Monday, January 24, 2011

Using Birds to Control Tomato Hornworms

Here's a lovely macro shot of a tomato hornworm caterpillar taking a little break from gorging himself on my tomatoes. Ever seen one before? They're huge and pretty startling to come across when you're pruning your tomato plants. They blend right in, until you accidentally touch one- hopefully not with the horned end!

This picture was taken near the end of the season so I wasn't SO upset, but I definitely want to prevent hornworms for next season. I started doing some research on how to get rid of tomato hornworms and the good news is you don't need to use insecticides or crazy home remedies- birds will do the work for you!

This great website I found- the Yardener has a whole section about insect pests in the vegetable garden. According to the site, feeding birds year-round will help you control the tomato hornworm problem in your garden. For bird lovers, this shouldn't be a chore at all. Just keep your feeders full with desirable seed like black-oil sunflower seed and nyjer seed thistle, and in the winter especially, don't forget to put out some suet (Southern New Englanders can get them for just $0.49 a piece at Ocean State Job Lot).

Downy Woodpeckers are just one of the birds that are attracted to suet and love to eat hornworms. Keep them happy throughout the winter and they'll repay the favor by helping to control your hornworm population!

Other birds that like to eat tomato hornworms:

Baltimore Orioles
Barn Swallows

I have to admit- I tend to slack off on filling my feeders in the summer. I'll be more diligent about keeping them full this spring/summer and I'll post an update on my hornworm problem then!

1 comment:

Robin Robinson said...

This cracked me up because, I have three Tomato horn worm pupa hatching in my kitchen as i write. I have had them since their caterpillar phase back in the late summer. it's the dead of winter here now, so I'm pleased that I've kept them going this long. i'm hoping to catch them hatching for a photo shoot. They have to have been the most photographed horn worms on the planet.