Tomato problems 3 – A handful of pests.

If you’ve been following our series of posts about growing healthy tomatoes, you’ve probably succeded in getting  a whole bunch of beauties ripening on your vines by now. You might even have managed to eat a few from your bounty.

But there will be other eyes on your ripening tomatoes. There are many many insects that enjoy our Tomatoes as much as we do. Not only do they like to eat them, many lay their eggs in them and let the young grow, protected inside.

I’ll only look at a few pests in this post. There’s a whole library of information on problems, pests and pest control building on this website now that I’ve taken some pretty good pictures! You can find that info here.

Let’s get started!

Green Vegetable Bugs.

Also known in some places as Green Stink Bugs, these bright green pests are a threat to many of our favourite vegetables, including Tomatoes. They suck the sap from green growth, can transmit some diseases and lay their eggs on our plants.

Green Vegetable Bugs are one of the insects that undergo big changes at different stages of life.The pics below show the big difference between two stages (or ‘instars’). The second is of a cluster that were raised in one of our aquaponics Tomatoes.

Adult Green Vegetable Bug.
Adult Green Vegetable Bug.
Immature Green  Vegetable Bugs.
Immature Green Vegetable Bugs.

Controling Green Vegetable Bugs

Once you ‘get your eye in’ it’s easy to spot mature vegetable bugs on your tomatoes. Their bright green bodies stand out from the darker green of the leaves and when they’re disturbed, they make a quick move for the back of the leaves or fruit. Pick and squish is my favourite method!

Cutworms

Cutworms are a kind of caterpillar, the immature form of a little brown moth.

They are a common cause of irregularly shaped holes in your tomatoes. They’re also a pest of young tomato seedlings which they cut the stems of at soil level.

Interestingly, adult cutworm moths are pollinators as well but pollinate at night, which can lead to some of the problems that you saw in this post.

Cutworm larva.
Cutworm larva.
Adult Cutworm Moth.

Controlling cutworms

Netting the area can help too by preventing the moth access. You need a pretty fine net though.

Cutwoms climb up out of the soil, so keep leaves and stems off ogf the ground. Leaves at that level aren’t doing the plant much good anyway, so snip them off.

Once again, pick and squish is the best method. The caterpillars curl up when disturbed and often fall to the ground where they are easy targets for avid gardeners like us.

Green Looper Caterpillars

Everyone knows these little caterpillars. They arch their backs as they crawl, making a little loop before thrusting forward again. You will undoubtedly have seen them on your other vegetables (they are also known as ‘Cabbage Loopers), so watch out for them on your tommies!

Green Looper caterpillar.
Green Looper caterpillar.

Cabbage Looper moth.
Cabbage Looper moth.

Control of Green Loopers

Netting yout tomatoes is the best way to prevent infestation. Pick and squish caterpillars that wander into your protected plants.

Once again, once you get your eye in, the green of their bodies  is easy to see against the darker leaves of the tomatoes and their white stripe becomes a dead giveaway.

There are tiny, parasitoid wasps that will lay their eggs in the caterpillarsĀ  and larger wasps that will physically pick them up and carry them away to their lair as food for their young.

Spider Mites

Tiny Arachnids that make their way unseen onto our plants. We see them, firstly by their effect as they mottle and drain the colour out of leaves, then webs show in between around the leaves and stems and if we look carefully, we can see little red dots – Spider Mites!!.

They arrive at our place with the onset of the hot weather and drain the life from certain plants.

Tell-tale webbing shows that you have an infestation of Spider Mites.
Tell-tale webbing shows that you have an infestation of Spider Mites.
Spider Mites up close.

Control of Spider Mites

Once you see mottling on your leaves, start blasting them with a jet of water from youtr hose. This’ll knock adults off of the leaves and leave them helpless.

Home made White Oil works quite well.

The trick to using both of the above techniques is to repeat the treatment every 2 – 3 days. You might be knocking off the adults eggs are continuously hatching, releasing a new generation.

Nature can help us with Spider Mite infestations. As with many critters, there are tiny parasitoid wasps that love nothing better than laying their eggs in Spider Mites and their eggs. You might see little shiny black dots moving around on your affected leaves. These are Stethorus, a species of Ladybird whose favourite food is Spider Mites. Once you see them on your plants, just keep feeding and watering the plants regularly and, within a couple of weeks, you will see the plant recovering.

You can help Nature reduce Spider Mite populations by removing affected leaves at the terminal end of branches where you can see a lot of webbing. I’ve not seen too many predators in these areas  as  they seem to prefer to do their deeds on the underside of leaves further down the plant.

Ladybird Beetles love to eat Spider Mites.
Ladybird Beetles love to eat Spider Mites.

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