What is eating my tomato plants at night is a worrying question that one would worry about for numerous times you would be waking up in the morning to the devastating sight of rotten, half-eaten tomatoes in your garden.

What Is Eating My Tomato Plants at Night 8 Common Culprits

Apart from humans, several insects and animals, especially those that become active after dark, enjoy eating tomatoes. Read on to find out some animals and insects that might be feasting on your juicy tomato plants while you’re fast asleep.

Types of Animals and Pests Feeding on Your Tomato Plants at Night

1. Slugs and Snails

Slugs are slimy mollusks notorious for feeding on the leaves of tomato plants. These pests enjoy soft, tender, and young plants, which makes your tomato plant a perfect target. They leave a large jagged hole in the veins of the leaves and prefer to attack when the sun goes down because, during the day, they would rather hide in the shade and mulch.

– Signs

To know if snails or slugs are attacking your tomato plants, look out for the translucent, slimy trail they leave on the plants or in the surrounding soil. This would be best if you catch them early morning, so that the slime would be fresh and specific.

Not only that but you could also use a flashlight to check the bottom of the tomato leaves or the tomato itself once it’s dark. In addition, you may also check your plants in spring once insects start arriving, as these mollusks are known for feeding on small insects on plants.

Slugs and Snails

– Control Mechanisms

Several ways to prevent snails and slugs from eating your tomato plants. These include sprinkling coffee grounds around the plants as they can be toxic to snails and slugs, spreading crushed eggshells around your plant because it can injure them, or using a slug repellant to ward to get rid of them.

Note that these prevention methods will not damage your plant, on the contrary they would even help through fertilizing it.

You can also plant flowers between the plants to distract them and attract birds that can feed on them. Moreover, you can even place a bowl of beer under the plant so that the snails will crawl in and drown, and you will get rid of the ones that are present.

2. Colorado Potato Beetle

As the name implies, Colorado potato beetles are not just famous for feeding on potatoes; they are also known to eat tomato plants, eggplants, and bell peppers. These insects have colorful orange or yellow bodies with black stripes on their wings and feed in groups. This means they can cause severe damage to your tomato garden in one swoop.

– Signs

Colorado potato beetles often leave long orange or yellow eggs under the leaves of the tomato plant. They usually create small tears on the edges of the leaves that eventually become large and ragged, as they would munch on them and the bites would be obvious.

Colorado Potato Beetle

– Control Mechanisms

To control the Colorado potato beetle, you can use pesticides that contain neem seed oil or spinosad on your plants because these beetles have pesticide resistance, so regular pesticides would not work on them.

You can attract this insect’s enemies, such as lace wigs, stink beetles, and ladybugs, into your garden. Not only that, but you can also try growing plants like catnips, tansy, or sage in your tomato garden, because the aroma of these flowers would repel them right away.

You may even use a vacuum cleaner to blow the beetle and its eggs away, but make sure that as you do so, the plant doesn’t get harmed.

Furthermore, you can also handpick the potato beetle and the larvae and soak them in soapy water to kill them. Also, remove weeds from your garden, such as ground cherries or nightshades.

3. Hornworms

Hornworms, also known as tomato hornworms, are large three to five-inch-long caterpillars with horn-like rear ends. These destructive insects are usually green with white v-shaped marks on the sides of their bodies, allowing them to camouflage perfectly on the inner stems or the bottom of your tomato leaves.

They prefer coming out after the sun has set, and the night is cool, and they appear in large numbers, quickly defoliating the leaves. The latter would cause the leaves to fall off, leaving the tomatoes exposed to the sun and damaged, which is a way to see that the ones for the reason of the deterioration of the plant.


– Signs To Look Out For

Hornworms start feeding on the leaves on the upper part of your tomato plant, leaving them wilted or completely removed. They also leave visible black or dark green droppings as they go. Your tomatoes will also have burns from sun damage in the long run, because they would be degenerating and maybe even dying through their attack.

– Control Mechanisms

You can handpick hornworms and kill them if you have a small garden. For more extensive gardens, you can use Bacillus Thuringiensis pesticide sparingly to keep other harmless insects safe.

Furthermore, note that you could even enhance a soap mix and spray on them to kill them. These worms have natural predators that won’t harm your plants, as a result you can introduce some of them, like green lace wigs, ladybugs, and paper wasps, into your garden to feed on them and their eggs. Lastly, you can also plant marigolds and basil around your tomato plants to repel these worms.

4. Leaf-cutting Bees

Leaf-cutting bees are medium-sized and black insects that are important in your garden. They are pollinators for fruits, wildflowers, and other crops. These cells have multiple cells that store pollen and eggs.

Although these pollinators do not cause damage to the leaves, they reduce their aesthetic value when they cut small pieces to make their nests.

Leaf-cutting Bees

– Signs

To know if these bees are cutting your tomato plants, look for half-moon-shaped tears along the edges of the leaves. They cut about 0.5 inches from tomato leaves to create cigar-looking nests in soil, plant stems, or wood.

– Control Mechanisms

Leaf-cutting bees are primarily beneficial and harmless to your tomato plants at the same time. However, if you wish to get rid of them, it is best to use a cheesecloth to cover them for a while, so they can find another place to get material for their eggs and pollinate. In addition, you can also introduce their natural enemies, such as wasps and flies that naturally attack their nests.

5. Cutworms

Cutworms are larvae of moths that hide in the soil or plant debris during the day but come out to feed at night. Cutworms are usually gray, brown, tan, green, pink, or black, with smooth fat bodies that curl up into a c shape when triggered.

