Tomato Pest Control: 8 Tomato Pests That Will Destroy Your Tomato Plants

If you’ve ever thought about planting tomatoes in your home garden, you’ll need to prevent bugs and insects from affecting the fruit. 

Tomato Pest Control: 8 Tomato Pests That Will Destroy Your Tomato Plants

Tomatoes are vulnerable to many pests that can affect your crops. These insects can harm and spread disease among your crops. It can be difficult to eliminate these pests once they arise, so prevention works better than a cure. 

You’ll learn about some common pests that can affect your hard-grown tomatoes in this post, as well as some tips to help you with pest control. 

Types Of Tomato Pests 

The insects that affect your plants may differ based on your location, but these are some common examples that can affect the tomatoes in your garden.

1. Aphids

Aphids are despised by gardeners all over the U.S. These resilient insects seem to enter gardens throughout the year. Aphids can be detrimental to your plants, so if you notice them, you should address them as soon as possible.

Aphids often inhabit the foliage and stem on your tomato plants, (see also: Tomato Plants: 4 Reasons To Top Your Tomato Plants And A How-To Guide)as well as near the new forming tips. As they can jump to other species, they can start to inhabit other plants growing near your tomatoes(see also: Signs Of Frost Damage In Young Tomato Plants). 

Identifying Aphid Infestations

Aphids can be very small, so it can be hard to notice isolated ones. Despite this, aphids are often grouped in larger numbers that are easy to spot.

Frequently examine under your tomato plant’s leaves, looking for black or green insects that are around an eighth of an inch long. 

Eliminating Aphids

You can get rid of aphids in a few ways. First, prune any additional foliage affected by pest infestations. If the issue remains, add aphid-killing insects, like lace bugs and ladybirds, that won’t harm your tomato plants.

2. Stalk Borers

Borers look like small, purple caterpillars. They will regularly dig small holes that easily go unnoticed.

As the name implies, stalk borers ‘bore’ into a plant’s stalk. As the plant cannot receive nutrients through the stem, it will eventually wither and die. 

Identifying Stalk Borer Infestations

Identifying newly hatched stalk borers is more difficult compared to their adult form. 

You’ll find borers around the stems of the plants, so look out for any signs of decay or disease around the foliage.

Eliminating Stalk Borers

Regular weed control and pruning are prevention methods that work well at eradicating stalk borers. 

However, after a tomato plant has been infected by a stalk borer infestation, the only thing you can do is remove the plant. Mulching and weed control will help stop borers from traveling to your tomatoes. 

3. Snails And Slugs

Snails and slugs can be a regular part of a healthy ecosystem environment. However, if their populations start to get out of hand, they can do significant harm to your tomato plants and gardens. 

Identifying Snail And Slug Infestations

It’s usually very easy to spot snails and slugs. These are some of the biggest tomato pests that you’ll ever come across. 

Taking the time to examine your plants frequently will help you notice when these gastropods take root. 

Eliminating Snails And Slugs

One of the best ways of preventing snails and slugs from harming your garden is through population management. Certain species, like lizards, frogs, and birds love to eat these gastropods. You can add these to your garden to aid with population control. 

If you can’t add these species, or have a serious infestation problem, you can remove them via hand, or use a beer trap. However, this only works temporarily until you can rectify the disparity in your home garden.

You can make a beer trap by pouring beer into a shallow tray, then leaving it at soil level near your tomato plants. Snails and slugs will be drawn to the beer, but will drown after they enter the tray.

4. Tomato Fruit Worms

Tomato fruit worms are thought to be one of the most harmful tomato pests. Otherwise known as corn earworms, these pests also attack corn and peppers, leaping to different species easily.

Mature tomato fruit worms look like ordinary moths. They lay white eggs underneath leaves that are nearest the plant’s fruit. After the eggs have hatched, the larvae start to feed on the fruit and the plant’s other leaves.

Identifying Tomato Fruitworm Infestations

To identify a tomato fruitworm infestation, look out for any white eggs on your tomato plant’s leaves. If the eggs hatch, the larvae can start to attack your fruit, going unnoticed until the tomatoes decay.

Eliminating Tomato Fruitworms

The best method of getting rid of tomato fruit worms is to add their native predators to your garden. Examples include big-eyed bugs, pirate bugs, and lacewings. 

Once you’ve identified a tomato fruitworm infestation, always remove and get rid of any infested fruit. 

5. Thrips

Thrips are small, flying pests that can cause significant harm, well before you notice the issue. 

Thrips can influence seedlings before they can grow strong, feasting on growing stems, new leaves, and young flower buds.

This can make younger plants weaker, affecting their growth. Most of the damage occurs by the tomato spotted wilt virus. If it spreads, the virus can damage your entire garden. This contagion has no cure, so their only treatment option is to eliminate the thrips. 

Identifying Thrip Infestations

Thrips are tiny and are hard to spot without a microscope. However, thrips usually leave brown-spot trails on your tomato plant’s leaves, which are usually easy to spot. 

