Store-bought tomatoes could never replace the taste of freshly plucked tomatoes from your garden. Tomatoes are the favorite choice of beginner and experienced gardeners.
They contain a rich amount of antioxidant lycopene, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and potassium. Tomatoes are comparatively easy to grow and have lesser problems. But still, there are some tomato bugs and diseases that we should keep an eye on.
Bugs are one of the worst nightmares of every gardener. Even if you give the best care to your garden, these little bad guys might sneak into the garden and steal your harvest. You have to take proper pest control measures to keep them away from your cherished plants.
If you see there is something wrong with your plant. First, observe the plant and diagnose the issue. We need to treat different pest attacks in different ways. It's always good to know your enemies before you start the game. Let's meet 15 common tomato bugs out there that can harm your precious plants.
How to Identify and Manage Common Tomato Bugs
Aphids are small but destructive pests commonly found in tomato plants. They are very tiny insects, but we can spot them with our eyes. Aphids suck on the plant stem and feed themselves from the plant sap. Small infestations may not even disturb the plant.
But they are not removed from the plant; they will multiply into large numbers. Large-scale infestations of aphids may even kill the plant. It can reduce the harvest and weaken the plant. Aphids also attack several other plants like eggplants and potatoes.
How to remove aphids from the plant/control
Prevention is better than cure!
To prevent aphid attacks, plant plants that attract aphid's enemy insects like the ladybug. These plants will protect your tomato plant from aphids.
They are too small, so you can spray water to remove them from the plant. If the infestation is severe, remove those leaves and put them in the garbage can. Spraying a soap mixture will also kill the aphids.
Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to naturally get rid of aphids once and for all.
Whiteflies are also sap-sucking insects, like aphids. We can find them on the bottom side of the leaves. They suck sap juices from the plant, which result in the yellowing of leaves. It causes early leaf falling and other health problems for the plant. These insects can carry plant diseases.
How to get rid of Whiteflies
You can release insects like ladybugs into the plant to kill whiteflies. Other options are insecticidal soaps and horticultural oils. Also, make sure to spray water under the leaves while watering. If you want to read more strategies to control whiteflies, check out this article.
The tomato hornworm is the caterpillar stage of the Five-spotted Hawk Moth which belongs to the Sphingidae family. The moth does not harm tomato plants, but the caterpillar can be the nemesis of your precious plants.
Hornworms are not small insects. They grow up to 3 inches which makes it easier for us to spot them. But they hide well since their color is the same as the leaves of the plant. They eat up leaves very quickly and can empty the plant within days. They also leave around eggs in the plant.
How to get rid of tomato hornworms
Since they are not small worms, we can easily pick them off from the plant. Check the tomato plants thoroughly. Don't let their camouflage fool you. Also, check the nearby plants too. Monterey Bt or Bacillus thuringiensis is an effective insecticide against hornworms.
4. Brown marmorated stink bug
Another common enemy of gardeners is stink bugs. Stink bug attacks the raw tomatoes and eats them from the inside. It creates damage in different crops, including vegetables, fruits, and nuts. These bugs usually come from trash, so keep your garden clean.
How to kill stink bugs
Take a tweezer and pull the bug out of the plant. Use a white vinegar solution to kill them instantly.
Have you ever had a horrible experience of losing your tomato plant in one night? If yes, cutworms might be the culprit. Cutworms are caterpillars with spots on them that can highly damage the tomato plant overnight. They are active at night time.
How to prevent cutworm attacks
Use collars around the plants to prevent cutworms from crawling into the plant. Once you find them, kill them immediately on the spot. Till the soil occasionally and remove the debris from the garden. Cutworms hide in the trash during the daytime.
6. Flea Beatles
Flea Beatles attack tomato plants in both stages of their life (as larvae and adult). Larvae attack the roots while adults eat up the leaves. They also create damage to the germinating seeds.
How to spot and eradicate flea beetles
Flea beetles are small insects which makes it difficult for us to handpick them. They are usually brown or black with yellow or white stripes. To control them, keep your garden garbage-free all the time.
