Tiny black worms on tomato plants?

rustyolranger4x4June 15, 2009

Ok so ive done a fair amount if searching for common tomato plant pest and really havent seen my perticular problem. I live in north florida and have a small(6x12) raised bed garden. I noticed a few leaves on my tomato plants last week had some holes all in them, I searched but did not find any bugs. I went out this morning and 1/2 the leaves on one of my plants are that way! I flipped over a few leaves and they had small 1/4" long black worms on them. They're not eating the entire leaf just the soft sections of the leaves. Ive sprayed them all with sevin but id still like to know what these worms are? Any information would be greatly appriciated!

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First: don't use Sevin on your tomatoes, from what I've heard. You will be eating the tomatoes, and Sevin is a particularly toxic, harsh chemical. The tomatoes can absorb that stuff and it could get into the tomatoes you eat.

As for the worms, I'm not sure. Armyworms came to mind, but a photo would help ID them more easily. I think some Florida tomato experts might know what you've got...I'm in Tennessee so I am not very familiar with Florida tomato pests.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 2:29PM
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I'm in west central Florida and had a problem with armyworms just a couple of weeks ago. They look mostly black from a distance but upon looking closely, they have a bit of stripe to them. It happened the same way here -- first just a few leaves started out with holes, then a LOT of leaves, then they started destroying the tomatoes themselves. We were getting a lot of rain at that time, but now we seem to be in another dry spell. I destroyed all the worms I could and sprayed with Garden Safe insect killer, hoping it would be a bit more mild. Between that and (I beleive) the lack of rain, I haven't seen any more worms (knock on wood!). Good luck!


    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 3:39PM
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I got a couple yellow-striped armyworms (Spodoptera ornithogalli) last year that ate some holes in the leaves, but didn't do much damage otherwise. Must be more of a problem in Florida, and with species other than S. ornithogalli.

One of the two yellow-striped armyworms I found on my tomatoes last year.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 5:01PM
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Karen Pease

Yeah, Sevin is a carcinogen. Don't put it on anything you plan to eat. It's illegal in half of the EU. It's also super broad-spectrum, so it should only be used as a pesticide of last resort. It'll even kill your earthworms.

Rotenone is a little better than Sevin, but it's got it's own problems (it's suspected to be a risk factor for Parkinson's). If you really want a broad spectrum that's not going to poison you, I'd go with neem or pyrethrin. Neem is probably safer for people who aren't pregnant/trying to get pregnant, while pyrethrin is probably safer for people who are.

Even better than a broad spectrum is a narrow spectrum, though. Almost all "worms" you see on your plant leaves will really be caterpillars. And caterpillars can be killed by Bacillus thuringiensis var Kurstaki ("Thuricide"). That's about as targeted, non-persistant, and non-toxic for humans as you can get; it not only doesn't affect mammals -- it doesn't even affect non-Lepidoptera insects. And it has to be ingested, too. The downsides to it are that you need to apply it once every few days, and that it takes a couple days from when the insects ingest it and when they stop feeding.

Re, Garden Safe: that's pyrethrin in canola oil. A much better choice than Sevin.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 5:10PM
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spiced_ham(z5 OH)

They might be beet armyworms. I had them last year on one plant. A nightmare. I must have killed nearly 100 befor they grew to full size.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2009 at 7:24AM
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I go out every morning and at night with my LED flashlight and start hunting and I have found the cut worm on my toms and peps at times. I hand pick them off. Look for the smoking gun, hole in the leaves or frass on the leaf and then look at the leaf above. This is from a moth that flies in at night I suppose and lays eggs and then they hatch. I have not been able to see eggs however I have seen worms small and larger as I could not see them at first. I have been known to use my magnifying glass at times:)
Check out my garden below and see if that looks like the cut worm.....
Good Luck,

Here is a link that might be useful: my pool container garden

    Bookmark   June 16, 2009 at 7:34AM
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Use tobacco juice. That is old cigars, cigarette butts, old chew etc. soaked in water for a couple of days then filttered through stocking and sparyed daily for a few days at a time.
Best remedy I know of for all kinds of worms.
Good luck and good harvest.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2010 at 10:24AM
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