Growing tomatoes in your garden is a gratifying experience. You put in weeks of hard work and dedication to develop the perfect heirloom tomato, and there is nothing more disheartening than discovering that insect pests have ruined your crops. Tomato bugs are a common issue that every gardener faces at some point in their life.
There are hundreds of insects to look out for, and identifying bugs on tomato plants is a skill that comes in handy. Although beneficial insects are essential for healthy plants, quite a few do more damage than good.
Before you start spraying whatever insecticides and pesticides you can get your hands on, learn about the individual plant pests, how to spot them, and the physical damage that they leave behind.
You might even pick up some natural remedies, like what to plant with tomatoes to keep bugs away, that help you prevent pests from eating veggies without having to use chemicals to get rid of them.
- The Difference Between Pests and Beneficial Bugs
- The Most Common Tomato Bugs
- The Most Common Bugs on Tomato Plants
- Colorado Potato Beetles on Tomatoes
- Removing Cutworms from Tomato Plants
- Getting Rid of Flea Beetles
- Dangers of Hornworms
- Do You Have Nematodes?
- Spider Mites on Tomatoes
- Stink Bugs and Tomatoes
- How to Handle Tomato Fruitworms
- Finding White Bugs on Tomato Plants
- Bugs to Help Your Tomato Plants
- What to Plant with Tomatoes to Keep Bugs Away
The Difference Between Pests and Beneficial Bugs
The best way to plant and grow cherry tomatoes, as well as other tomato types, includes disease and pest control. The vast majority of bugs provide advantages to the plants in your garden. Beneficial insects help with pollination, aeration, and fertilization.
Following the proper tomato plant spacing helps prevent unwanted bugs and disease from spreading between plants. Our garden beds rely on helpful critters for a healthy life.
However, there are tomato fruit problems that can negatively affect the plants and your harvest.
Some bugs start their larval stage after an adult lays eggs on or near tomato leaves. After hatching into pupae, the larvae feed on our veggies. They eventually grow into nymphs and adults, where the process repeats itself until an entire infestation breaks out.
You don’t want to remove any of the good bugs on tomato plants because they are natural predators and eat the ones that do damage. Educate yourself on tomato bugs, and the way to get rid of potato bugs on potato plants, so that you’re always doing what is best for your garden.
Observe what the bugs look like and how they act before removing them. Do some research to confirm that you’ve identified the correct pest and then take action against them.
When tomato plant leaves turning yellow, it’s important to determine whether it’s a disease or a pest problem. This allows you to choose the appropriate treatment.
The Most Common Tomato Bugs
Purchasing resistant varieties of tomatoes and knowing what to plant with tomatoes to keep bugs away only takes you so far.
If you recognize signs of infestation and your plant stems and fruits are damaged, it’s time to get control of your garden. Saving the infected plants from bugs is possible if you know how to properly deal with each type of bug.
The Most Common Bugs on Tomato Plants
You’ve likely heard of tomato pests called aphids. If not, you might also know them by the name green flies or blackflies. These are sap-sucking bugs that feed on a range of garden crops.
Aphids are extremely destructive to tomatoes, and you often see their soft bodies crawling all over the stems and leaves of the plants. When aphids feed on our plants, the plant doesn’t produce a large yield, and the overall health declines.
One of the easiest ways to remove them is by spraying the plants with a steady water stream. Once removed, spray the plants with homemade insecticidal soap, a non toxic bug spray for veggies and plants, or introduce ladybugs to your garden to keep their populations down.
To make natural pesticides for tomato plants, try this recipe. Fill a small, clean spray bottle with cold water and add a few drops of dish soap. Replace the lid and shake it so the two ingredients are well-combined.
After removing the bugs on tomato plants, lightly mist the plants’ foliage with the dish soap spray to keep aphids and other pests from returning.
Colorado Potato Beetles on Tomatoes
The Colorado potato beetle is commonly found in North America and affects tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and other vegetables. They are easily identified by their yellow and black striped shells.
The larvae are the most dangerous to your tomatoes because they feed on the leaves until nothing is left behind. Handpick the pests off while wearing gloves.
Practice crop rotation the following year because they overwinter in the soil and reappear if you plant tomatoes in the same spot again.
Removing Cutworms from Tomato Plants
Cutworms might have a caterpillar body, but these insects belong to a different species entirely and typically reside beneath the soil. They come up to feed on the vines, stems, and foliage of tomatoes and leave the entire plant weakened.
Spreading cornmeal around your plants is one way to kill them. Water the area well to disrupt their habitat and encourage them to move elsewhere.
