Don't Kill That Horn Worm!

Gardeners who find a horn worm infested with wasp larvae should leave it alone and let the predator work.

| July/August 1980

  • 064 horn worm - healthy
    A healthy horn worm, one that will gobble up the leaves of your tomato plants, looks like this.
    PHOTO: MARY APPELHOL
  • 064 horn worm - infested
    A horn worm infested with braconid wasp larvae looks like this.
    MARY APPELHOL
  • 064 horn worm - dead
    The dead, dehydrated skin of a horn worm after the larvae have eaten it.
    MARY APPELHOL

  • 064 horn worm - healthy
  • 064 horn worm - infested
  • 064 horn worm - dead

Many wholistic gardeners will—upon encountering a pest that's obviously in the process of dining on a "crop" plant—promptly pick the critter off and drown, "gish," or otherwise permanently dispose of it.

Most often, of course, such militant garden protection is the best policy. However, should you happen to espy a tomato horn worm that is covered with the white cocoons of the braconid wasp  as opposed to a healthy and hungry specimen, your best course of action is to leave the worm alone. It will soon die and dehydrate as a result of its parasites. The wasp larvae will then mature and lay more eggs on more of the pests that threaten to rob you of your hard-earned harvest!






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