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Treating Army Worms on Tomato Plants


Did you also see the green, brown, or gray worms with stripes or spots along their bodies, on your plants? These might be army worms on tomato plants. It’s time to pay attention to the plants and their health. Continue reading the blog and know how to kill army worms.

Firstly let’s know what these armyworms on tomatoes are!

Close-up-of-a-caterpillar-on-a-green-leaf-with-visible-damage,-possibly-army-worms-on-tomato-plants

Army worms get their name from their habit of moving in large groups, resembling an army marching across a landscape. The tomato fruitworm caterpillars are famous for being a glutton and an agent that causes extensive destruction on crops, among which tomato plants are widely cultivated.

Army worms are caterpillars that resemble moths post-larval stage, posing the greatest threat to plants during this time. Adult moths lay eggs on leaf undersides; these hatch into caterpillars that immediately begin consuming plant tissues.

What do army worms look like?

Armyworms are larvae of some moths that destroy crops in fields by eating them at a high rate increasing their numbers. They would gauge approximately an inch. These 5-2 inches long snakes have a smooth cylindrical body with distinct stripes found between their sides. Their coloration differs from green to brown or black, and they are often spotted and striped. Armyworms are easily identified by their six true front legs and several prolegs on their abdomen, giving them a distinctive worm-like appearance. They are voracious eaters, quickly devouring plants when their numbers become alarmingly high.

How to spot these army worms on tomato plants?

  • Chewed Leaves: Army worm damage the leaves on the plants, it often leads to chewed leaves leaving large holes or ragged edges.
  • Skeletonized Leaves: Leaves which are infected and eaten down to the veins have skeleton-like structure, showing the clear signs of the infection.
  • Damaged Fruit: The worms are present on the plants to feed on it and the fruit causing visible holes or scarring.
  • Frass (Caterpillar Droppings): Small, dark pellets on the leaves or ground beneath the plant is one of the symptoms to find if the plant is infected.
  • Presence of Caterpillars: As said earlier, caterpillars or eggs are often found on the underside of leaves, so checking them thoroughly will help in early identification.

Symptoms match? Let’s see how we can protect the plants from armyworms on tomatoes now!!

Close-up-of-a-dark-striped-caterpillar-on-a-green-leaf,-indicative-of-army-worms-on-tomato-plants

Army Worm Control

The management of armyworms is important for a crop to not be destroyed by damaging their population. IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approaches offer environmentally friendly interventions that decrease armyworm population numbers. One of the approaches is to encourage biological control organisms which eat armyworms such as birds, wasps and ground beetles. Animal farmers also can perform crop rotation and plant trap crops to cause interferences on armyworm life cycle and decline. 

Biological control technologies involving natural enemies like Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and parasitic nematodes can eradicate the armyworm problems in environments by itself. These techniques do not involve destroying beneficial insects or the environment. 

Chemical control can be an additional intervention, nevertheless we should be careful not to affect other species and the environment. Insecticides like spinosad and pyrethroids effectively combat worms when applied according to label instructions and combined with diverse management measures for optimal results.

Handpicking the armyworms on tomatoes

One of the simplest ways to remove armyworms is by handpicking them from the plants. Wear gloves and collect the caterpillars in a bucket of soapy water to dispose of them safely.

Chemical Controls as army worm treatment

If the infestation is severe, you may need to resort to chemical insecticides. Use these products sparingly and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Look for insecticides specifically designed for caterpillars and tomato plants.

Rotate Crops

Crop rotation can help prevent armyworms from becoming a recurring problem. Plant tomatoes in different spots each year to disrupt armyworms and other pests’ life cycles, enhancing garden health.

Biological Controls for Army worms on Tomato Plants

BT-Thuricide-bag-and-army-worm-on-stem-used-to-treat-army-worms-on-tomato-plants

Use natural predators or biological agents as army worm killers. Army worm insecticide containing beneficial bacteria like Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) are effective against caterpillars while being safe for humans and pets. 

Using BT is one the best way to get rid of army worms. The product here specializes in affecting only the worms which indeed harm our plants. It works as a toxin which when ingested by armyworms, disrupts their digestive system, ultimately leading to their death. It is a target specific, simple and ready-to-use solution, signifying its use and benefits.

 

Reference:

  1. Baiomy, Fatina, Mona N. Wahba, and Enas Adel Abd-Elatef. “Effects of various salts on the efficacy of Bacillus thuringiensis against the larval instar of fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda (JE Smith)(Lepidoptera: Noctuidae).” Egyptian Academic Journal of Biological Sciences. A, Entomology 16.2 (2023): 69-79.
  2. Jones, Mona T. “Use of Bacillus thuringiensis in pest management of the tomato ecosystem in Trinidad.” (1984).

 

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