Potato bugs and tomato worms (aka tobacco worms) can be the bane of any organic gardener’s existence. Tomato worms can dessicate your entire tomato or potato crop in one night! Potato bugs make quick work of your potato plants in a very short time as well.
I’ve successfully eradicated our garden of these two pesky pests, and here’s how:
1. Peppermint essential oil (where to buy affiliate link) and dish soap – These pests hate the smell of peppermint and they hate the taste of soap. I make a simple spray using about 10 drops of peppermint essential oil, a squirt of blue Dawn in an empty spray bottle like this one (affiliate link),) filling it up the rest of the way with water. This won’t kill the bugs/worms and the tomato worms that are already on the plants don’t seem to be deterred, but it does seem to stop new ones from setting up their supper table. It also won’t harm your plants and won’t pass on any nasty pesticide residue to you and your family.
2. Hand-picking – This requires due diligence, but is the most effective method that I’ve found. I walk through the garden every day with an old coffee can filled with a little water. I examine each plant and pick off every single potato bug and tomato worm. (I won’t lie – it’s really gross, tomato worms are huge and they give me the heebie jeebies! Use a stick and knock them off into the bowl or wear gloves.) They go into the coffee can and are drowned. They then get emptied into the feed bin in the chicken coop. My chickens love them and my plants are saved from their annilation. Make sure you thoroughly examine your plants – if you miss one tomato worm it can eat your entire plant (including your un-ripe tomatoes) overnight.
3. Parasitic Wasps - These little buggers are a tomato worm’s worst nightmare. You’ll recognize them if you see them when they’re latched on, it looks like the tomato worm has pieces of rice sticking out of it all over. If your tomato worms are being attacked, let the little lifesavers do their work! Remove the tomato worm from your plant, but don’t kill it. And, rest easy, because the wasps will be saving your crop!
Important tip: If you find one tomato worm, there are most likely more. Don’t delay treatment – these hungry little buggers can eat up your whole crop overnight! In one day, going through my plants, I got rid of all of the tomato worms, I sprayed with my peppermint oil spray and I haven’t found anymore – even after heavy rains.
This is what’s worked for us, so far, what’s working for you? Do you have another organic method to control these pesky pests in your garden? Please share in the comments!