The Usual Suspects- Today’s featured garden pests of the week The Infamous Tomato Hornworm and The Leaf Miner

As man’s egoism drive him to exert his will upon nature , nature in turn balances the scales with a vengeance. When  planting a home garden, the will of nature has a rather violent way of responding to the imposition. Make no bones about it, the gardens we human beings create, rarely correspond in a truly organic way to our natural surroundings. This tendency serves the resident pest population, enticing the appetites of various leaf eating insects.

The Darwinian rule of thumb seems the law of the land in the plant kingdom. It’s man versus nature in a dynamic clash of human will and intellect against the swarming critter mass. Bugs and critters, consciously one pointed in entropy,descend upon our dreams seeking to perform their Dharma.  Nature has the upper hand as our Egoism invariably attempts to launder it’s Karma(:

These two pests the Tomato Hornworm and the Leaf Miner are presently bringing their unique brand of drama to our tomato patch as well as making the rounds as they do upon various other leafy vegetables and plants. The dilemna we face in dealing with these pests is whether or not to use insecticides or go the natural route to manage the situations each present. Ideally if you manage the soil ph maintaining nutrient rich soil from compost on a consistent basis, these issues are less likely to occur. However, the heavy rains we get living on the coast  have created some problems despite our best efforts otherwise. Here are some remedies that can potentially serve you if you are planting vegetables or plants at home or in your yard/garden.

Leaf Miner on Tomato leaf

Leaf-miner-tomatotuta-leafmining-14-9-10A leaf miner is the larva of an insect that lives in and eats the leaf tissue of plants. The vast majority of leaf-mining insects are moths (Lepidoptera), sawflies (Symphyta) and flies (Diptera).

How to Manage the Leaf Miner

BioNeem is often recommended to control for leaf miners . BioNeem is a multipurpose concentrated insecticide and repellent that is used for flowers, fruits, vegetables, and ornaments in and around the house. BioNeem can kill or repel aphids, caterpillars, beetles, thrips, whiteflies, and leaf miners, among others.

Imagehornworm w cara

Got the little Bastard!

Tomato hornworms are known to eat various plants from the family Solanaceae, commonly attacking tomato, eggplant, pepper, tobacco, moonflowers and potato. Accordingly, they are often found on defoliated tomato plants, the caterpillar clinging to the underside of a branch near the trunk. They are difficult to spot due to their green coloration.  They can be reduced by planting marigold flowers around these plants.

800px-Manduca_quinquemaculata_adult_femaleTomato Hornworms evolve into the five-spotted hawkmoth (Manduca quinquemaculata)which  is a brown and gray hawk moth of the Sphingidae family.  Tomato hornworms are closely related to (and sometimes confused with) the tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta).

How to get rid of Tomato Hornworms

Till soil at the beginning and end of each gardening season to destroy overwintering larvae. Tillage has shown to cause up to 90% mortality.
Handpicking is an excellent tactic for control if you have the time and patience, or a small garden. The caterpillars are not dangerous and cannot sting. You don’t have to crush the worms; instead you can drop them into soapy water and they’re done.
Keep wasps around; they’re “good” insects which feed on hornworms and act as a biological control.
To keep hornworms away from your tomato plants this year, try planting dill; marigolds are also an excellent companion plant that keeps many pests away.

If the hornworm population or the area of your garden is too large, insecticides can be a useful control. An all natural organic insecticide option is to spray your tomato and pepper plants with “SPINOSAD” also called “Spinosyn A and B”. It is an organic/natural insecticide.  Spinosad must be eaten by the hornworm. Prune off old growth and destroy. Spray bottoms and tops of leaves. Spinosad will kill Leafminers in one 1 or two 2 days.

Although “Spinosad” is organic, it is deadly to bees. If you have bees in the area  , do not use.

Mostafa Garden 2013 update 6/13

Goddess in residence, Le Baronesse Jacqueline Cara

Cara Mostafa in the herb gardenCara Mostafa managing garden squash

Cara Mostafa managing tomatoesOur Cochins Paula Dean an Julia Childs

cochins 2013   tomato update spaghetti Squash 2013 various fresh herbs an eggs 2


About cmostafa

My wife and I have taken to blogging to document our love of heirloom organic gardening. We operate an heirloom seed and plant business online, and are excited to share some of our experiences with others who share a similar interest in organic farming/gardening. If you like, check out our website at
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