Enemies and Allies: Hornworms and Wasps

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend." This ancient sentiment applies very well to the denizens of the garden. The tomato (tobacco) hornworm in the pictures is a being of great tomato destruction. This larval stage of the five-spotted hawkmoth is able to demolish whole tomato plants in a matter of days if not caught early. It feeds off the tomato plants with a voracious appetite leaving behind bare stems where green foliage used to be. But there is help on the way for the organic gardener. Without using pesticides you can rely on Mother Nature to provide a counter attack for these destructive beasts.

Enter the braconid wasp! And I do mean enter! This parasitic wasp lays it's eggs inside the hornworm where they hatch and eat their way through the flesh of the hornworm. The wasp is harmless to people and animals but is a death sentence to the hornworm. The white shapes covering the hornworm in the pictures are the larva of the wasp working their way out. If you see a hornworm in this stage it is best to let it be and let the braconid wasps do their work. The wasps will continue to grow then lay their eggs in other hornworms which will protect your tomatoes from being unceremoniously snacked upon.

If the wasps haven't assassinated your enemy then you can easily pick up and dispose of the hornworms in a solution of soapy water.

R.I.P. Tomato Hornworm

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