This season we lost our first batch of tomatoes to worm damage. While the fruit were still green, worms bored holes in the fruit and ate out the inside. This causes the fruit to ripen prematurely and rot, so we were left with wormy green fruit and wormy red rotting fruit. Almost every fruit we picked at the very beginning of the season was bad.

The symptoms seem to match most closely with the damage done by the tomato fruitworm. Can anyone confirm this?

The damage was fairly extensive early on, to the extent that I was concerned about not having any harvest at all. The only organic control I had on hand was diatomaceous earth, so I ended up deciding to spray and see what happened.

Soon after I sprayed, the damage stopped. I don’t know enough about this pest to say for sure if the DE worked or if the worm would have naturally died out on its own. Does anyone else have experience with this?

Unfortunately the damage had an even worse indirect effect. I made the very poor choice of picking off the bad fruit and just tossing them on the ground near the fence around our yard. Normally they would just get chopped up by the mower and decompose, but this year they were discovered by a brazen young squirrel who developed a taste for tomatoes. The squirrel may have discovered the tomatoes one way or another, but by throwing the tomatoes right along its path I was essentially daring it to eat my food.

I fought with that one single squirrel all season. I chased it. I threw rocks at it. We set out live traps. Nothing we did had any effect, and the squirrel decimated our early tomato harvest. All our heirloom Brandywine tomatoes? Gone. All our heirloom Mercuri winter keeper tomatoes? Gone. Sauce tomatoes. Pear tomatoes. Gone. The squirrel made runs to our tomato plants about every 5 minutes during the peak time of the day, and then carried his loot back to a nest in a nearby tree. We did harvest plenty of tomatoes for ourselves, but not nearly as much as we would have without the squirrel, and not enough for any significant preservation efforts.

I’m not normally one to consider intentionally injuring animals, but when they get between me and my hard-earned and grown food, it becomes a problem. If this happens again next year, we’re going to have to take some sort of action early in the season to take the sucker out.

2 Responses to “Bug Week: Tomato fruitworm”

  1. Shelley
    25 October 2011 at 8:42 am #

    One option that has worked well for others is to feed the squirrel something he/she likes even better than tomatoes. Birdseed and field corn are great options. Place the squirrel food far from the tomato patch. Of course, this might attract other squirrels to your yard….

  2. CoMo Homestead
    25 October 2011 at 9:10 am #

    I have heard about other people doing this. This is a good option to remember. We may try it next season. Thanks!