Bugs that eat tomato plants are a worry for many gardeners. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if it were just a matter of these pests eating your tomato plants. However, many bugs are attracted to these plants’ juicy red fruits and lush-green leaves.
As a result, you will need to be on the lookout for these tomato-eating bugs so that you can eliminate them early enough. In this article, we will discuss a list of tomato pests you should watch out for and how you can eliminate them-let’s get started.
JUMP TO TOPIC
A List of Bugs That Eat Tomato Plants
1. Spider Mites
Spider mites are one of the most common garden pests, especially in hot, dry regions. They belong to the arachnid family and get their name from their ability to spin silky webs for protection.
These plant bugs reproduce fast and attack in large colonies, living on the underside of plant leaves. Spider mites feed on tomato leaves by puncturing them and draining them of all their essential nutrients. Their feeding action can destroy the plants over time if they’re not properly eliminated.
Spider mites are tiny, but they leave quite an obvious indication that they’re around. One thing you will notice if you have a spider mite infestation is the pests’ characteristic silky webbing around the stems and leaves of your tomato plants.
However, one thing that you should be careful about is how around the webs, tiny dots of insects will be visible if you look closely enough, which is a way that you would see them and catch them. Also, due to their continuous feeding, the leaves will turn yellow, eventually falling off when their nutrients are entirely depleted.
– Pest Control
To avoid attracting spider mites to your tomato plants, you must make sure that they are always well watered, as these pests thrive in dry conditions. You can also grow companion plants like chives and garlic in your tomato garden. These companion plants help to deter spider mites.
However, if your plants are already infested, there are a few ways to get ahead. Spraying the leaves of the infested tomato plant with cold soapy water works like a charm.
What you should note is that it is possible not to get them all at once, so you must repeat the process until the pests disappear entirely. Also, you can spray your tomato plants with insecticidal soaps to get rid of them.
While doing this, pluck off any damaged leaf you notice to reduce the impact of the infestation. Neem oil is another method that will help you in the process of getting rid of these annoying pests, and as you spread some of this oil, it will repel them in the long run.
2. Flea Beetle
Flea Beetles are common tomato pests. These tiny, jumping beetles resemble fleas and are lustrous brown or black in color, as they occasionally have white or yellow markings, which are noticed upon close inspection.
Unlike many other plant pests, flea beetles will cause less severe damage to your plants, which means their damage is mostly minor such as curling or the leaves. However, an infestation will cause your plants to become weaker and less healthy, and it will cause the plant to be stressed, and it will not be as prosperous as you wish it to be.
The primary threat flea beetles pose to tomato plants is their propensity to spread several viral and bacterial diseases, which are especially dangerous to germinating seeds.
When a few flea beetles are present, you will only notice small, circular holes or even some shot holes that would be clearly scattered all over the leaves. However, with severe infestations, you will see jagged holes with faded and scarred spots all over the plant’s leaves.
As a result, the plants can even lose some of their leaves, eventually leading to wilting or stunted growth, which would hinder the health that the plant previously used to have.
– Pest Control
One way of trapping them would be through some sticky traps, as it would help to prevent adult flea beetles from getting to your plants or into the soil. When the pests jump, they will get stuck to the traps and be unable to eat your tomato fruit and leaves.
Besides the latter, you may also try some row coverings which would also be a way to help prevent these pests from attacking your tomato plants.
On the other hand, if you want to use some chemicals you can always use Diatomaceous Earth against these beetles, which will be useful in getting rid of them. A light sprinkle of this compound on the leaves and surrounding soil will kill any plant bug that comes into contact with it. You can also grow companion plants like basil that repel flea beetles around your tomato garden.
3. Colorado Potato Beetle
Colorado Potato Beetles are one of North America’s most prevalent tomato pests. They’re bigger than the previous two pests mentioned.
Without a proper inspection, these beetles can fool you into thinking you’re looking at a ladybug, because they have very similar features. However, you can tell them apart from ladybugs by their unique shell, which has alternating streaks of black and yellow.
Springtime is the prime time for these pesky pests, as it is the time they’re most active. Both the adult Colorado Potato beetles and their larvae eat tomato plants. However, their larvae cause more severe damage.
The larvae of Colorado potato beetles eat tomato plants’ leaves in such a way that only the petioles and veins remain. Their larvae are so tiny, you might not notice them. However, if you notice skeletal leaves on your plants, you’re likely dealing with Colorado potato beetles.
– Pest Control
A straightforward way to get rid of adult Colorado potato beetles is by hand-picking them since the adults are large enough. This control method might not be as effective if the infestation is severe, or you have a large garden.
Basically, what makes these pests tricky is that they are tolerant to almost a big number of pesticides, but you can get rid of them using Azadirachtin or Spinosad, which are organic pest control methods. In parallel, you can also find some use in beneficial insects such as stink bugs to eliminate these pests, as these will devour them and won’t harm your tomatoes.
