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5 Common Types of Tomato Worms

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Are you an avid tomato gardener grappling with worm infestations? Understanding the various types of tomato worms can be instrumental in resolving this issue. Cultivating tomatoes is a gratifying endeavor, from the complex vines to the vibrant red fruit that beautifies your garden and provides a generous harvest for your culinary needs.

However, seeing worms munching on your lush leaves and vivid fruits can be incredibly disheartening, disrupting your garden’s aesthetics and tomato yield. Diverse types of worms pose a threat to your tomato plants, each possessing unique characteristics.

Acquainting yourself with these types of tomato worms, their appearances, behaviors, and infestation mitigation strategies can lay the foundation for addressing this problem. Before you sow your next batch of tomato seeds, peruse this exhaustive guide on tomato worm types to equip yourself with essential knowledge.

What are Tomato Worms?

Tomato hornworm with larva attached to its back
Tomato hornworm with larva attached to its back

Tomato hornworms are tomato-loving pests that come in the form of large caterpillars that grow horn-like tails. Like regular caterpillars, tomato worms start as eggs and eventually turn into large sphinx or hummingbird moths. Tomato worms love tomatoes, although some tomato worms also attack other members of the nightshade family or Solanaceae.

These include eggplants, potatoes, and peppers, to mention a few. This explains why you should never pair two or more types of nightshades together as companion plants. For example, planting tomatoes and peppers can further aggravate a tomato worm infestation. In this case, separating the different nightshade varieties will not halt the infestation.

However, it makes feeding them a little more difficult. For instance, when you plant your potatoes on the far opposite side of the tomato plant, the worms may still crawl into the open space toward the potatoes. But, the time spent and the exposure reduces their chances of survival as they fall prey to predators, such as birds.

Tomato worms typically feast on the plant’s leaves or the actual fruit. You can find a handful of tomato worm types based on their physical properties, behavior, and how they infect your plant.

What Are The Most Common Types of Tomato Worms?

Hornworm eating tomato plant
Hornworm eating tomato plant

The most common types of tomato worms are fruit worms, hornworms, and armyworms. However, the list of tomato worms is broad. While different types of tomato worms feature their own distinctive properties, they pretty much share their growth cycle.

Tomato worms are moths in their larval stage, in the form of caterpillars. These tomato-loving pests usually start as eggs and hatch to release small caterpillars. The caterpillars continue to grow, ultimately, transforming into moths. At the caterpillar stage, the worms are usually green or brown and love to feed on the leaves of the tomato plant.

But, when the infestation progresses, you will find them feeding on other parts of the plant, including the actual tomato fruit. Their characteristic green or brown color favors their survival. These colors allow them to effortlessly blend with the tomato plant to give them superior camouflage. For instance, green tomato worms blend very well with the green leaves of the tomato plant.

So, if you have a serious tomato worm infestation, you may notice your entire plant’s leaves disappear within a few hours or days. The two most common details that help tell different types of tomato worms are their appearance and their behavior.

How Do Tomato Worms Affect Your Plants?

Tomato being eaten by worm
Tomato being eaten by worm

Tomato worms generally feed on the leaves of the tomato plant. However, these tomato-eating pests may also feed on other parts of the plant, including the stems, flowers, and tomato fruit. However, it’s worth noting that a tomato worm infestation begins in gradual stages.

On a tomato plant, the larger moths lay eggs, particularly at the bottom of the tomato plant leaves. During spring, caterpillar larvae emerge from the now-hatched eggs. For sustenance, the larvae feed on the flesh of the leaves although they don’t love the veins and tend to leave them behind.

Depending on the type of caterpillar, some tomato worms even feed on other parts of the tomato plant. The way the larvae feed on the plant makes it easier to identify a worm-infested plant. Generally, tomato worms leave visible dark green to black marks on the tomato plant leaves.

Further, older tomato worms tend to eat more leaves. During this time, some of the larvae die off. During the growing season surviving larvae prepare cocoons in the soil, which they survive in during the cold winter season. As the weather gets a little more forgiving, moths emerge from their cocoons, lay eggs underneath the leaves, and the cycle repeats.

Different types of tomato worms do varying amounts of damage to the plant. For example, cutworms, among the most aggressive tomato worm varieties, can damage the entire tomato plant. A severe infestation can even damage multiple plants. Cutworms can chew the base of the plant’s stem, knock it down, and move to the next plant to do the same.

