How to Identify Tomato Pests

tomato-beetle

Don’t Let These Pests Destroy Your Plants!

Home tomato growers across the country face a variety of insect pests that will eat the plants, damage the fruit and leave the plant vulnerable to disease.

Today, we’re going to tell you about the tomato pests that can kill your plants before you get your first tomato so that you know what to look for and can stop the destruction before it starts!

You need to be aware that the vast majority of insects are benign or even beneficial. Many of these insects pollinate the fruit and many feed on the destructive insects so before reaching for broad spectrum insecticides that will kill the beneficial insects along with the bad, try less toxic, environmentally-friendly alternatives first.

Some examples include insecticidal soap, neem oil, horticultural oil and pyrethrin. All of these products are available online or at your local nurseries, feed stores or home-improvement stores. Here are some of the most common pests and what you can do to control them.

Aphids

These tiny pear-shaped insects suck the sap from the entire plant. You can often spot them marching in rows up and down the stems of your plants. Although aphids won’t usually kill your plant, they cause stunted growth, curled leaves and scalded fruit. They also leave behind a trail of honeydew, a sticky substance that leads to sooty mold.

Lady bugs feed on aphids and other pests so you should always welcome these dainty, spotted little bugs into your garden. Organic controls for aphids include insecticidal soap or neem oil. Chemical pesticides such as malathion can also be used.

Flea Beetles

Flea beetles are often spotted as tiny dark jumping dots. They eat holes in both the leaves and the tomatoes and are capable of completely destroying young plants although generally don’t affect the yield in mature plants. Insecticidal soap, neem oil, horticultural oil, pyrethrin, carbaryl and bifenthrin can be effective in fighting flea beetle infestations.

Tomato Hornworm

Tomato hornworms are very easy to identify because they can be up to 3 inches long and, as the name suggests, they have horns on their back ends. They are the same color as the tomato leaves but if you’re doing regular scouting, you’ll see them.

The most effective way to eliminate tomato hornworms is to simply pick them off the leaves and destroy them. If you don’t get rid of them, they will consume vast quantities of tomato leaves and sometimes even eat the fruit! Soon your plant will have no leaves at all. The parasitic larvae of the braconid wasp can help control hornworms because they feed on them.

Stink Bugs

Stink bugs are fairly common in the southern part of the US and are easy to identify because, well, they stink! They’re either green or brown with a shield-shaped body that’s ½ to ¾ inch long. These fruit-chewing pests make small holes in tomatoes that cause tough yellow spots. Controls include horticultural oil, pyrethrin, cyfluthrin and bifenthrin.

Whiteflies

Whiteflies are common in tropical and subtropical climates. Both dults and the wingless nymphs feed on the undersides of the tomato leaves. They’re tiny insects and once they have established a food source, they’ll multiply rapidly.

Your tomato plants will be stunted with yellow leaves. Honeydew and sooty mold are definite signs of a whitefly infestation but it’s far better to catch them before you get to that point. The most effective control is insecticidal soap.

Without fail, the best way to keep your plants healthy is to catch these bugs before they can get a toehold in your area. Check your garden frequently to scout for these and any other pests. Early identification and treatment is always much easier and more effective.

If you’ve experienced any of these bugs, please tell us about your situation in the comments section below. We love hearing from you!

Comments from Other Gardeners
  • fatcat says:

    I have not only had whiteflies, fungus gnats, saw flies,thrips and worms. I was spraying insecticidal soap and bt , to the point I was spraying something 2x /week, it was getting far too time consuming. I found something organic that works on all PLUS spider mites, and in fact will act as a deterrent also allows you 7-14d between applications and it’s a biologic. Can also use as a soil drench to kill grubs and earwigs that live in the soil. Curious? Azamax or Azatrol. Great stuff. when nothing else kills spider mites, this is your answer. Fairly little damage to the leaves 9under 90 degrees

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