Eliminating Thrips

After you notice this trail, remove any affected plants and trim any infected foliage. 

You can also add certain species to your garden. Lacewings and ladybugs can prevent thrips from feeding on your tomatoes. 

6. Cutworms

Cutworms are a type of caterpillar that lives within soil. These crawlers are normally gray or brown, with yellow or black spots. 

If cutworms make their journey toward your tomato plant, they can destroy it in a matter of hours. 

Cutworms are furtive critters. They do their job at night and hide in debris or soil to evade detection during the day. Most of the damage they do is the result of attacking a plant’s stalks, making it wilt and die. 

Identifying Cutworm Infestations

You may notice cutworms in any place on a tomato plant, but they carry out most of their work at the bottom of the stalk. 

As they are white or cream in color, they are relatively easy to spot against darker brown soil.

Eliminating Cutworms

To prevent cutworms, dig around in the soil to look for them before planting your tomato plants. If you notice one, take your time to go through the rest of the soil, as there will be a lot more hiding beneath. 

A good way of getting rid of cutworms is by spreading cornmeal near your tomato plants. This will eliminate the critters after they eat the cornmeal.

Keeping up with soil care and regular watering can also prevent cutworms from affecting your crops. 

7. Spider Mites

Spider mites are found in several climates, but they usually love dry, hot conditions. The mites invade in big groups, inhabiting beneath a plant’s leaves. 

Spider mites feed on tomato plants by perforating the leaves to drain their nutrients. 

Identifying Spider Mite Infestations

Initially, it can be hard to spot a spider mite infestation. The mites don’t leave many signs, other than some gentle speckling and sporadic webbing.

However, if the infestation isn’t managed, the plant’s dead leaves will become yellow, starting to drop from the plants.

Eliminating Spider Mites

You can prevent these mites by feeding and watering your plants regularly. If a tomato plant has already been infested, attentively trim any affected foliage.

Spider mites are quite resistant to insect spray, but they do detest cold water. You can keep a spray bottle in the fridge and mist your plant twice a day. 

Another method is to plant fragrant herbs, like chives, chamomile, or garlic, around your tomato plants. 

8. Hornworms

Hornworms are very detrimental and are often sighted in North America and Australia, though they are more present within the north of the U.S. 

These big caterpillars consume plant matter around the clock, so they can quickly strip tomato plants of their foliage. 

Identifying Hornworm Infestations

If you notice a plant’s branch, or a part of its branch, without its leaves in the morning, this is a sign of a hornworm infestation. 

These green worms are easily spotted against darker red tomatoes, but they can also camouflage themselves against the green leafage that they feed on. 

Fortunately, they do leave dark droppings on plant leaves which are easier to notice. Look along your plant’s stalks and underneath its leaves to try and spot the critters. 

Eliminating Hornworms

Hornworms are big and sluggish, which makes it easy to manage most infestations. 

The best method of eliminating hornworms is to remove them by hand. Keep in mind that they will squirm a lot, attempting to secure themselves to the stalk they are on. 

If you’re squeamish, it’s best to wear gloves! 

Pest Control Tips

If you are growing tomatoes or other types of crops in your backyard, here are some things you can do to prevent pests from affecting your harvest.

Biodiversity And Companion Planting

Ecosystems thrive with several different elements in their environment. In the same way, your garden will be stronger when there are more animals and plants in it. 

Some types of flowers and plants promote better growth in tomatoes. Others act like a ‘trap plant’, that ensnares or repels insects. Others lure and eat pests, preventing them from harassing your plants. 

In the case of tomatoes, some examples of good companion plants are chives, marigolds, and basil. 

Support Predators

You may not like this tip if you’re not a fan of spiders, but encouraging predatory insects in your garden can prevent pests from inhabiting your crops. 

Spiders, ladybirds, parasitic wasps, birds, and even lizards can eat insects that harm your tomatoes. 

You can grow certain things in your garden to draw in these species, like herbs, vegetables, and certain flowers. Spiders are particularly attracted to mulch and tall plants. 

Plant Crops In the Correct Space

Plants will try their best to grow, even if they’re planted in less-than-optimal conditions. However, if this occurs, the stressed crop will have less chance of fighting diseases and pests.

When you plant your tomatoes, or any type of crop for that matter, make sure that they are planted in the best soil, climate, and sunlight conditions for that crop. This will ensure that they are more likely to flourish and fight significant issues.

The Bottom Line

Many types of pests like to feed on tomato plants, but in most cases, there are also effective ways of dissuading them. 

You may be able to treat an infestation after it’s occurred, but prevention methods work better than a cure. Turning your garden into a biodiverse environment will help, as predatory insects will hinder any invasive pests from affecting your crops. 

Do some research to find out what flowers and plants attract these predatory species, then plant them in your garden. This step will ensure that your growing season is a lot more profitable. 

Amelia Haslehurt
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