What ate my tomato seedlings during the night?

While you’re sleeping, something is devouring your tomato plants. Your tomato plants were healthy and visually appealing the last time you checked before retiring to bed.

But when you wake up to tend to them, you may find holes on the leaves, bare branches, bare stems, or even nearly entire plants gone. What is going on?

The pests that could be eating your tomato plants at night include snails and slugs, hornworms, leaf-cutting bees, cutworms, Colorado Potato Beetle, rabbits, and deer. Examine the markings left on your tomato plants at night to see what is eating them.

From oddly shaped holes in the leaves to chewed stems, the following are typical perpetrators and their trademark damage:

Pest How to Tell
Snails and slugs Slime trails and holes on the leaf surface with healthy margins
Hornworms Defoliates a tomato plant
Leaf-cutting bees Half-moon shaped holes on edges
Cutworms Cutting of plants one inch above or at soil level
Colorado Potato Beetle Irregular rips from the margins, as well as surface holes
Rabbits Cut leaves and neatly trimmed stems towards the ground
Deer Torn leaves and flowers

You may want to read more before rushing out to get your insecticides. In this article, we cover in detail what might be eating your tomato plants and provide effective remedies for the problems.

What Is Eating My Tomato Plants At Night?

Since most tomato plant pests are more active at night, you may only see the harm they’ve caused in the early light. The following details will show you what could eat your tomato plants and the marks they leave.

Snails And Slugs

These slimy critters like moisture and shade. However, you can also find them in sunny areas as long as they can hide in mulch, the shadow side of pots, and other shaded places.

Slugs and snails generate irregularly shaped holes on the leaf blade rather than the sides, although most pests feed from the edges inwards.

Signs You’ve Got Slugs

If you check the underside of the tomato leaves right after dark, you’ll likely find these creatures still hanging around. Another method to tell if it’s them is to look for a slimy route they may have taken.

How to Combat Slugs

Here’s how you can control snails and slugs:

  • Coffee grinds: Scatter coffee grounds over your plants and yard as follows: It discomforts the creatures and may be toxic to them in large doses.
  • To attract and drown them, keep a small container (less than 5 inches high) filled with beer nearby.
  • Eggshells: Spread mildly crushed eggshells around your plants: Most snails would be harmed and would be discouraged from climbing over.
  • Slug repellent products: Employ slug tape and slug fence to keep slugs away from your plants.
  • Slug killer: Employ a pet-safe slug killer that also works on other pests such as cutworms and bugs.

(Sources: Slug Help, Learning with Experts)


These destructive worms are often enormous and three inches long. Despite their size, they may be hard to spot thanks to their green color, which perfectly camouflages to your tomato plants.

They hide on the inner stems or the undersides of the leaves and emerge in the evening when the temperature drops.

Tomato hornworm begins slowly, eating individual leaves, but as they persist, they may defoliate an entire plant.

That is why it is critical to get rid of them as soon as possible so that the remaining eggs do not multiply into new hornworms.

How to Control Hornworms

  • Handpicking for small gardens: You can squash them or feed them to your poultry. Spray them with soapy water to make them uncomfortable so they become noticeable.
  • Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) is a worm killer that does not harm beneficial insects.
  • To devour the hornworms and their eggs, attract helpful insects such as ladybugs, braconid wasps, and green lace wigs.
  • Attempt herbs. You may also use basil, dill, and marigolds as tomato companion plants. Hornworms are repulsed by them.

(Source: The Old Farmer’s Almanac)

Leaf-cutting Bees

Although these insects aid in pollination, they also cut your foliage. You’ll know it’s them from the neat half-moon cuts around the edges of the leaves.

They don’t particularly eat your tomato plants, though. They deposit eggs on such leaf fragments.

While leaf-cutting bees might be annoying, they only cause cosmetic harm to tomato plants. But if you wish to get rid of them either way, the best strategy is to cover your plants for some time.

So they may pollinate elsewhere and potentially obtain material for their eggs.


These worms are fat, mostly one-inch, and they come in gray or black colors. They are more than simply worms. They’re moth larvae hiding in the soil during the day and coming out to eat at night.

Cutworms munch stems largely at ground level, cutting the plant completely.

Getting Rid of Cutworms

  • Plant collars should be used. Surround each plant with cardboard or use toilet paper tubes when transplanting. Remove the collars after the stems have become too thick for the cutworm to bite.
  • Hand-picking. For a few nights, go into your garden with your flashlight and pick the cutworms to dispose of them.
  • Sprinkle Bt around your plants.
  • Bring in fireflies to your garden to help them eradicate the cutworms.
  • To form a barrier against larvae, sprinkle diatomaceous earth around your plant.

You can also dig around your destroyed plant and destroy the cutworm. Here is an example:

Colorado Potato Beetles

As these beetles reach maturity, they have black striped wing coverings and an overall yellow-orange appearance.

Even young ones, however, graze on tomato plants and often seem brownish-red, humped-back, with black spots on the sides.