Preventing Tomato Worms

Tomato worms are a tomato grower’s worst nightmare among other tomato-loving pests. But, the good news is that you can mitigate the risks of a tomato worm infestation. If it’s too late, there are plenty of solutions for tackling tomato worms already feasting on your tomatoes.

How To Mitigate the Risks of Tomato Worm Infestation In My Garden

The best way to mitigate tomato worms in your garden is through visual inspection. Practice visual observation of each tomato plant in your garden at least twice to three times a week. Observe the leaves, especially the bottom parts, the stems, flowers, and fruit.

If you are committed enough, you can even invest in a small hand lens to help you identify possible eggs or small larvae. Doing so allows you to take care of the problem sooner than later. With frequent checks, you will more than likely spot tomato worm infestation at the earliest stage, when the moths have just laid eggs. This makes it easier to deal with the problem than when the eggs are already hatched and caterpillars are roaming the plant.

Avid gardeners or researchers can even keep records of their observations and track their activity if you notice them on your tomato plant. Especially when spotted at the egg stage, consistent tracking and observation allow you to identify peak seasonal activity and forecast future patterns. This also helps you figure out when your tomato garden is mostly at risk – so you can offer the right mitigating tools.

 However, observation is a portion of the mitigation efforts. There are several other steps and solutions to prevent the risks of a tomato worm infestation on your tomato plants. These include;

Preparing the Soil

Till the soil before and after every garden seasoning to keep the “soil” safe. This is because tilling has up to 90% success rate of destroying overwintering larvae. Overwintering larvae refers to the larvae that survive the growing season and are now sheltered in the cocoons. They usually protect themselves under heavy covers, such as littered leaves or buried deep into the soil.

Since overwintering larvae and moths ready to lay eggs prefer to cover, try to keep your tomato fields as clean as possible. This means that you want to effectively remove the weeds, significantly reducing protection sites and potential egg-laying shelters.

Introduce Predatory Parasites or Beneficial Insects

Beneficial insects, such as wasps, act as a biological control for the tomato worm infestation. Braconid wasps have a parasitic effect on tomato worms, specifically hornworms. They do so by laying visible white-like eggs on the top of the hornworms.

As they hatch, the larvae feed on the hornworms from the inside out, killing them off while they transform into wasps. After transforming into wasps, the cycle continues, leaving your garden safe for the tomato plants.

Another variety of wasps, the paper wasp, also possesses a predatory advantage. Paper wasp loves to feed on a variety of garden caterpillars, including tomato worms. On the other hand, beneficial insects, such as green lacewings or ladybugs feed on tomato worms. These types of beneficial insects love hornworm eggs and youngins.

Companion Planting

Companion planting tomatoes with fellow nightshades or Solanaceae is not a good idea. However, this doesn’t mean companion planting is entirely a bad idea. A companionship of tomatoes with dill, basil, or marigolds is an excellent combination.

This is because these plants do an impressive job of repelling pests, including tomato worms. Additionally, planting basil alongside tomatoes even improves the yield of your tomato plant and the flavor of the fruit.

Note: Young dill plants are great for tomatoes. But, matured dill that’s ready to seed can inhibit tomato plant growth.

How to Remove Tomato Worms from Your Plants

If you already have a tomato worm infestation in your garden, it’s never too late to solve the problem. There are several ways to deal with tomato worms already feasting on your plants.

Manually Pick them Off

The simplest way to deal with tomato worms is by physically picking them off the tomato plants. A quick glance may not spot tomato worms due to their camouflage green color. However, careful observation allows you to spot them. So, if you can spot them, all you do is manually pick them off the plant and drop them into soapy water to kill them off.

Spray Natural Oils

Neem oil is an excellent natural repellent. It works by repelling (giving the leaves a bad taste) or killing garden pests, such as aphids, flies, snails, and tomato worms.

Tip: To avoid mild irritation, cover your nose and wash up thoroughly when and after using neem oil, respectively.

Rotate your Crops

If you are an avid gardener or grower and plant crops every season, crop rotation is a great way to deal with pests, including tomato worms. Rotate your crops every 2 to 4 years, avoiding planting members of the nightshade family in the same place during the rotation.