4. Tarnished Plant Bug
This tomato pest is very tiny. It grows only about a quarter of an inch big. Tarnished plant bugs are brown, with distinctive yellow, copper, or reddish markings. These pests feed by piercing the leaves and fruits of tomato plants and sucking all the nutrients in them, which causes severe damage, and affects the overall health of the plants.
Tarnished plant bugs can cause a lot of damage to your tomato plants; their size doesn’t deter them. When dealing with tarnished plant bugs, it’s easy to know because they leave distinct signs in their wake.
Now, remember that if these pests get into your garden, you will notice black spots and cloudy white patches on your tomato leaves and fruits, because this is their special way of infesting the plant as a whole.
Furthermore, they can cause scars and holes close to the flower end on developing tomatoes, and when it starts to grow, the plant will face different challenges.
– Pest Control
To deter these pests, or prevent an infestation, you should get rid of weeds or other plants that attract them, especially pig weed and dandelions. On another note, you can use beneficial insects like pirate bugs to keep them at bay and when they come over, they will be eaten.
Note that some row covers can still benefit smaller tomato plants, but they can be challenging to use on larger tomato species because of the heights they reach.
Lastly, note that you may also prevent tarnished plant bugs from laying eggs by spraying tomato plants with kaolin clay, which will reduce their overall population. Growing companion plants like garlic or chives around your tomato garden can also be effective.
5. Blister Beetles
Another pest on the list of bugs that eat tomato plants is the blister beetle. They are found throughout the United States, especially in the south, east and Midwestern parts.
These beetles love feasting on tomato leaves, which means that if they are not dealt with instantly, they can wreak a lot of damage to your tomato plants, and it will be too late in some cases, for instance, if they have devoured it completely.
While blister beetles destroy tomato plants over time, they’re more popular for their effects on people. These pests have a blistering chemical known as cantharidin that they emit when they are in panic and they are dying.
The chemical is hazardous to humans, making it much more challenging to get rid of the pests, and it would cause skin irritation at an instant, due to the abundance of toxins.
When there’s a massive infestation of blister beetles, the pests consume the leaves of plants, causing rapid defoliation. If you see plants with leaf veins where there are supposed to be leaves and red, black, or gray beetles around, you’re most likely dealing with these intoxicating beetles.
– Pest Control
In home tomato gardens, hand-picking can be effective, especially if the infestation is not severe it is at its early stages. However, you always have the option to spread some Diatomaceous Earth, which could be used as a preventive or control method.
A layer of this repelling solution around tomato plants will keep new pests away and kill the already present pests when they come into contact with it.
Additionally, during the middle of summer, to the end of summer, when blister beetles migrate, properly anchored row coverings can keep migrant pests away from your healthy tomato plants.
It’s better to eliminate blister beetles and remove plants they have caused damage to as soon as they’re noticed, to prevent their spread. It is usually nearly impossible to totally eliminate these pests entirely once they are established, even with strong pesticides and other chemicals.
However, make sure that you detect them very soon and get rid of them before they develop so quickly.
6. Tomato Fruit Worms
Tomato fruit worms have many names because these pests can feed on quite a number of plants, including tomatoes, corn, and pepper. They are popularly known as corn earworms or cotton bollworms.
Whichever name you know them as, these yellowish-white pests are one of the major pests that eat tomato plants. They mainly attack gardens in the western hemisphere, where they are the most abundant.
Remember that these worms cause damage by consuming the flesh and leaves of tomato plants, leaving deformed leaves in their wake. They are extremely challenging to find and remove without damaging the plant because their larvae penetrate the fruits that they cause their damage from the inside till they reach the out.
– Signs of Infestation
One thing you’ll notice if your tomato plants are infested with tomato fruit worms is holes in your tomato fruits whether they are ripe or unripe.
On another note, you will also notice black holes at the base of the fruit stem, where the worms have bored into. If you cut open a tomato from your tomato plants and notice a worm-like bug, it is most likely a tomato fruit worm.
– Pest Control
One great way to prevent the spread of tomato fruit worms is to clear out infested fruits, especially while the bugs are still in their larvae forms. This way, they will be unable to complete their life cycle. You can also use biological methods by introducing natural enemies, such as wasps, to feed on them.
Like most other pests, a light layer of Diatomaceous Earth around tomato plants can help eliminate these little creatures in a swift manner.
Additionally, some chemical insecticides like guthion and sevin can be used to hinder their development. These two are one of the most effective insecticides you can use on tomato fruit worms, as most others can be ineffective in dispelling the pests.
Whiteflies are winged insects with soft bodies. They have a feeding habit similar to that of aphids; they pierce and suck out all the nutrients from the leaves of tomato plants.
