Caterpillars boring into tomatoes

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Caterpillars boring into tomatoes

Post by peach » Mon Sep 09, 2013 9:28 am

Caterpillars are are boring inside my Cherokee Purple tomatoes. How can I prevent this. Spiders also MAY be boring inside too.

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Re: Caterpillars boring into tomatoes

Post by lorijones » Wed Sep 11, 2013 6:33 pm

These are probably tomato fruitworms (Helicoverpa zea) boring into your tomatoes. They are also known as corn earworms and are the same caterpillars that you often find eating the tips of ears of corn. These caterpillars are the larval form of a rather nondescript tan colored moth. The younger caterpillars (early instars) often begin by eating foliage but then gradually move to the fruit which is their preferred food. They bore into green tomatoes and also peppers and sometimes even beans. The caterpillars vary in color from green to tan to brownish-red but most have a dark and a light stripe on the side of their body.
I have noticed holes in my tomatoes as well but haven't seen the caterpillars. We did however find quite a few in the corn when we harvested it a few weeks ago.
The problem with controlling them is that once they bore into the fruit, they are protected from insecticides. You need to control them before they find their way into the fruit. One of the best and safest (for beneficial insects like bees and other pollinators) ways to control them is to apply Bonide Bt Thuricide or Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew according to the label directions. These sprays contain bacteria that destroy caterpillars after they ingest the foliage or fruit that has been sprayed. If your tomatoes are in bloom, be sure to spray in the evening or early morning when the bees are less active. Once the caterpillars get in the fruit, there is no good control. Monitor for eggs and young caterpillars and spray the foliage and developing fruit with Bt or Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew as soon as you see signs of eggs and/or caterpillars.
The spiders may just be crawling into the holes made by the caterpillars. Spiders are carnivorous and would not be eating tomato flesh. Perhaps they are going into the holes in search of an insect or 2 for lunch!

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