought you into the fruitful land To eat its fruit and its good things But you came and defiled My land … Jeremiah 2:7

I cannot believe what just defiled my small garden! I’m determined to do everything in my power to control the pestilence before I loose every nightshade vegetable plant in my garden. I’m praying the birds will help me in my task.

Here’s how it started:

Eggplants that looked like this,

Underneath the damage I found a lot of this:

This is called Tomato Hornworm Frass, which is 💩[[
Initially I didn’t know what this was. Presently we are raising beautiful Black Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillars and their frass is not that big 😳. When we had a mouse in our house, it’s droppings weren’t that big. I did a google search of garden pest droppings to try and ID the problem. I didn’t find a match. So, I asked in a Facebook group and experienced gardeners knew.

Soon I found it!

Then I found another one! They were devouring my pepper plants. But I couldn’t find any near where the other damaged plants were so I worried there were more.

I searched,

And searched,

And searched!


I sprayed soapy neem oil water on all the leaves, then sprinkled cayenne pepper.

The next day, I looked at my poor chomped plants. Then I looked past them and saw…

More chomped plants! This time it was my tomatillos 😳. And I found it:

So now you know what I didn’t know a few days ago. When you see plants that are chewed until there is nothing but a stem, and there is no way for deer to get in your yard, it’s probably a tomato hornworm. When you see 💩 that looks like little grenades that are bigger than mouse droppings, it is definitely a tomato hornworm.

When you find them you can either,

A. Drop them in a bucket of soapy water

B. Feed them to your favorite backyard birds

C. If they already have parasites, cage them and watch the horror show unfold (I spoke to gardeners that do this!)

Removing them from the plant is a matter of its own.

One time I used a shovel the scoot one off the plant and I flung it off my balcony. That was easy.

I tried that technique again. The worm held on to the stem of my plant with a death grip and kept chomping it’s teeth (which sounded really creepy) and it tried to attack me. So I hit it with my shovel. Then the worm exploded. Oops. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it still held on to the stem and it still made the chewing noise. I didn’t want to do that again.

The next one I tried to scoot into the jar put up a fight. It was miserable prying it off the plant.

The last one, I peeled off with tongs. That was a little more bearable.

So now I’m very interested in PREVENTION.

According to my favorite garden book, Carrots Love Tomatoes *, the herb Borage is believed to repel tomato hornworms.

It is also believed that Marigolds have a smell that is distasteful to most caterpillars including the hornworms. (See this article) I am growing quite a bit of Marigold in my garden and notice the eggplants growing closest to it seem unharmed.

Another solution is spraying the leaves with water, cayenne pepper, garlic, and soap.

Crop rotation is also recommended as the hornworms go into the soil to pupate, and rotating what grows there can make it a less appealing environment.

I’ve even heard that some people use a black light at night because he hornworms will glow! They are like mutants. Hunting hornworms at night

Next year, all of my nightshade plants will be grown with marigolds.

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you*

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