About Tomato Fruitworms

I’ll start by saying that I’ve never, ever sprayed my tomatoes with an insecticide in all the years I’ve grown them.

However…, I think this is the “perfect storm” scenario. I have a corn field about 25 yards from my garden and for some reason I have more developing toms getting ruined this year than ever before. Not too many Hornworms really, but I’ve murdered way more fruit worms at this point than I think I should have had to.

So I’m almost ready to spray something, but I have Sun Sugar, Super Sweet 100’s, and Christmas Grapes, that all have ready to harvest fruit at various stages. That may be less of an issue, since the target for the fruitworms seems to be San Marzano and Marglobe, while ignoring the cherry tomatoes. I also have a Large Cherry tom that they’ve seemed to steer clear of.

What has worked? I hear Sevin, or Neem, or even insecticide soap, and some say BT. I hate to use anything to be honest, but I’ve only got 9 plants and at this rate I’m wondering if I’ll even have enough to make salsa. (Not bad enough I tossed a few SM’s due to BE rot, but then they seem to be the favored variety of the dang worms!)

What fruit worms? Can you post a photo?

I use neem oil for spraying tomatoes. It work against horn worms. It is organic and I like the smell.

You can use neem oil but in your situation, it may be too late for the neem oil. I would use Take Down in your situation, it has Pyrethrin in it and works very well.

Had to go watch my Niece play softball so got home late. I went out with a flashlight but didn’t spot any. They look like this though pretty much. Just a screen shot from the computer after I googled Tomato Fruitworm. Some folks refer to them as corn earworm.

The ones I’m seeing are the brown and cream colored ones. They’re tunneling into the green tomatoes and for every one I round up I find 3-4 other tomatoes with holes in them.

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I used to use a lot more neem than I have in the recent past, but it may be time to break it out and get it into the rotation. I think I will try to be a bit more forward thinking next garden season and try to get ahead of the game a little.

I have a bottle of Bonide Rotenone-Pyrethrins that I had bought to use on my Raspberries a couple years ago that probably isn’t exactly the same as Take Down but maybe I’ll give 'em a dose of that to see if it is effective. I just grabbed it and the label says it can be used up to one day before harvest.

I was thinking about mixing a little Sevin and just spraying the ground under the tomato plants up to the trunks to see if that would be effective as well, but I may just give the Pyrethrin & Neem a chance to work first.


I would use the Bonide Rotenone for now, it works well in your situation. If you want to use neem oil, you can, it just takes a lot longer to see results.

Keep us posted on the results so we can learn from this too.


Ron Eversole

I did not know that corn ear worm would burrow into a tomatoe, learn something every day if you pay attention! Great photos and info.

Peppers, too

That is interesting, you know yesterday I was inspecting my box car willie for horn worms and I noticed that my cow horn pepper next to it had several half leaves and some obvious cut stems, and there was a big fat horn worm right there eating it. I had never seen a horn worm on a pepper.

Okay, so I mixed up some Bonide Rotenone on 7/9 and sprayed all over and in and around the 9 tomato plants. Soaked them good. Checked on 7/10 no pests. 7/11 no pests but we did get a 2 1/2" deluged of rain that night.

So on 7/12 after the heavy rain I spotted a small tomato worm on a leaf, and I also spotted two brown moths that I assume are responsible for these things. I killed the worm, and thumped the moths, then promptly went and got the rest of the spray I’d mixed up earlier and re-applied.

I don’t know if the worm and moths would have cashed it in anyway (I did use a spreader sticker so maybe there was some residue or remnants of the initial spray that would have done them in) but I gave 'em another dose anyway.


Glad to hear the Pyrethrins is working so far. You may want to look into Spinosad as it’s recommended over Pyrethrins for your situation. I reccomended Pyrethins since you already had some and it wipes out most of the worms quickly. The main reason is, Pyrethrins is more of a contact insecticide which will not last long. Spinosad on the other hand will last longer. When the worm eats something that has been sprayed with Spinosad, it will attack their nervous system and kill it.

Bonide also makes a Spinosad, which I have heard from a few growers, it also works well.