For instance, a good crop to rotate with tomatoes is the bean crop. First, beans aren’t susceptible to tomato worms. So, without the nightshade plants, these pests will disappear and go somewhere else to look for sustenance. Further, beans fix the soil, restoring nitrogen to cultivate as many nutrients for when you plant your tomato plants again.

Invite More Predators

You can also invite predators to naturally tackle an intense tomato worm infestation. In this case, the most vulnerable thing in your garden may be your berry trees. Birds love to eat small critters, like caterpillars AKA tomato worms.

So, what better way to naturally deal with a tomato worm infestation than by luring predators, like birds? All you have to do to increase bird visits to your garden is by making it more welcoming to them. You can set up a bird feeder and bird bath with interesting water features, among others.

Use Pesticides

If you have an aggressive infestation, pesticides may be the next best option. In fact, you are advised to treat smaller caterpillars with pesticides before they grow into large ones. Using pesticides doesn’t necessarily mean using aggressive pesticides that may affect your plants. You can find a vast range of low-risk pesticides.

Popular options include naturally occurring soil bacteria, such as Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Bt). This bacteria type works great for younger caterpillars and it must be ingested for it to be effective. The best part about using Bt. is that it doesn’t affect other insects in the garden. So, the remaining fauna will survive just fine.

Another excellent variety is a naturally occurring soil microorganism, i.e. Spinosad.  When ingested by caterpillars, this pesticide affects their nervous system, solving your infestation problem within a week or two. Although it may affect other insects, such as bees when wet, the risks reduce when it dried out. But, it remains effective on tomato worms, whether dry or wet.

You can also use insecticidal soap on smaller caterpillars. Unlike the former pesticides, insecticidal soap is effective on contact alone. However, you may have to apply it a few times, if the infestation is heavy. Insecticidal soap doesn’t affect other insects, either.

Try Residual insecticides

If you require more radical solutions than the aforementioned solutions above, residual insecticides are great solutions. Residual insecticides typically feature broad spectrum or conventional pesticides that last longer and effectively kill off tomato worms at a single application.

But, they are so aggressive that they can kill off other insects in the garden, including beneficial insects. Examples of residual insecticides include bifenthrin, pyrethroids, and permethrin, to mention a few.

Sprinkle White Powder

You can also use diatomaceous earth, a white powder you can buy at garden stores or centers. While this powder is safe for humans (it can slightly irritate the lungs), it is deadly to small insects. It looks like a fine white powder.

But, microscopically, it has a sharp look. When sprinkled over a tomato plant, it effortlessly cuts holes into its tiny body. These cuts lead to fatal injuries or cause fatal dehydration. Unfortunately, this also puts other types of smaller insects at risk, including beneficial insects and pollinators, like bees.

Caution: It’s worth noting that the tomato plant bears edible fruits essential to the human diet. Therefore, you want to entirely avoid using conventional pesticides on them.

Tackling Particular Tomato Worm type Infestations

Tomato Fruitworm Infestation

Tomato fruite worm on tissue to show what they look like
Tomato fruite worm on tissue to show what they look like

If you have tomato fruit worms swarming your tomato fruits, the first order of business is to cut off the damaged fruits and destroy them while the caterpillars are inside. Doing so prevents the caterpillars from escaping and infecting another plant.

Once you notice damage to the stems or leaves, prune them as well to allow for the growth of newer, healthier ones. Tomato fruit worms are also very susceptible to natural bacterial pesticides, diatomaceous earth, or parasitic wasps.

Beet Armyworm Infestation

Close up of a Beet Armyworm
Close up of a Beet Armyworm

Beet Armyworms are foliage feeders and begin their activity well before the flower and fruit disappear. You can mitigate the damage to your plants by making the most of physical observation. Simply look out for their eggs or small larvae on young tomato plants. You can even gently shake the plant while holding a white cloth underneath.

Doing so leads to small larvae of eggs of the worms falling onto the cloth if they happen to be there.  Do the same for adult plants with flowers and plants on them. If you notice damaged fruits, cut them open to observe the worms to determine whether they are fruit worms or armyworms. This allows you to choose the best solution to address the problem.

Yellow Striped Armyworm Infestation

Yellowstriped Armyworm crawling on tomato plant
Yellowstriped Armyworm crawling on tomato plant

An infestation of yellow-striped armyworms can be effectively handled by parasitic wasps.

