Tips to Naturally Eliminate & Prevent Common Tomato Plant Pests
09 July, 2019
Discover simple and natural methods for eliminating or preventing common insects of tomato plants. Burdensome garden insects are capable of turning a beautiful and bountiful tomato crop into a pile of half-eaten fruits and dead foliage. Many pesticides may help get rid of these irritating pests, but by tackling the problem naturally and from the beginning, you can not only prevent these prowlers from feasting on your food, but you can also help protect the environment in the process.
The Tomato Hornworm and the Armyworm
Tomato hornworms and armyworms are large green caterpillars found throughout the United States. Hornworm adult moths lay their eggs on the underside of the tomato plant leaves. When the eggs hatch, the caterpillars feed on the leaves, destroying the plants. The tomato hornworm is often considered the biggest killer of tomato plants. Armyworms consume everything in their path, leaving no garden plant safe. They are particularly harmful to the fruit of tomato plants, eating large holes in the tomatoes. However, getting rid of both hornworms and armyworms can be a simple task:
- Pick the caterpillars from the leaves and drop them into soapy water. They do not sting and are harmless to touch. Spraying them with cold water from a hose first will make them easier to remove.
- There is a variety of wasp, called the Trichogramma wasp, will infect the worms and kill them. When the wasp infects one of these pests, the worm will exhibit strange white protrusions on its body. Do not remove these worms from the garden, as they will continue to infect others with the wasp infection. Instead, move them to unwanted or already dying tomato plants. By releasing these wasps in the garden, they will infect the larva right from the start.
The Potato Beetle
This pest is perhaps more popularly known as simply the potato bug. Like the hornworm, the potato beetle can be found throughout the United States and can prove to be a huge menace to tomato plants. Both the adult and the larvae feed upon the foliage of the plants. Getting rid of them can prove to be somewhat difficult:
- Again, soapy water is the best way to go. Shake the beetles off the leaves of the tomato plants and into a container of soapy water. This can be quite the chore, however. Be sure to look for egg clusters on the underside of the leaves. It is best to pick these leaves off and dispose of them rather than remove the eggs.
- Digging trenches between the rows of tomato plants and lining them with plastic is another option. This will trap the adult potato beetles and make them easier to get rid of before they reach the tomato plants.
The Flea Beetle
Adult flea beetles feed on the leaves of tomato plants. The larva feeds on the roots. There may be many of these beetles present in the same area, devouring tomato plants in virtually no time. Unfortunately, they are too small, and way too many, to simply pick off and drop into soapy water. This can make them much more difficult to eliminate than some other pests.
- Cover seedlings with a garden cloth. This will prevent adult flea beetles from laying their eggs on the tomato plants. Once all of the adults have been removed or destroyed with a botanical pesticide, the seedlings can be uncovered.
- Flea beetles lay their eggs before Winter, hatching in the Spring right in the garden soil. Prevent this by making sure the garden area is completely clean before Winter hits. This will remove any places for the flea beetles to lay their eggs.
Slugs and Snails
These suckers are a troublesome pest for every type of plant. They eat off of the mulch and decaying matter in the garden, posing harm to tomato plants that should be thriving.
- Keep the garden free from debris, rotting wood, or decaying matter. Without it, the slugs and snails will not come around, as there will be nothing to attract them to the garden.
- Placing low dishes of beer around the tomato plants may prove helpful as well, not by getting the slugs and snails drunk, but by drowning them. The yeast in the beer will attract them. When they climb into the dish, they will drown.
Aphids and Psyllids
Aphids and psyllids are tiny insects that infest tomato plants quickly and in large numbers. They suck the sap from the plant cells for nourishment. This causes the leaves of the plant to curl and turn yellow, eventually killing the entire plant. Not only do they feast on the tomato plants, but aphids and psyllids also produce a sticky substance that will attract ants. The tomato plants may become diseased from this substance.
- Fill a spray bottle with soapy water and spray the aphids and psyllids with it. They will drop from the tomato plants and die.
- Natural predators are a great way to protect tomato plants from aphids and psyllids. Purchasing ladybugs or lacewings and releasing them in the garden will help keep the aphid and psyllid population down. Ladybugs and lacewings love to snack on these pests. These beneficial insects are commercially sold for gardens and will help keep down a number of other pest infestations as well.
While there are a number of chemical sprays and pesticides available on the market, some may prefer these natural, environmentally friendly techniques of preventing and reducing the number of insect infestations present. Whether you choose to treat your garden chemically or naturally, you are sure to enjoy a beautiful bounty of tomatoes by eliminating the common insects and pests that feast upon them.