A dusting of diatomaceous earth helps to keep them at bay. Diatomaceous earth dries out the insect by absorbing oils and fat from its body. You can use covers and botanical insecticides to save the plant from flea beetle attacks.
Here’s more information on how to get rid of flea beetles naturally.
7. Root knot-nematodes
Root knot-nematodes cause yellow leaves, wilting and stunted growth. They are more active in the warm climate. To spot nematodes, check the roots of the plant. If the plant roots have swollen into small nodes, the plant is infected.
It is not an easy task to remove them from your garden. So it is always better to prevent the attack. Practice occasional crop rotation and tilling of the soil. Maintain good hygiene in your garden as the nematodes spread through garden tools.
Should you sterilize the soil or not to get rid of nematodes?
It depends on the choice. Soil sterilization removes the nematodes, but it also removes other beneficial organisms. Sterilization is also expensive. If you are planning to do it, supplement the soil with good compost after the treatment.
8. Blister Beetles
Blister beetles are always hungry.
They could eat up your whole plant as a single meal. So watch out for these little guys in black. There are also red and grey blister beetles. Remove them from the plant with gloved hands. To kill the beetle, put them in a soap solution.
Is it safe to pick blister beetles with bare hands?
Do not touch the beetle with bare hands. When crushed, it releases a substance called Cantharidin. It can cause blisters in your hand.
Snails are the usual unwelcomed visitors in every garden. They love moist surfaces. Snails can eat the fruits and affect your harvest. Make sure to water the plants in the morning so that the leaves will dry by night.
You can control the snails using a beer trap.
So, what’s a beer trap?
This trap is to trick the snails. Pour some beer in a glass and keep it in the garden at night. Snails love beer, but once they reach the trap, they will drown in it.
10. Spider mites
Spider mites create a web in leaves and stems. You can find them in groups under the leaves. Spider mites are very tiny and are resistant to many insecticides. If not treated, they suck the plant sap and weakens it. To prevent spider mite infestation, water the plants well and use insecticides with oil in them.
We have an elaborate guide on how you can get rid of spider mites on plants. Feel free to check it out.
11. Corn Earworms
Corn Earworms are also called tomato fruit worms. They are capable of creating severe damage to your garden. They feed on fruits and make them hollow.
Remove these worms as soon as you spot them. Use their natural enemies like wasps and pirate bugs to prevent them from killing your harvest. These worms attack corn plants also. So it would be perfect to plant tomatoes away from the corn.
Thrips are hard to spot insects with wings. They spread the tomato wilt virus in your garden. They cause yellowing of leaves which gradually lead to spots in the leaves. It also causes chlorotic spots on the fruit.
To avoid thrips infecting your plant, use tomato plant varieties that are thrip resistant. Always watch out for the infestations, and remove the infected plants quickly.
13. Colorado potato beetles
Despite their name, potato beetles love to feed on tomato plants. They eat up the leaves and reduces the harvest. In worst cases, it might even kill the plant.
To prevent them from spreading, destroy their yellow-colored eggs found under the leaves. Pick out the larvae and drop them in soap solutions. Monterey Garden Insect Spray works well against potato beetles.
Leafhoppers are insects that are light blue.
These little insects don't cause much damage to adult plants. But leafhoppers can stunt the growth of younger plants. You can use low-toxic pesticides to spray on them. Organic pesticides like neem oil will be great to keep them out of their garden.
Greenflies are the vectors of aphids. They spread several other plant diseases also. Ladybugs are their natural enemies.
Releasing ladybugs to the garden will help to control greenflies. You can also use insecticide sprays to kill them.
These are the 15 tomato bugs you should watch out for in your garden. It is always good to take preventive measures than treating an infestation. If infected, make sure to diagnose the problem well and find which pest is creating problems.
Reach the final pest control method which is perfect for you. Treat the problem at the beginning itself for a healthy garden. Comment down below your gardening experiences with tomatoes.