If this doesn’t work, wrap a cardboard collar around the plant so that the soil separates from the stem and the cutworms can’t climb up and eat.
Getting Rid of Flea Beetles
Flea beetles won’t often kill a tomato plant completely, but they damage the plants and reduce vigor. Flea beetles feed on the parts of the plant that are underground. They rarely feed on mature fruits, but it happens occasionally.
These bugs spread diseases, which affects your overall health and the cooperative extension. Use crop rotation to prevent them from overwintering and reappearing, and lay sticky traps on the ground to catch them.
Dangers of Hornworms
A tomato hornworm is a type of caterpillar found in North America and Australia. These are giant bugs that defoliate the plants in minimal time. They camouflage themselves against the leaves and are hard to spot if you’re not paying attention.
Look for small black or green droppings on top of the tomato leaves and check the underside of the leaves too. Introduce parasitic wasps to the garden to keep their numbers at a minimum.
Do You Have Nematodes?
If your tomatoes look yellow and aren’t growing well, you might consider pulling a plant to inspect for nematodes. If the roots have lots of knobby growths, you likely have root nematodes.
These create severe problems for the tomatoes because it stops the roots from delivering nutrients to the foliage and flowers. Marigolds are an enemy of nematodes and one of the best ways to keep them out of the garden.
Good crop rotation helps the problem as well. If you have a serious issue with nematodes, susceptible plants shouldn’t be put there for at least a few years.
Spider Mites on Tomatoes
If you’ve spotted little black bugs on tomato plants that resemble arachnids, they are probably spider mites. Spider mites infest and damage a wide range of plants, with tomatoes only being one they love.
These pests live in colonies on the undersides of the plant’s leaves. They pierce the plant’s tissue and drink the fluid from the inside while leaving small black spots behind. The foliage turns yellow and falls off, and might even be covered in webs.
Prune damaged leaves and remove all infested material, like mulch and other organic matter, far away from your garden and compost bin to reduce the infestation. Do your best to keep the tomatoes well-watered and free of future stressors.
Stink Bugs and Tomatoes
Stink bugs don’t do a lot of physical harm to tomato plants, but they carry pathogens and viruses that cause harm. Try handpicking these bugs off your plants and check for them throughout the entire growing season.
How to Handle Tomato Fruitworms
Moths lay their eggs on our crops, and the larvae, or tomato fruitworm, makes its way into the tomato to feed.
The fruits usually look fine on the outside, but the larvae destroy the fruits from the inside. Introducing natural predators like pirate bugs is one of the easiest ways to handle them.
Finding White Bugs on Tomato Plants
When growing beefsteak tomatoes, you may notice white bugs on your plants. Whiteflies are closely related to aphids and feed on the underside of plants in our gardens.
They usually have a hankering for tomatoes and suck the juice out of the plants, which reduces yield, stunts growth, and causes leaf yellowing. They also spread diseases, so get rid of them as soon as you identify them.
Bugs to Help Your Tomato Plants
If you haven’t heard of lacewings, consider adding these bugs to your garden. Lacewings rely on honeydew, nectar, and pollen as a source of food, but their larvae are what you’re most interested in.
One lacewing consumes about 200 insects per week and is one of the most valuable insects you could have in your beds.
What to Plant with Tomatoes to Keep Bugs Away
Your garden and flower beds flourish with life and happiness when you learn what to plant with tomatoes to keep bugs away. Flowers like chrysanthemums contain natural pyrethrin.
Pyrethrin is toxic to many insects and helps control fleas, mites, moths, and other pests. Some plants even work as both a fungicide and pesticide to keep all your veggies free from danger.
Herbs are also great to plant in the garden because they have a double use. Use neem, coriander, and mint to deter pests like aphids, beetles, and moths, and use the herbs in your kitchen while you cook.
If companion planting isn’t working, try introducing bacillus thuringiensis into your soil. This is a type of bacteria that creates proteins that are toxic when eaten by some bugs.
It is not harmful to humans and mammals and is naturally-occurring, so it won’t harm you when you eat fruits and veggies from that soil.
If you don’t seem to have unwanted insects or have treated them successfully, what causes tomato leaves to curl? Symptoms like leaf curling indicate disease and require different treatment methods.
Finding bugs on tomato plants might cause a moment of panic for you. The most important thing is to observe these bugs and identify them so that you can save your garden crops from harm.
Perfect, blemish-free tomatoes aren’t always possible, but the more you understand which tomato bugs to look out for, the easier it is to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
If learning about the most common tomato bugs has helped you harvest a beautiful yield, share this list of tomato pests on Facebook and Pinterest.