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Tomato Bugs

All about Tomato Bugs

Nothing is more frustrating than growing tomato plants, waiting all season for tomatoes, and then having them eaten by tomato bugs. There are several different types of tomato bugs, and given the chance, all of them will devour your tomato plants or tomatoes.      One of the most destructive is the tomato hornworm. The larvae can be up to four inches long and bright green. This is one of the tomato bugs you will remember if you see it. The bug is green and is covered with diagonal stripes which are white. There is a shadow of black dots under the stripe plus a false eyespot and big black tail.

Tomato bugs, like the tomato hornworm, can completely ravage a tomato plant in no time. They eat a lot of leaves and will even munch on the tomatoes themselves. These large, green larvae turn into adult hornworms, which are gigantic moths, known as hawk or hummingbird moths, as they can have a long wingspan and they resemble hummingbirds. We are talking about a moth with a wing span of five to seven inches. They are grayish-brown in color with orange spots and a wavy wing pattern.

If you want to naturally keep tomato bugs away from your tomatoes, plant side crops of borage or marigolds. If you want to trap the hornworms, a good method is to plant dill next to the tomatoes. The nasty little creatures will all be attracted by the dill and are easier to spot and pick off on dill than they are on tomatoes. The best technique of getting rid of these tomato bugs is to pick them off by hand. If this doesn’t appeal to you or you are just too squeamish, some people import parasitic insects called trichogamma to feed on the larvae.

See Related: Cinch Bugs

Aphids are another one of the tomato bugs. They are very tiny, especially when compared to the size of a tomato hornworm. It takes roughly ten of them to cover one inch.  Aphids eat a great variety of plants, both vegetable and flowers. They can be discouraged organically by planting chives, garlic, petunias, nasturtiums, and coriander next to them. They can also be caught with yellow dishes full of soapy water. They are attracted to the color, yellow. Some people bring in lots of lacewings, which are a natural predator, to eat the aphids.

Flea Beetles are tomato bugs as well. They are tiny, approximately the same size as an aphid, and will jump about on top of the plant leaves. You can make a spray with red peppers which will deter them.  The Colorado potato beetle doesn’t just bother potatoes. They also love to eat all of the leaves off of tomato plants. They are easily recognizable with their yellow color and black stripes. Some natural ways to discourage potato beetles are to plant tomatoes beside horseradish, nasturtiums, coriander, or catnip. Water containing Epsom salts is another method of deterring them.

Leafhoppers look like tiny green wedges which are around ¼ to ½ an inch long. As the name denotes, they hop across leaves as they eat them. Large infestations of leafhoppers are hard to control and large agricultural producers usually use strong insecticides. The best organic methods of control are to bring in natural predators or to plant a companion plant to attract them. Predatory wasps, spiders, lizards and birds will all help to control leafhoppers.

The last of the tomato bugs is the stinkbug. These guys are gray and have a hard shell. They do release a stinky fluid when touched, so if you want to remove them by hand, a good way is to knock them off the plant with a stick into a can. Once again, natural predators are effective, and in this case, the answer to stink bug control is lizards.

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