Friday, August 24, 2012

Tomatoes Have Worms?; Or What I Discovered Was Eating My Tomatoes

Who is that eating MY tomato?
Garden fresh tomatoes, we all wait with great anticipation for these luscious gems of the summer garden. We love them so much that when something spoils them we cry with the heart of a five year old “He stole my candy!”  At least that's what I did last night.

The spot that made me shudder with disgust.

There it was all red and luscious looking just calling my name.  But when I went to pluck it from the vine my finger landed on something that was just not right…a large soft spot.  EEEWWW!  “That’s not supposed to be there!  That was when I went into panic mode  “WHAT?  No, no, no…not my tomato!”  Next came disgust and that sinking disheartening feeling of being stripped of enjoying the fruits of my labor.  “What is it this time? Please God, not another new invader, some strange disease!”  I went into praying it wasn’t true mode.
That explains the soft rotten spot...there is an invader afoot!

I took the fruit inside to do my geek thing, dissecting it to see if I could find was going on.  Investigative research is important in fighting battles in the garden as we cannot fight our enemy with any hope of winning until we know who or what the enemy is.

Early pupal stage of the tomato fruitworm.

My research unveiled something I had never seen before.  I didn’t even know tomatoes had things like this.  The pest from what I can tell is Tomato Fruitworm, Helicoverpa zea, which by the way is the same pest as the cotton bollworm and corn earworm, an insidious little moth larvae that can be a real troublemaker if left undetected.  I am not looking forward to another battle but here we go again.

At first I was Googling tomatoes that eat worms to get some idea of what I was dealing with but had to stop.  The pictures were really creeped me out.  Maybe it was just too much to see worms eating garden fresh tomatoes but my stomach started feeling all icky.  By the time it got too uncomfortable to continue I had want I needed and knew I had my enemy by the tail.  I could plan my defense and get into the battlefield and hopefully save some of my tomatoes from this pest. And I will be watching and waiting for them next year now too.  The jigs up, these nasty little worms won’t stand a chance in my garden.

The information here at UCDavis on tomato fruitworm great for starters.  They include life cycle info, a list mechanical ways to control it from physically destroying eggs and monitoring plants, pheromone traps, preditory insects (our garden soldiers), and at the bottom of the page is a list of pesticides that may be used to control this pest..  If you should choose to use pesticides please contact your County Extension Office, Master Gardeners for what is listed for use in your area just to be safe and within the laws of your state.

I hope this helps if you have found a little worm ruining your garden plans.  Here's to winning the battle and future successes in your garden!

Copyright © 2012 by Patty Hicks
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  1. I have never seen them before! Yikes! Ick! Gross! Save me!

    1. My thoughts exactly Debbie. Just the strangest thing which proves there is always something more to learn in the garden.