Common Tomato Plant Pests

Keeping your tomato plants strong and healthy means protecting them against the most common tomato pests. You aren’t the only one who wants to eat your lovely tomatoes! The first thing you need is to know your enemy. So here is a rundown of the most common pests and a few tips on how to get the best of them.

White Flies

If you see a sticky residue on your tomatoes this can be a sign of white flies, who love tomato juice. The real problem lies in the residue they leave behind, which can easily lead to mold developing and claiming your whole plant. A recommended killer of white flies is horticultural oil, which smothers them. Hosing the plants down with a good bug-blaster hose nozzle can also help a great deal. Unfortunately insecticides rarely work too well against these hardy little villains.

A far more fun and also very effective way to cut down white fly populations is rather like letting the cat out to catch the mice. The natural predators of white flies are lady bugs, lacewings and whitefly parasites. These guys act best as policemen to prevent any white fly problems ever arising.

Aphids

Aphids are the next tomato pest-threat to look out for – you’ll see dense groups of tiny bugs around the stems of your plants if you have aphids in your patch. If these infestation grow out of hand they can threatened the life of your plant. To get rid of them pinch off the plant parts where you see these dense clusters and throw them in the bin. Once again, ladybugs and lacewings can do a great deal of good against aphids, so let your little tomato cats loose.

Cutworms

Quite common on young tomato plants are cutworms – little caterpillars that feed on young tomato plant saplings at night. Protective collars made from aluminium or cardboard around the base of seedlings can prevent these little fellows from doing too much damage. For maximum effect make your collars a good five inches high and dig them down into the soil around the plant, creating a protective barrier below and above the surface.

Hornworms

The biggest tomato pests are hornworms, and also the easiest to deal with if you can spot them. These guys are often 3 inches in length and their biggest defense is their perfect camouflage, so search your plants carefully and if you find one simply pick it off. Spraying the plant with water can help to locate them.

Flea Beetles

Now the two most damaging and dangerous of tomato pests – the Flea Beetle and Nematodes. Flea Beetles are voracious in eating tomato plants, and will eat both the leaves, stems and even the roots. Low covers will help protect your younger more vulnerable plants and yellow sticky traps can help to curb numbers.

The most effective way to fight these insects is to introduce beneficial nematodes into your soil, which will decimate the Flea Beetle’s larvae. In extreme cases you can use some of the stronger botanical insecticides to fight them off as well.

The Dreaded Nematodes

The most dangerous of tomato pests are tiny microscopic worms called Nematodes. And in particular a breed known as Root-Knot Nematodes, most common in warmer climates. The only real solution to Nematodes is to rotate crops regularly, following your tomatoes with crops that aren’t vulnerable to nematodes.

If you find lumps on your plant roots then you probably have these pests invading. Unfortunately by this point the only way to kill them off is to completely sterilize your plot soil, which kills most of the good nutrients in the soil too. The best cure here is prevention, so keep your crop rotation well organized and persistent.

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