Tomato Hornworm Infestation

Tomato hornworm eating leaves
Tomato hornworm eating leaves

Since hornworms love foliage, in their more common green shade, they blend much easier with the surroundings. To identify them easily, you want to conduct daily observations on your plant as they are easy to miss. Look for hornworm eggs or smaller larvae!

If you don’t spot the actual perpetrators, observe the leaves to decide whether or not you need to act. If you notice missing or chewed leaves atop the plant, they are more likely eaten by hornworms.  Similarly, hornworms also leave dark green to black droppings on the top of your tomato leaves.

In many cases, spotting droppings at the top means a hornworm is directly underneath the leaf. Another sign of a hornworm infestation is missing leaves on stems or hanging wilted leaves. Hornworms also bear white cocoons that you can sometimes spot on your plant.

You can control the hornworm population by introducing parasitic worms to your garden. But, if you already have an infestation, wait until the fruit matures before applying insecticides. But, you can also apply insecticide sooner, if you notice a near-complete defoliation.

Tomato Cutworm Infestation

Tomato Cutworm on leaf
Tomato Cutworm on leaf

Unlike other tomato worms, tomato cutworms hatch from eggs laid on soil organic matter, such as compost. So, this is where the soil preparation (especially tilling) process comes in handy. Tilling plants destroys plant residues, and manages weeds, and other organic materials that offer potential shelter for the cutworms.

If you notice cutworm eggs, you can apply neem oil to naturally deal with them. Neem oil doesn’t kill the cutworms. Instead, it coats their eggs, reducing the likelihood of the eggs hatching. So, you can always use it as a temporary solution while waiting or devising a more permanent one.

If you already have a cutworm problem, more drastic measures like a permethrin or cyfluthrin pesticide application may be the solution. Insecticide application or the introduction of beneficial insects can also take care of the cutworm problem.

Cabbage Looper Infestation

Cabbage Looper close up on a leaf
Cabbage Looper close up on a leaf

You should also remove plant debris after harvest to protect against a cabbage looper infestation. This makes tilling important before and after the growing season.  Using row covers on the tomato plants also prevents cabbage looper moths from laying eggs.

But, if you already have an infestation, you can apply other effective solutions. Since cabbage looper larvae are easily visible to the human eye, the simplest way is to manually remove them from the plant. Moreover, you can introduce beneficial insects; spray the infected plant areas to target an infestation.

While the solutions above work for the different types of tomato worms, it doesn’t mean that other prevention and treatment solutions don’t work at all. For instance, you can use pesticides and insecticides on Yellowstriped armyworms to target them successfully.

5 Common Types of Tomato Worms

There are 5 common types of tomato worms most likely to infest your plants. Each type is differentiated by its physical appearance and behavior. Here is a full guide on how to identify different tomato worm types.

1. Tomato Fruitworms/Bollworms

Bollworms on an okra leaf
Bollworms on an okra leaf

Fruitworms get their name by attacking the fruit component of the plant. In the case of tomato plants, these worms affect the actual fruit. but, you will also notice some damage to the stem and leaves after a Fruitworm infestation.

Fruitworms or bollworms generally prefer corn. However, they also have a hefty appetite for tomatoes when the plants are around. They also love other members of the nightshade family, including eggplants and peppers. Fruitworms targeting tomatoes are known as tomato fruit worms. Fruitworms are members of the Noctuidae family, making them nocturnal, mostly active at night time.

Fruit worms grow to about 2 inches long and boast hairy bodies. They develop a range of colors, including brown, cream, or yellow. You can also find some bi-colored varieties with black or gray colors and stripes on either side. Their colors are primarily affected by what they eat.

These tomato worms usually swarm the tomato plant as newly hatched larvae by entering through its stem end. They like to visit the plant when the tomato fruits appear, but are still young with a smaller and green appearance. Once they enter the small tomato fruit, they engulf themselves deeper into the fruit. They begin to migrate from one fruit to the other once they are done feeding on the said fruit.

Small tomato fruits affected by fruit worms will end up with watery cavities filled with worm feces and ripen prematurely. This puts them at risk of more infestation by other microorganisms, like bacteria and fungi. Ultimately, fruit worms make your planting efforts futile as they target the end product.