Colorado potato bugs rip the plant’s margins and perforate the leaf surfaces randomly.

Since they feed in groups, they can damage your tomato leaves within a short period. You may see them right away or discover elongated orange eggs on the leaves.

Eliminating the Colorado Potato Beetle

  • Pick out the beetles, larvae, and eggs by hand and immerse them in soapy water to kill them.
  • Protect your plants from flying pests by using floating coverings.
  • Tansy, catnip, and sage are effective beetle repellents.
  • Bring in additional insects. Ladybugs, ground beetles, and lace wigs feed on Colorado potato beetles.
  • To clean everything from eggs to adult beetles, use a portable insect vacuum or your current vacuum cleaner.
  • Use Bt.


These non-insect pests might be devouring your tomato plants at night. They’re neat eaters, so you’ll probably find snipped shoots and sharply cut leaves.

As long as they can reach where your plants are, they can damage your garden overnight. Nothing about a tomato plant is safe for rabbits to consume, from the stems to the fruits.

Reducing Rabbits in the Garden

  • Fencing your garden to prevent rabbits from getting in. You should not only think about height but also the depth of the fence since some intelligent rabbits know they can dig and reach the other side.
  • Trapping the rabbits and releasing them somewhere. But check your area laws first to see if it’s legal.
  • Applying sulfur or growing onions to keep them away.

(Source: Almanac)


If deer can get into your garden, they’ll most likely arrive at night when it’s calm. They can eat any part of the tomato plant like rabbits but mostly focus on shoots or other nutritious parts that catch their eye.

They rip the leaves of your plants and may leave heart-shaped imprints as they walk about your garden.

Keeping Deer Out of your Garden

  • Spray your tomatoes with a DIY deer repellent spray made from spicy sauce and water.
  • A Deer Out Repellant
  • Soak stockings in strong smells like soap and tie them around your garden. Additionally, anything that smells like you, a person, is effective.
  • Fencing your garden
  • Putting up a meshy wire fence around the garden. You don’t have to install a fence, a wire on the deer’s path would unsettle and keep them away.
  • Using an outdoor ultrasonic deer repellant.

(Sources: Bio-Advanced, University of Maryland, Ausveg, and the University of Nebraska’s Digital Commons)

Here are some of my favorite container gardening tools

Thank you for taking the time to read my content. I hope it is useful for your gardening requirements. I’ve listed some tools below that can help you with container gardening. These are affiliate links so I’ll earn a commission if you use them.

Gardening Gloves – The Pine Tree Tools Bamboo Gardening Gloves are ideal for both men and women, in my opinion. It’s made from bamboo so helps absorb perspiration. They are also incredibly comfy and well-fitting.

Containers – You are aware that selecting the appropriate container for your container gardening is critical. I’ve written a detailed post on the best containers you can choose from. If you’re happy with a plastic container, you can check out the Bloem Saturn Planter.

Watering Can – This is an essential equipment for growing plants in pots or grow bags. It is beneficial to moisten the potting soil without splashing the leaves. For watering potted plants, the Kensington Watering Can is beautiful, robust, and precise.

Trowel – My favorite trowel is the Garden Guru Trowel since it is both sturdy and pleasant to use. My gardening friends really love having a trowel because they use it for digging soil, mixing fertilizer, moving seeds, leveling out the soil, mixing compost or mulch, and also dividing tubers

Bypass Pruner – I really like the Corona Bypass Pruner because it’s durable and gives a clean cut that helps plants recover faster. If you want something inexpensive, try the Fiskars Bypass Pruner, which is also quite excellent.

Related Questions

  • What is eating my tomato seedlings at night?

    Many pests and animals may feast on your tomatoes throughout the night. Hornworms, slugs, snails, leaf-cutting bees, cutworms, and potato beetles are some of the pests that may be eating your tomatoes at night. The animals that may be going after your tomato plants are rabbits and deer.

  • What animal eats tomato seedlings?

    Although birds, hornworms, and other insects are typical tomato plant pests, animals may also be a nuisance at times.

    Most gardeners are accustomed to dealing with rabbits, squirrels, and deer, but they seldom consider safeguarding their plants from the following animal pests:

    1. Woodchucks.
    2. Gophers.
    3. Chipmunks.
    4. Opossum.
    5. Raccoons.
    6. Moles.
    7. Voles.
  • What animal is eating my plants at night?

    Some common nighttime feeders are deer, groundhogs, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, and skunks. Deer and bunnies are the most destructive. Deer nibbling leaves behind ragged edges, while rabbits leave a distinctive 45-degree angle cut. A barrier is the most effective approach to keep animal feeders away at night.

  • What is taking bites out of my tomatoes?

    If you’re discovering half-eaten tomatoes or ones with bite marks, you’re likely dealing with squirrels or chipmunks. These animals are infamous for clambering into plants and nibbling on fruits. They are usually seeking the water in the tomatoes.

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