Are you growing tomatoes this season? Then these common pests for tomatoes are what might threaten your crop. In this list we will go over the top fifteen most notorious pests that are known to harm tomato plants. By familiarizing yourself with the pests, you will be able to spot an infestation and protect your plants before the damage becomes severe.
Common Pests for Tomatoes:
Aphids are one of the most common pests for tomatoes worldwide. These small bugs reproduce at a rapid rate and can infest the stems, leaves, flowers, and fruit of your tomato plant. These tiny bugs damage leaves and stems, can potentially transmit diseases, and will weaken a plant overtime.
To identify aphids on your plant you should look for leaves that are curling or yellowing. Check both the top and bottom of the leaves for the small bugs. You can prevent aphids from attacking your tomato plants by attracting predatory insects that will prey upon the aphids. Some of these insects are ladybugs, lacewings, soldier beetles, and parasitic wasps. Utilizing companion plants can help deter aphids or lure them away from tomato plants. Additionally, you can use diatomaceous earth as a border to your garden to prevent bugs, however this may harm the beneficial ones as well!
One of the most well-known and common pests for tomatoes is the tomato hornworm. These large and creepy looking worms can devour your tomato plants if not recognized and removed. This pest can be difficult to spot because of its coloring and its ability to blend in with the foliage.
One way to spot the tomato hornworm is to use a black light on the plant at night. The worms will glow under the light, allowing for you to more easily see them. Alternatively, you can inspect your plant thoroughly, remove each by hand, and put them in a bucket of soapy water to kill them.
Whiteflies are frequently found attacking tomato plants. This pest will appear in large numbers feasting on the leaves of the plant, as they love the sap. This causes damage to the leaves, which results in curling, yellowing, and wilting. Over time this will cause the entire plant to be stressed and weakened.
Tomato Fruitworms are the larvae of moths and will eat the tomatoes on your plant. These caterpillars will bore into a tomato as they develop to feed on the fruit. They may leave one tomato and enter into another one, feasting on the inner flesh of each one. This causes damage to the fruit of the plant, as well as creating a hole. This hole causes the tomato to begin rotting, as well as allowing other bugs to enter. The inside of the tomato will be filled with water. Additionally, cast skins and fecal matter of the worm will be present. This means that these tomatoes should not be consumed.
Spider mites are another one of the common pests for tomatoes, as well as a large variety of other plants. These mites are, in fact, a type of spider and a member of the arachnid family. You will find these bugs eating your tomato leaves, which can cause yellowing of the leaves and overall weakness of the plant.
The damage done to tomato plants by Leafminers is from the larvae of the adult fly. The larvae bore tunnels within tomato leaves. These tunnels can wreak havoc on the leaves of the plant. A severe infestation of these bugs can cause a plant to lose many of its leaves and reduce the production of tomatoes. Leafminer infestations usually will start to affect your tomato plants in the mid to late summer.
Thrips are a common pests for tomatoes that you may find harming your plants. These slender bodied insects will feed on the sap of the tomato plant. This can damage the leaves, causing them to yellow, curl, or die. Thrips may also feed on the tomato fruit as it grows, leading to a loss of edible fruit to harvest. This pest is also known to transmit the Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus, which can cause stunted growth, wilting, or death of the plant.
Cutworms are an extremely destructive pest for the tomato plant. These 1 to 2 inch long caterpillars are so damaging due to their feeding behaviors. They primarily work at night when people are not watching and have a massive appetite. Cutworms can destroy seedlings and young tomato plants because their thinner stems cannot withstand the aggressive feeding. While older plant’s stems may be able to survive the damage, the cutworm will also feed on the fruits causing a loss of harvestable food. This pest causes tomato plants a lot of stress, possibly leading to wilting or dying depending on the level of damage.
Flea beetles are small beetles that commonly pose problems for vegetable crops. Too many of these beetles feeding on young plants can cause wilting and death. You should monitor the tomato seedlings that you grow to ensure this pest is not doing damage. These beetles will chew holes in the leaves and stems of your mature tomato plants. If you have a severe infestation of this pest, your plant can begin to wilt and be permanently stunted. You can deal with these common pests for tomatoes by companion planting with plants that deter flea beetles. It is an excellent way to prevent them from entering your garden in the first place.
Nematodes are microscopic roundworms that invade the soil and attack tomato roots. The most common type that affects tomato plants is Root Knot Nematodes. This pest can cause a tomato plant to be stunted, cause yellowing, produce a smaller harvest, or even wilt. Planting asparagus close to your tomato crop can help prevent nematode infestations because of its natural ability to repel the pest. You should avoid planting tomatoes in soil that had a nematode infestation the previous season.
Snails and Slugs
Both snails and slugs find tomato plants to be quite a treat. They will feed on young tomato plants and leave holes in the leaves. The tomato fruits can get eaten through, leaving a hollow empty area inside. To keep these pests away from your tomatoes, be sure to pick them off if you ever see any on your plant. Put the snails and slugs into a bucket of salt water to kill them. Alternatively, you can make a barrier of diatomaceous earth around your plants, which will kill this pest as they move across it.
Beet armyworms are among the common pests for tomatoes in North and South America. These caterpillars do not survive freezing temperatures, so they are most common in the warmer southern regions of the United States. The female moth lays the armyworm eggs on leaves of the tomato plants. The larvae feed on large amounts of the tomato plant’s leaves and fruit as they grow. This causes great stress to the plant. Large scale damage to the plant’s leaves will affect the plant’s ability to generate energy for growth. You will see holes or damage in the fruit of the plant, which may allow other pests or infections into the tomato, causing rot and further damage.
If you are one of the people who gets plagued by stink bugs every year, this pest could affect your tomato crop. Stink bugs are known to enjoy eating tomatoes, which can cause damage and rotting of the fruit. This pest feeding upon the fruits causes the tomatoes to appear deformed or misshaped. If the tomatoes are small and developing, they may never mature and instead drop off the plant. Stink bugs may also carry pathogens that can be introduced to the fruit, causing them to rot. Overall, if the numbers of stink bugs are high enough, they can cause enough damage to stunt the growth of the plant. This will lead to a reduced harvest.
The tomato pinworm is a small worm that primarily feeds on tomato plants, as well as other nightshade vegetables. This caterpillar will feast on the leaves and fruit of the tomato plant, causing extensive damage. You may see small pin sized holes on your tomatoes, which can be hard to detect. The affected fruits may rot and show signs of further infection, causing the fruit or even the entire plant to die.
Leafhoppers are small bugs that consume the sap from the tomato leaves. This can cause the leaves to begin to yellow, curl, and stunt the plant’s growth overall. These bugs can also transmit plant diseases that can further harm your crops. One disease that the leafhopper is known for transmitting is the curly top virus, which causes tomato plants to become stunted. The leaves will often curl, turn purple, stiffen, and eventually leads to the death of the plant.
Leafminers. University of California Integrated Pest Management
Thrips. Utah State University