Fruit worms are pretty aggressive. Like any other tomato worm, their moths lay eggs on the plant during spring. Within a few days, their eggs hatch the larvae that begin feeding right away. More aggressive caterpillars even feed on the weaker ones they find already feeding on the plant. In a heavy infestation, tomato fruit worms can even exist in 4 generations within a single growing season.

2. Tomato Armyworms

Armyworms are a type of tomato worm. But, there are several sub-types of armyworms, with most at the larval stage of armyworm moths. Like fruit worms, army worms also have a hefty appetite for a variety of plants. Further, armyworms even feed on one another as they compete over plant food.

Armyworms commonly appear at the start of the summer season. So, you will notice the most damage to your plants around the end of summer. You will, however, see some fall armyworms, too. Fall armyworms tend to be gray or brown with their male having white spotted wings.  Armyworms are common in North and South America and have recently been introduced into African gardens.

Here are the common subgroups of armyworms;

Fall Armyworms

Fall Armyworm eating corn
Fall Armyworm eating corn

Fall armyworms are usually active from the end of summer into fall. However, they remain active all year round in warm climates. Female armyworms can lay over 2000 eggs in a single season. This means that a fall armyworm infestation is very likely in even a large tomato garden.

As mentioned earlier, fall armyworms are striped and come in shades of brown, gray, green, and yellow. Matured fall armyworms also develop white lines along their body with an inverted light-colored V on the head. Fall armyworms grow to about 1.5 inches long and can cause damage to the fruit, leaves, and stems.

Beet Armyworms

Beet armyworm curled up on a leaf
Beet armyworm curled up on a leaf

Beet armyworms are 1 inch long with dull green to pale or dark green bodies, wavy light-colored stripes that run down the back, and a broader pale stripe on either side. Unlike many tomato worms, beet armyworms prefer foliage.

So, while they rarely attack the actual tomato fruit, they prefer the leaves. This means that beet armyworms attack the leaves of the plant well before the flower and fruit development. But, when they occasionally attack the fruit, they make superficial holes (in single or ground circular shapes or irregular shapes).

The larvae can also develop inside the fruit, leaving it susceptible to other microorganisms and premature ripening and rotting.

Yellowstriped Armyworms

Yellow-striped Armyworm and eggs - Spodoptera ornithogalli by Julie Metz Wetlands in Woodbridge Virginia
Yellow-striped Armyworm and eggs – Spodoptera ornithogalli by Julie Metz Wetlands in Woodbridge Virginia

Yellow-striped armyworms look just like their name suggests. Their body shades range from dark gray to black with two prominent stripes along each side of their bodies. These armyworms feed on a wider range of plants, including nightshades, legumes, corn, cucumber, and even watermelon, to mention a few. In particular, these worms feed on leaves, fruits, crops, vegetables, ornamentals, and weeds.

Yellowstriped armyworms overwinter in the soil as pupa while their eggs are usually laid en masse on plant foliage, trees, and even buildings. Due to their mass egg laying, these day feeders can exist in between 3 and 5 generations per year.

Yellowstriped armyworms are not seasonal insects, either, existing all year round. While they may feed on any part of the plant, they are predominantly foliage feeders. Armyworm caterpillars feed on the tomato fruit leaves, stripping them of their lacelike appearance. Ultimately, you notice scalloping marks along the leaf margins if they remain. These worms are capable of feeding on the entire plant leaf.

3. Tomato Hornworms

Tomato hornworms have green bodies that develop 7 diagonal white stripes on either side or 8 V-shaped markings. These worms get their names from their posterior large horns. They are also among the largest tomato worms.

While they feed on other parts of the plant, hornworms are foliage feeders. They love the leaves of the tomato plant, although they can leave some scarring by feeding on the fruit. You can easily identify hornworms by their multiple white cocoons attached to their upper bodies.

Like armyworms, hornworms come in subgroups, too. The two main subgroups include tomato and tobacco hornworms. While both subgroups have similar bright green and longhorn appearances, they have slightly varying physical details.  Further, both hornworm types feed on tomatoes, tobacco, and a range of nightshades.

Whether tobacco or tomato hornworms, these tomato worms are pretty large – more than armyworms. They can grow to a staggering 5 inches long and they do most of their damage during the larval/caterpillar stage.

