21 Tomato Pests: Identifying and Preventing Common Garden Intruders

If you’re considering growing tomatoes this year, you’re not alone. Tomatoes are a favorite among home gardeners due to their versatility and delicious flavor. From juicy slices in sandwiches to sweet cherry tomatoes straight off the vine, there’s a variety for every taste preference. But as much as we love tomatoes, so do pests. Let’s explore the world of tomato pests and find out how to keep them away from our precious plants.

Organic Pest Control Tips

When it comes to pest control in your garden, organic methods are not only effective but also environmentally friendly. By taking a proactive approach and implementing preventive measures, you can minimize the risk of an infestation. Here are some tips for organic pest control:

Companion Planting

Companion planting is a natural and effective way to keep pests away from your tomatoes. Certain plants act as “trap plants” for pests, diverting their attention from your precious tomatoes. Mustard and nasturtiums, for example, are attractive to aphids, which makes them ideal trap plants. Additionally, planting pollinator-friendly flowers and herbs near your tomatoes will attract beneficial insects like ladybugs and parasitic wasps that prey on aphids.

Natural Predators

Encourage natural predators to make themselves at home in your garden. Birds, spiders, frogs, lizards, and certain insects like ladybugs and lacewings are all excellent allies in the fight against pests. Creating a welcoming environment for these beneficial creatures will help keep pest populations in check.

Water Spray

A powerful stream of water from a hose can be a simple yet effective way to control aphids. By spraying the leaves and stems of your tomato plants, you can dislodge the aphids and make it difficult for them to find their way back. Be sure to check the undersides of leaves, as aphids like to hide there.

Natural Repellents

Certain aromatic herbs, such as garlic, chives, basil, and marigolds, are known to repel pests like flea beetles, hornworms, and stink bugs. By planting these herbs in close proximity to your tomatoes, you can create a natural barrier that deters pests from settling in your garden.

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Identifying Common Tomato Pests

Although the pests you encounter may depend on your location, there are some common tomato pests that you’re likely to come across. By familiarizing yourself with these pests, you’ll be able to identify and address any issues that arise. Here are some of the most common tomato pests and how to deal with them:

Aphids

Aphids are sap-sucking insects that can cause significant damage if left unchecked. They are commonly found on the stems and foliage of tomato plants, particularly near the growing tips. While you can use insecticidal soaps, oils, or Neem oil to control aphids, a strong stream of water from a hose is often the most effective method. Companion planting with mustard and nasturtiums can also help keep aphids at bay by acting as trap plants.

Aphids

Blister Beetles

Blister beetles can be a destructive pest for tomato plants. These black beetles with bright orange heads can cause damage to both the plant and humans. If you encounter blister beetles, it’s important to wear gloves to protect yourself from their blistering agent. Removing them by hand and placing them in a jar of soapy water is an effective way to manage their population. Attracting birds to your garden can also help control blister beetle populations.

Blister Beetles

Colorado Potato Beetle

The Colorado potato beetle is a widespread pest that can cause damage to tomato plants, as well as other vegetables in the nightshade family. These beetles have a distinctive yellow and black striped shell and can be easily picked off by hand and placed in a jar of soapy water. Removing infested plants and avoiding nightshades in the following year can help prevent future infestations.

Colorado Potato Beetle

Cutworms

Cutworms are nocturnal caterpillars that can cause severe damage to young tomato plants. These pests hide in the soil or debris during the day and feed on the stems of the plants at night, causing them to collapse and die. To prevent cutworm damage, check the soil for cutworms before planting your tomato seedlings. Placing collars around the stems of the plants or using cornmeal as a deterrent can help protect your tomatoes from cutworms.

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Cutworms

Flea Beetles

Flea beetles are tiny, jet-black insects that can cause your tomato plants to lose vigor and become unhealthy. These pests are known to jump and can be particularly attracted to young eggplant transplants. Dusting diatomaceous earth on your plants and using sticky traps can help control flea beetle populations. Companion planting with basil and nasturtiums can also help repel these beetles.

Flea Beetles

Hornworm

Hornworms are large caterpillars that can defoliate an entire tomato plant if left unchecked. These caterpillars blend in well with the leaves and stems of the plant, making them difficult to spot. Handpicking hornworms off the plant and placing them in a jar of soapy water is the best method of control. Birds and chickens are also natural predators of hornworms, so encouraging them in your garden can help control the population.

Hornworm

Leafhoppers

Leafhoppers can cause damage to tomato plants by sucking sap from the leaves and transmitting pathogens that can lead to disease. They can be controlled by spraying a strong stream of water on the undersides of the leaves or using row covers to protect the plants. Attracting birds and predatory insects to your garden can also help control leafhopper populations.

Leafhoppers

Leaf Miners

Leaf miners are small flies that lay their eggs under the surface of tomato leaves. The larvae then eat their way through the leaves, disrupting the plant’s ability to photosynthesize. Removing affected leaves and keeping your garden free from weeds and plant debris can help prevent leaf miner infestations. Introducing natural predators like parasitic wasps can also help control their population.

Leaf Miners

Potato Aphid

Potato aphids are large aphids that specifically attack tomato and potato plants. They can cause damage to young leaves and blossoms, resulting in leaf curling and fruit deformities. Similar to other aphids, potato aphids can be controlled by spraying them off with water or introducing predatory insects like ladybugs and lacewings.

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Potato Aphid

Psyllids

Psyllids are small, cicada-like insects that can transmit diseases to tomato plants. They are migratory insects that overwinter in warm climates, so new infestations are not a concern. To control psyllids, attract predatory insects like spiders and damsel bugs to your garden. Sticky paper can also help catch adult psyllids. Planting garlic chives and using garlic sprays can also deter these pests.

Psyllids

Root Knot Nematodes

Root knot nematodes are tiny worms that attack the root structure of tomato plants, causing stunted growth and poor yields. To prevent infestations, practice good sanitation by sterilizing your tools, washing gloves and boots, and cleaning contaminated pots. Removing and disposing of affected soil and plants is crucial, as nematodes cannot be eradicated. Planting marigolds and choosing nematode-resistant tomato varieties can also help prevent infestations.

Root Knot Nematodes

Slugs & Snails

Slugs and snails can cause considerable damage to your tomato plants, particularly in excessive populations. To control their numbers, encourage natural predators like birds, frogs, and lizards to your garden. Handpicking slugs and snails and using beer traps can also help manage their populations.

Slugs & Snails

Spider Mites

Spider mites are tiny pests that can infest tomato plants, particularly in hot and dry weather. They can cause damage by creating delicate webbing on the leaves and sucking sap from the plant. Spraying the plant with cold water can help control their population, as they dislike cold temperatures. Companion planting aromatic herbs like garlic, chives, or chamomile can also deter spider mites.

Spider Mites

Continue reading here at Ames Farm Center for more information on pests such as stalk borers, stink bugs, tarnished plant bugs, thrips, tomato fruit worms, tortoise beetles, whiteflies, and wireworms.

Remember, prevention and early detection are vital in managing tomato pests. By implementing organic pest control methods and staying vigilant, you can protect your tomato plants and enjoy a bountiful harvest. Happy gardening!

This article was created based on information from the original article available at Ames Farm Center (source).