6 Top Tomato Pests and How to Control Them Effectively

A variety of tomato pests and problems can make your favorite plants die within days or weeks. To this end, knowing the friendly solutions to deal with the issue is necessary.

Monitoring the health of your home-grown tomatoes is indeed important since they can be the source of beauty in your garden and make a delicious ingredient in the kitchen.

You can read the following information to discover the common pests that attack tomatoes and how to get rid of them effectively.

Common Tomato Pests and Diseases

There are many diseases, pests, and problems that can affect tomato plant, including blossom end rot, blossom drop, cracking fruit, spots on leaves, tomato hornworms, and more.
Tomato Pests and Diseases

Before rushing to the closest insecticide, you better know that not all insects are dangerous for your tomato plants.

Some insects are advantageous to the garden and they may feed on the pests that bother your beloved tomato.

For your ease of reference on identifying them, here are a few possible pests that you should watch out for when growing tomatoes in the garden.

  1. Flea Beetles

Flea beetles are common pests of seedling tomatoes in most areas. Adult beetles chew small holes in leaves, giving them a sievelike appearance.
Leaves Attacked by Flea Beetle

Flea beetles are not only a potentially upsetting visitor for your tomatoes, but also other members of the Solanaceae family such as potatoes, eggplant, and peppers.

Since these beetles are not picky, they may feed on lettuce, cabbage, and even corn as well.

This pest’s larvae tend to eat the roots of your tomato plants. Meanwhile, the adult beetles will feed on the plant’s foliage, leaving a bunch of tiny holes on it.

You can minimize and control the infestation of flea beetles by taking the following preventative measures.

  • Wrap young tomato plants with row covers to keep them safe from beetles since they are more at risk of damage.
  • Incorporate beneficial nematodes into the soil so that they can feed on the pupae and larvae of the beetles.
  • Clear away debris and weeds. Then, use yellow sticky traps to watch out and capture adult beetles.
  • To control adult beetles that feed on leaves, you can take advantage of diatomaceous earth to dust the tomato plants.
  • If the damage and infestation are severe, you can take advantage of botanical insecticides like pyrethrin.
  1. Cutworms

Early in the season cutworms may cause stand loss by cutting off seedling or recently transplanted plant at the soil line.
Cutworms Pest

Different from flea beetles, cutworms destroy your tomato plants by feeding on young stems throughout the night.

These tomato pests often chop down seedlings by eating them at ground level. If you see small grub-like caterpillars around your plants, they can be cutworms.

To put off harm, you can incorporate collars around the seedlings. Create these tools of aluminum foil, cardboard, aluminum pie plate, or paper.

The size of the collar should be around 10 inches and 4 high. Then, bend it to shape a cylinder or circle. After that, you can staple it.

You should use the collar around each seedling by sinking it approximately an inch into the soil. Thus, there will be 3 inches of it showing above the ground to keep high climbers at bay.

  1. Hornworms

Hornworms are very large caterpillars with a horn-like tail. Hornworms chew leaves and can completely defoliate plants. They can also chew holes in the fruit.
Hornworms Tomatoes

With a bigger appearance of about 3 inches long, hornworms are destructive caterpillars that seem to be easy to control.

You can simply pick them off the tomato plants sometimes.

However, you may hesitate to do so when seeing their light green color offer wonderful camouflage. Unlike the adult hornworms, the larval and nymph stages are tinier and less noticeable.

If there are only several of them, picking them out with hands may work too.

Some expert gardeners recommend controlling these tomato pests by spraying water onto the plant so that the hornworms can thrash around and go away.

If you discover more than a few caterpillars, using an organic treatment like Bacillus thuringiensis may help to deal with these pests.

  1. Aphids

Aphids are very commonly encountered when growing tomatoes. These tiny pests are found worldwide, sucking sap from the leaves of your tomato plants and multiplying very quickly.
Aphids Tomatoes

Residing on new growth or stems, a great infestation of aphids can injure or even kill your favorite tomato plants step by step.

Aphids refer to those dense clusters of little insects. If the numbers are small, you can simply crush them with your thumb.

When it comes to large infestations, you must cut off the affected leaves and throw them away into the garbage bins.

Make sure not to toss these discarded on the ground.

You can release beneficial garden insects like lacewings or ladybugs if the aphid issue seems controllable. If it goes worse, consider utilizing insecticidal soap to deal with these tomato pests.

Opt for insecticidal soaps that feature plant oils and natural fats or use one that is on the list of the Organic Material Review Institute.

  1. Whiteflies

Whiteflies will damage your tomato plant in a couple of ways. By sucking on the phloem, they will divert the nutrients from your plant, which will quickly become weak and may be unable to carry out photosynthesis.
Whiteflies Tomatoes

Tomato plants are also prone to the infestation of whiteflies. These pests will consume your plant juices and leave a sticky residue that can turn into a place for sooty mold to live.