During springtime, adult moths lay eggs on the underside leaves of the tomato plant. Within a week, the eggs hatch and feed for about 4 to 6 weeks before creating a cocoon. In their cocoons, they overwinter in the pupa state in the soil and only burrow for about 2 to 3 weeks when the weather is warm. After this, moths appear and repeat the cycle. But, this cycle can repeat to create multiple generations within a year in warmer climates.

Tomato Hornworms

Tomato Hornworm eating a tomato plant
Tomato Hornworm eating a tomato plant

Tomato hornworms feature chevron stripes (V-shaped markings), and a black posterior horn. They are also in the larval stage of a five-spotted hawk moth. While hornworms are foliage feeders, they can still do massive damage to the leaves in just a short period.

Tobacco Hornworms

Tobacco Hornworm defoliating a pepper plant
Tobacco Hornworm defoliating a pepper plant

Tobacco hornworms have more diagonal stripes (parallel white stripes), black spots lining each stripe, and a red posterior tail horn. They are also at the larval stage of the Carolina Sphinx moth or tobacco hawk moth.

4. Cutworms

Brown caterpillar cutworm on a stem
Brown caterpillar cutworm on a stem

Cutworms are another interesting type of tomato worm. They are the larval stage of turnip or yellow underwing moths. Cutworms can be green, yellow, brown, or gray. After hatching, they usually crawl around the garden until they find a plant to attack.

They also grow to just an inch or 2 long when fully grown. These nocturnal worms are easily recognizable by their smooth skin and tend to curl up when disturbed. Unlike other tomato worms, moths lay cutworm eggs on organic material in the soil, such as compost or mulch. They don’t have a particular favorite part of the plant. Instead, they can attack and chew anything from the leaves to buds and stems.

But, of these parts, stems usually suffer the most as the worms chew around them, causing them to fall over. In fact, fallen plants with severe stem damage are the best indication of a cutworm infestation. Nonetheless, cutworms are among the most effective attackers of tomato plants.

A single cutworm can easily move from one plant to another across an entire row of tomatoes. Even worse, one cutworm can bring down multiple tomato plants in just one day! So, addressing a cutworm problem requires drastic solutions even with the smallest number of worms in your tomato garden.

5. Loopers

Green Cabbage Looper found in garden in San Diego California
Green Cabbage Looper found in garden in San Diego California

Cabbage loopers are popular feeders of cabbages. But, these leaf and foliage feeders also love a variety of cruciferous and nightshade plants, such as broccoli, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, and tomatoes, respectively. They get their name from how they attack their prey, by arching their backs into a loop as they crawl.

These foliage feeders love to feed on the lower leaf surface while leaving the upper part intact. They appear from hatched eggs laid by cabbage looper moths on the leaf underside on higher or larger leaves. 

A single cabbage looper moth can lay up to 1000 or more eggs in just one day. The cabbage looper larvae or caterpillar is easy to identify. They tend to have a pale green body which darkens as they age and faint white stripes that stretch the length of the body. Smaller larvae also start with hairy bodies and the hair continues to fade as they grow.

Identifying Common Tomato Worms

Here’s a summary table of the common types of tomato worms with their appearance and behavior (towards tomatoes)

Tomato Worm TypeAppearanceBehaviors and How They Attack the Tomato PlantCommon Prevention and Solutions
Fruitworms2-inch long with hairy bodies and in brown, cream, yellow, black, or gray with stripes on either sideNocturnal and target the fruit leaving watery cavities filled with poop droppings, causing premature ripening, microorganism infestation, and rotting.Cut off the damaged fruits and destroy them with the caterpillars are inside.

Prune damaged leaves and stems for new healthy growth.

Apply natural bacterial pesticides, diatomaceous earth, or parasitic wasps.
Armyworms – Fall armyworms1.5 inches long and come in shades of brown, gray, green, and yellow with stripes,·         Matured worms develop white lines along what body with an inverted light-colored V on the headActive during the end of summer into fall.Crop rotation

Apply pesticides or insecticides.
Armyworms- Beet armyworms1 inch long with dull green to pale or dark green bodies, wavy light-colored stripes that run down the back, and a broader pale stripe on either side.Prefer foliage before fruits and flowers appear.

Occasionally attack fruits to make holes, allowing for premature rotting, microbial and fungal activity, and rotting.
Gently shake the plant while holding a white cloth underneath to capture live eggs or small larvae.
Armyworms – Yellowstriped armyworms2 inches long with body shades ranging from dark gray to black with two prominent stripes along each side of their bodies.Foliage feeders, stripping leaves off of their lacelike appearance.

