Tomato caterpillars (also known as budworms) can cause serious damage to tomatoes, especially in the spring. They are the larvae of a particular moth, which we rarely see, because it likes to get out at night time, feeding on nectar and of course, laying eggs. It’s not often we see the larvae either, that is of course, until it’s too late. They start out life feeding on soft foliage, until they work up the courage to burrow on into developing fruit, causing rot.
I battled with this pest for years, until I had discovered the effectiveness of BT sprays like Dipel. It’s a natural bacterium that when ingested by a caterpillar, causes it to become ill or die. The trick is to apply it to the tomato foliage and flowers, every 10 days or so, so that the larvae are exposed to it at a young age before they make their advances on the fruit. The only issue is, you need to be diligent for effective control.
I struggle with diligence as much as the next gardener, so this year I’ve taken the one stop approach with my new best friend, the vege net. Thrown over the tomato bushes, it acts as a barrier to insects such as moths, so they won’t be laying any eggs on my tomato crops this year. The mesh is also fine enough to keep fruit fly out... so here’s to a bumper return of sup-tropical tomatoes this season!
Justine Russell looks at a swag of other organic strategies for dealing with common tomato problems in the Nov/Dec 2012 issue of ABC Organic Gardener Magazine along with a wrap-up of his favourite heirloom varieties.
First published: October 2012