Some species would be easy to spot due to the way that they have dots or stripes on their bodies, while others are plain.

– Signs

These worms attack tomato plants by curling their bodies around their stems and feeding on them. This causes damage to the plant and breaks it just above the surface of the soil. However, certain species of cutworms remain in the soil and feed on the roots of the tomato plant instead.


When the stems of your tomato plant have been damaged or cut into two, that is a sign that the cutworm is present. Also, your tomato plants will wilt because they’ve been cut off from their roots. You would also notice small tunnel-like holes in the soil or grass surrounding your plants with green droppings.

– Control Mechanisms

To get rid of cutworms, you can scatter coffee grounds, diatomaceous earth, or broken eggshells around the base of your tomato plant to prevent them from coming near your plant. You may also use some fireflies and birds to your garden to eat the cutworms, as these would be ones to feed on them.

However, there’s also the option to pick them up at night and drown them in soapy water or spray soapy water on the base and stem of your plant to kill them. Lastly, you may also use a rake to expose the larvae and worms hidden in the soil around your tomato plants.

6. Rats

Rats are one of the most notorious garden rodents. They target gardens because of the availability of fresh foods like juicy tomatoes that they can easily nibble on and get away with.

Rodents tend to become more active at night and live in burrows or small, dark spaces during the day. When they begin to eat tomato plants from your garden, they decimate them and can spread diseases around your garden.

– Signs

To determine whether rats are responsible for the overnight damage to your tomato plants, you should look out for their black pellet-sized droppings around your plants or near solid structures in your garden, such as your shed. They would likely nibble on tomatoes closer to the ground than those higher up.


They may also leave foot tracks on the floor of your garden if you can make out the five toes on their hind legs and four on their front legs, as these are smart creatures.

– Control Mechanisms

To keep rats out of your tomato garden, you can set rat traps around your garden in areas where you notice their excretions. Growing tomatoes in high plant cages are also an excellent way to keep rats out of your garden because the rats won’t be able to reach them.

You may even remove tomatoes on the lower end of the stalk immediately after they ripen. It would help if you also endeavored to keep your grasses as short as possible to eliminate any potential hiding spots, because you wouldn’t want any animal to eat the plants.

Lastly, you may also try to introduce owls into your garden to eat the rats, and this would be an easy way out.

7. Raccoons

Raccoons are opportunistic omnivores. They will eat almost anything available to them, including the juicy tomatoes growing in your garden. Whether from the vine, on the grass, or in the trash, raccoons will eat tomatoes with reckless abandon, especially if it’s their last option.

– Signs

Raccoons aren’t the only animals that could be responsible for half-eaten tomatoes in your garden. There are a few others that could be guilty. So, in addition to this, how do you ascertain that raccoons are damaging your tomatoes?

First, you should look out for their waste which usually resembles dog poop. However, you’ll likely find their poop in a pile with pieces of undigested food.


They pick the lowest-hanging tomatoes and take bites out of them, so this is an obvious sign. The problem is that they only partially finish one tomato before moving on to the next. So, if you wake up in the morning to find half-eaten tomatoes scattered around your yard, chances are raccoons are the guilty ones.

Lastly, you can also look for their foot tracks, as raccoons have unique footprints; their front legs resemble a human hand, and their hind legs are elongated. You can also look out for holes in your lawns or raided trash cans, as these would be signs that they are in your garden, and nibbling your tomatoes.

– Control Mechanisms

One way to prevent raccoons from your tomatoes is to create an electric fence around your garden. This will help get rid of other garden pests too.

In addition, note that raccoons hate the smell of peppermint, cayenne pepper, and garlic. So you can grow these plants between your tomato plants and around your garden to chase them away. They also hate the smell of ammonia, so you can spread some ammonia around your garden or soak a rag in ammonia and put them around their entry points.

8. Deer

Deer are nocturnal animals and require up to seven pounds of food daily. So when they get hungry, they will happily feed on your tomatoes while you’re sleeping happily.

– Signs

The easiest way to know if deer attack your tomato garden at night is to look for their heart-shaped hoof prints. Because they eat in large quantities, you might notice chunks of an entire plant uprooted or most of the tomatoes on the top part of the plant gone.


Moreover, you may also see that they will also eat tomato plants and stems too, and this is because deer are relatively tall animals, they will most likely start feasting on your plant and the fruits from the top. They can travel more than a mile to look for food every day, so if you stay within a mile of where deer are usually sighted, chances are they are the ones damaging your tomato plants.

– Control Mechanisms

There are several easy ways to prevent deer from coming close to your tomatoes. You can use motion-activated water sprinklers to scare them off. Or plant garlic, lavender, or poppies around your garden, as deer hate the smell of these plants.

Electric fences up to 8 feet high can prevent them from jumping over to eat your plants. You can also spread hot pepper spray around your garden and the plants to keep them out.


Many more animals and pests can attack your tomatoes at night apart from the ones we have provided. These are just the likely culprits. To save your tomatoes from these unruly invaders, you must take all the necessary precautions to avoid wasting your planting efforts. So, take note of these few points;

  • The most common pest that eats tomato plants is the hornworm.
  • The most effective method of removing tomato-eating animals is to create a large fence around your tomato plants.
  • The best way to get rid of insects is to douse them in soapy water.
  • Beer traps are the best way to eliminate slugs and snails.

Now that you know what animals are eating your tomato plants at night, you must do everything possible to stop them.


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