They form scalloping marks along the leaf margins.

They can feed off an entire plant.
Introduce parasitic wasps
Tomato hornwormsUp to 5 inches long bodies with feature chevron stripes (V-shaped markings), and a black posterior horn.

Easy to spot white cocoons on the plant.
Foliage feeders and leaves scarring.

You will notice missing, chewed leaves, and hanging wilted leaves atop the plant.

They only leave dark green to black droppings on top of your tomato leaves.
Introduce parasitic worms to your garden.

Apply insecticides.
Tobacco hornwormsUp to 5 inches long bodies with more diagonal stripes (parallel white stripes), black spots lining each stripe, and a red posterior tail hornFoliage feeders and leave scarringPlant basil, dill, or marigolds

Use insecticidal soap

Manual removal

Introduce parasitic wasps
Cutworms2 inches long bodies with green, yellow, brown, or gray shades.

Smooth skin and tend to curl up when disturbed

Their eggs aren’t laid on foliage but on soil organic matter, like compost or weeds.
Nocturnal feeders

They chew on leaves, stems, and buds, among others

They cause severe damage to the stems, causing the plant to fall off

A single-cut worm can drop down multiple plants in a day
Manual removal from plants

Apply insect ides, like permethrin and cyfluthrin,  on the stems and leaves (ideally in the evening since they are nocturnal)
Looper1.5 inches long with pale green bodies (that darken as they grow older) with faint white stripes and hairs on the body (that fade as they grow).Love cabbages but also attack tomatoes.

Feed on leaves from the underside to leave the top side intact.
Till soil before and after the growing season.

Use row covers to prevent egg laying.

Manually remove them from the plant.

Introduce beneficial insects; Spray the infected part with neem oil to prevent egg hatching.

Spray pesticide or insecticide.

If you lack quick access to the summary table, you can identify different tomato worms based on what you observe. As always, you want to stick to two key parameters, i.e. their physical appearance and their behavior. Answer the following checklist to effortlessly identify the tomato worm(s) in your garden;

·         What color do they have on their bodies?

·         Do they have stripes or other markings?

·         Do they have prominent detail on their body, like a protruding posterior horn?

·         How big are the caterpillars?

·         What damage do you see on the plants?

·         Are the fruits, stems or leaves damaged?

·         Did the worm leave droppings behind and what color are they?

·         What time of the year is it?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Do I Identify Tomato Worms in My Garden?

You can easily identify tomato worms in your garden by their appearance. While all tomato worms are caterpillars, they boast distinctive physical features. You can also identify the worms by their behaviors, such as the type of damage you observe on the plant if they leave dropping or not, and even the time of the year.

Why is it sometimes Difficult to Detect Tomato Worms Sooner?

Tomato worms can be difficult to identify when they camouflage well with the leaves of the tomato plant. Several types of tomato worms achieve a particularly well blending green shade that blends well with the leaves.

It’s even more difficult to spot the smaller larvae as they have not yet fed enough for their shades to darken and produce more visible poop droppings. The best way to increase your chances of spotting smaller tomato worms is by doing daily physical checks on each plant leaf and using a hand lens if you can.

Can I Eat Tomatoes Damaged By Worms?

You can eat tomatoes damaged by worms based on the state of the particular tomato. For instance, tomatoes damaged by fruit worms suffer the most. They end up with watery cavities that force them to ripen earlier and become susceptible to microbial and fungal activities and rot.

Now, these are tomatoes to avoid. Even if they aren’t rotted, it’s probably a good idea to avoid tomatoes with mysterious liquids in their cavity or microorganism activity, which may cause serious illness.

On the other hand, you can find tomato fruits damaged by other types of tomato worms with very little scarring. Depending on how fit you see it, you can consume these tomatoes. Some people cut off the damaged part of the tomato, saving the other undamaged part for consumption.


Different types of tomato worms can truly cause a headache for tomato growers. Nonetheless, knowing how to identify these different caterpillar varieties is the first step to addressing the problem. With proper identification, you can easily implement effective solutions to neutralize the infestation.

But, this is only if your garden is already invaded. You can also learn ways to mitigate the risk of infestation or identify their eggs and smaller larvae at the earlier stage to control the damage done.

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