These small insects can fly and crunch the foliages of infected tomato plants.

If your problem is pretty serious, refrain from using a traditional insecticide since whiteflies have built up resistance to many of these products.

Instead, you can try the following methods to get rid of these tomato pests from your beloved garden.

  • Rinsing out your tomato plants can be unexpectedly effective, specifically if you are utilizing a bug-blaster.
  • This tool is a hose connection that generates intense multi-directional spray to reach the bottom of the foliages effortlessly.
  • Alternatively, you can use horticultural oil which can oppress whiteflies of all stages.
  • You can also try to release natural predators of these flying insects like whitefly parasites, ladybugs, and lacewings.
  • To control infestation in the lower levels, you can situate yellow sticky traps to suppress the insects.

If you cannot control the situation anymore, try using botanical insecticides and insecticidal soaps. This will help to reduce the populations of whiteflies, to the point that natural predators can manage them.

  1. Nematodes

Unlike other diseases and pests, root knot nematodes survive by feeding directly off of the nutrients pumped through tomato roots.
Nematodes Tomatoes

While a few insect pathogenic nematodes can help control tomato pests like flea beetles, others can cause threatening issues to your plants.

Although there are more than 15,000 different species of nematodes, only some of them can cause gardening problems.

Nematodes may cause galls or bumps that interfere with your tomato plants’ capacity to get nutrients and to do photosynthesis.

If you live in warmer areas with a short cold season, issues with nematodes are pretty common. Unluckily, dealing with these pests is somewhat complicated.

  • Soil sterilization is one of the methods to control nematodes that invade your tomato plants. However, this technique is costly and may cause all organisms in the soil death including the beneficial ones.
  • Performing rotation can prevent nematodes to get the opportunity to establish themselves. Remember that you should not follow tomatoes with crops that are at risk of the same issue.
  • You can try to diminish the damage of nematodes by utilizing resistant varieties. However, this method will not destroy the tomato pests since this only keeps them under control.

Aside from these pests, your tomato plants may experience some plant diseases as well such as mosaic virus, fusarium wilt, damping off, and verticillium wilt.

Damping-off, for instance, may appear due to overwatering and overcrowding. This disease affects tomato seedlings.

Meanwhile, the mosaic virus causes underdeveloped, mottled, and wilted foliages. This disease spreads through physical contact with the infected plant.

If you get your tomato plants from a trustworthy nursery or grow them from certified disease-free seed, they are less likely to develop the mosaic virus.

How to Protect Tomatoes from Pests in Advance

Poke tomato cages, or cones, into the soil around your plants. Tomato cones are cylindrical frames made from steel that support your plants as they grow; use cones that are about 36 inches tall.
Protect Tomatoes from Pests

Instead of dealing with such issues, you can do the following tricks to avoid the infestation of pests in your tomato garden.

  • Get rid of unhealthy leaves and plants to stop the spread of fungal spores.
  • Clean your gardening equipment and tools regularly, so you can be sure that they do not spread a disease to your tomato plants.
  • Maintain your gardening areas free of debris and weeds. Hence, pests cannot breed and invade your tomato plants eventually.
  • In humid climates, you should not water the leaves of the tomato plants since damp conditions can promote many diseases.
  • Apply good fertilizer and do regular watering to keep your tomato plants healthy. Thus, their ability to resist pests and other diseases may increase.

Furthermore, rotating crops to limit the opportunity of soil-borne pathogens to get entrenched is necessary too.

When trying to rotate crops, make sure to avoid members of the tomato family like eggplant, peppers, and potatoes.

Growing tobacco close to tomato plants is not recommended as well since it enhances the chance of the spread of the tobacco mosaic virus.

In terms of tomato pests control, many experts also suggest gardeners water their plants in the morning to prevent conditions that promote the growth of molds or fungi.

The use of soaker hoses or drip watering systems is perfect since these can leave dry and lower spots that are prone to fungus establishment.

The Bottom Line

Plant herbs and flowers around your tomato and cucumber plants. Basil helps ward off whiteflies, which are harmful to tomatoes, and oregano can help protect tomato and cucumber plants.
Tips to Protect Tomatoes from Pests

All the mentioned pests can carry trivial to serious problems to your tomato plants. However, even if you find the real enemy, remember that one insect does not always mean an infestation.

Therefore, you should first classify the intruder and how harmful it is before performing any control management method.

If you want to keep them organic, you should also refrain from using harmful chemicals when attempting to get rid of any pest and disease.

Finally, once you can control the issues, make sure to perform the necessary methods to prevent those tomato pests and diseases from coming back to your garden.

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