A whitefly infestation can significantly damage your tomato garden. These pesky tiny bugs primarily affect plants grown in enclosed spaces, like greenhouses, because they would love the warm medium and would multiply quickly.
They reproduce fast and usually stay on the underside of plants’ leaves. Also, they enjoy feeding on younger plants. While their feeding can cause problems for your tomato plants, they also expose them to viral diseases that can quickly spread if they’re not eliminated on time.
– Signs of Infestation
During their feeding, whiteflies produce a white, sticky substance known as honeydew. This sticky substance is an indication that you’re dealing with whiteflies.
The reason why you should be worried is that the plants that these whiteflies would begin to fed on will become very frail and unable to perform photosynthesis because of the depletion of some essential photosynthetic elements.
As a result, tomato plants will become stunted, grow yellow leaves, and eventually die if the infestation persists.
– Pest Control
Natural predators like spiders, ladybugs, dragonflies, and hummingbirds can help to control whiteflies. These beneficial insects and birds will feed on these flies till they are no more, and you can keep them around to prevent future infestations.
Note that they are more resistant to most insecticides than their natural predators; as a result, it’s better to keep insecticides away altogether.
To control and eliminate whiteflies, spraying affected plants with water can be helpful. The water spray helps to dislodge several larvae and bugs from the leaves and stems of the plants. Doing this alone will not be too helpful for a large infestation.
On the other hand, you may also take a step further by spraying infested plants with insecticidal soap. It would be best if you did this a few times to eliminate the pests, as a result, you will see them weaken as they get trapped.
8. Leaf Miners
Leaf miners are another common pest of tomato plants. These tiny pests, which are easily identifiable by the unique yellow dot they have on their backs, can seriously damage tomato plants if they aren’t controlled early enough.
As their name implies, they feast on the leaves of tomato plants, weakening the plant over time. While adult leaf miners damage leaves, their larvae can cause even more damage.
Tiny as they are, leaf miners leave tell-tale signs of their presence; you must know where to look.
They would be leaving some distinct white tracks on the leaves of plants as they feed, which is an obvious way to find them. As soon as you notice leaves with these white tracks, you can always remove them right away, and search for more indications of an infestation.
– Pest Control
The most popular way of controlling leaf miners is by introducing beneficial insects like wasps, which will feed on leaf miners and take care of your pest problem in no time. Furthermore, keep in mind that leaf miners are less likely to attack a neat garden free of weeds.
9. Stalk Borers
As their name implies, stalk borers create holes in the stems or stalks of tomato plants when they feed. Their feeding habit has a devastating effect on the overall health of the plants. If they’re not controlled, plants will eventually die.
Stalk borer dig holes in the stems of plants; however, these holes are challenging to spot, as they’re usually tiny. So, the only way to know what you’re dealing with is if you see a caterpillar on your plants, close to the stalks or leaves.
The caterpillar is easy enough to detect, with its purple and cream-colored stripes and distinctive purple band located close to the head.
– Pest Control
Once you observe that your plants have these pests, the best you can do for your plants is to remove the affected ones. You can also prevent a stalk borer infestation by removing weeds and plants that attract them.
Numerous bugs eat tomato plants, most of which are easy to control and eliminate. We’ve highlighted a few of these troublesome pests and how they can be managed in this article. Let’s take a look at some of the critical points.
- One common and effective way to eliminate tomato pests is to use natural predators or beneficial insects.
- Bugs that eat tomato plants feed primarily on their leaves, stems, and fruits, if you don’t tackle them some pests would degenerate the whole plant.
- It’s best to detect and control pests as soon as they’re noticed; the earlier, the better.
- You can always spread some Diatomaceous Earth or neem oil and get rid of them.
Apart from the pests mentioned in the article above, some other bugs that eat tomato plants include tomato hornworms and tomato fruitworms. Now that you can identify these pests and know how to eliminate them, the time has come to take action!
- Marissa Schuh, Suzanne Wold-Burkness, Bill Hutchison, Jeffrey Hahn and Rebecca Hines. Flea beetles. University of Minnesota Extension.
Retrieved from https://extension.umn.edu/yard-and-garden-insects/flea-beetles
- Richard L. Jacques, Jr., Thomas R. Fasulo. (July 2000). Colorado potato beetle. University of Florida.
Retrieved from https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/veg/leaf/potato_beetles.htm
- TOMATO FRUITWORM / CORN EARWORM. Missouri Botanical Garden.
Retrieved from https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/help-for-the-home-gardener/advice-tips-resources/pests-and-problems/insects/caterpillars/tomato-fruitworm-corn-earworm#:~:text=Tomato%20fruitworm%20%2F%20corn%20earworm&text=A%20major%20agricultural%20pest%2C%20the,and%20other%20vegetables%20and%20fruits