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In this article, we will share the experience of foreign growers on how to identify, monitor and counteracttobacco hawk moth, which can be a huge problem for plants, in particular, for tomatoes.
The life cycle of tobacco hawk moths
If you have ever grown tomatoes in the garden, you probably have already dealt with these green harmful caterpillars. In the US, they live absolutely in all regions and can destroy the tomato crop in record time. At the same time, they also eat eggplants, peppers and potatoes. They merge with green foliage and can eat it continuously, leaving behind a leaky leaves and spoiled fruit.
The hawk moths live in accordance with the following life cycle:
- in late spring, adult butterflies lay eggs on the underside of the leaves, which hatch in a week;
- larvae will feed for 4 to 6 weeks before creating a cocoon for wintering in the soil, however, if the weather is warm enough, the caterpillars can burrow only for 2-3 weeks;
- butterflies appear in the spring, and then lay eggs again.
More than one cycle can occur in a warm climate per year
How to identify tomato caterpillar
Tomato hawk moths can reach 12 cm in length, so for an unprepared person to meet this insect can be a real shock. The greatest harm they bring in the form of caterpillars, or larvae. The pests have a pale green color with black markings, as well as a horn-like protrusion located at the back of the body.
Do not be afraid of this awesome "horn", the caterpillars are not able to sting you.
On the back of the hawk moth has 8 V-shaped strips. Tomato caterpillars appear from the eggs of a large brown butterfly.
The larvae almost completely merge with vegetation. Just make a habit of daily inspection to detect hawk eggs and small caterpillars. Here are a few signs that these pests inhabit your garden:
- Look closely at the top of the tomato leaves. If you find dark green litter( it is left by the larvae that feed on these leaves), take a look at the underside of the leaf and, most likely, there you will find tobacco hawk moth.
- Look for stems that are completely devoid of, or have faded leaves. On them you can find white cocoons and their owners nearby.
If you see large holes on the leaves, or numerous bare stems, destroyed flowers and scars on the surface of the fruit, you can be sure that you have a tobacco plant in the garden. Fruits can also get sunburn by reducing the density of foliage.
How to get rid of tomato caterpillar
Hand picking is an excellent method of pest control, provided you have time and patience, and the garden is rather small. Caterpillars are not dangerous and can not sting. If you are squeamish, and it is unpleasant for you to crush these large insects, you can just throw them in soapy water.
If the hawk population is too large, or the garden is very large, insecticides will be the best means. You can use Bitoxibacillin, which contains the bacteria Bacillus Thuringiensis. They act as a gastric poison for caterpillars, but do not harm plants and pets.
How to prevent the caterpillars from breeding
The following are some effective ways to deal with the problem at an early stage and prevent pests from appearing in the garden.
Loosen and mix the soil at the beginning and end of each season to search for hibernating larvae. Experience shows that thanks to this, about 90% of all caterpillars are destroyed.
Wasps are beneficial insects that feed on tomato caterpillars and provide natural control of the population. In the photo below you can see hawk moth with wasp larvae attached to their backs, similar to rice grains. These caterpillars attacked by wasps almost pose no threat to plants, so do not touch them and let the life cycle go on.
Sow dill and basil in the aisle to scare hawk moths. Marigolds and marigolds are also good companions for planting and deter many pests.
As you can see, pesticides are not always the best insect repellent. By paying due attention and time to inspecting the plants and collecting the caterpillars manually, their population can be significantly reduced. If you do not neglect preventive measures at the beginning and end of the season, the plants in the garden will be healthy and fruitful.