How to Get Rid of Tomato Hornworms Without Pesticide

June 14, 2020 at 6:45 pm

The Old Farmer’s Almanac offers four chemical-free methods for keeping one of the most destructive garden pests in the U.S. in check:

Tomato hornworms are one of the most common garden pests in the U.S. and Canada, destroying all manner of nightshades, including peppers, eggplant, tobacco, potatoes and, you guessed it, tomatoes.

Their bright green bodies blend in perfectly with the foliage of these crops, making them difficult to detect.

The faithful Old Farmer’s Almanac offers some brilliant tips on identifying and removing the pests from your garden.


1. Look for holes chewed in leaves and fruit. Hornworms eat from the top of the plant downward, so you should notice chewed, wilted or missing leaves right on top.

2. Look for black or dark green droppings on top of the leaves. If you see them, there is likely a hornworm underneath.

3. Look for white cocoons nearby.

4. Look for their moth mothers. It’s much easier to spot a tomato hornworm moths than caterpillars, as they don’t blend in as well.

Getting rid of them

While the Almanac notes pesticides and tilling offer a quick and easy fix, both of these options have unintended consequences, causing long-term damage to your garden ecosystem, including destruction of beneficial soil bacteria and beneficial insects and birds. Here are some better alternative:

1. Feed them to your chickens. You can pick them off by hand (they don’t sting or bite) and toss them to your chickens. They make great protein for great eggs.

2. Leave the wasp nests alone. Wasps lay their parasitic larvae on hornworms, which feed on them until they die, acting as a biological pest control. While you might want to remove a wasp nest from a high human-traffic area like your front door, consider leaving them undisturbed under the roof of a barn, shed or garage. Don’t bother them and they won’t bother you.

3. Attract beneficial bugs. Plant flowers that attract other beneficial bugs like ladybugs and green lacewings, which feed on hornworm eggs.

4. Plant companion crops. Interspersing tomato plants with dill, basil and marigolds should slow hornworms down significantly.