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The 15 Most Common Tomato Pests

Growing the perfect tomato is no walk in the park. After all of your hard work, it can be disheartening to step out into the garden only to find that tomato pests have thwarted all of your best efforts.

Unfortunately, there are all kinds of tomato pests that can take advantage of your crops when you’re not paying attention. Keep reading to learn about the 15 most common tomato pests, how to identify them, and how to finally rid them from your garden!

Your tomato plants may be under attack from tomato pests!

1. Aphids

These pear-shaped, sap-sucking bugs—in particular, blackflies and greenflies—are known to affect a host of fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes. While a couple of aphids are somewhat harmless, these tomato pests find their strength in numbers. Large quantities will suck the nutrients from plant stems and bring tomato growth to a halt!

How to Spot an Aphid Infestation

Due to its miniature size, a lone aphid can be difficult to spot. Fortunately, aphids are usually present in large clusters that are hard to miss. Regularly inspect the undersides of leaves for green or black bugs that are roughly 1/8-inch long.

Aphids on the underside of a leaf, one of the most common tomato pests.
The undersides of leaves are where you’ll find aphids hiding out.

How to Get Rid of Aphids

There are a few different ways to eliminate aphids. Your first course of action should be to prune any excess foliage where there are infestations. If the problem persists, release aphid-killing insects—such as ladybugs and lace bugs—that won’t further damage your tomato plants.

2. Fruitworms

Tomato fruitworms are the yellow-white larvae of adult moths that are found as far north as Canada, as far south as Argentina, and all throughout the United States.

What makes the tomato fruitworm one of the most damaging garden pests is its ability to burrow tiny holes early on in its life cycle and do all its fruit damage from the inside of your tomatoes.

A tomato fruitworm on a green tomato.
A tomato fruitworm.

How to Spot a Fruitworm Infestation

The key to spotting a fruitworm infestation is to keep an eye out for the creamy-white eggs that are laid on your plants’ leaflets. If the larvae have time to hatch and burrow, they can go undetected until your tomatoes start to rot.

How to Get Rid of Fruitworms

The most effective way of eliminating fruitworms from your garden is often to encourage their natural predators—pirate bugs and big-eyed bugs, to name only a few.

3. Leaf-Footed Bugs

Leaf-footed bugs—including stink bugs and squash bugs—are so common that we often give them a free pass. These stealthy insects, however, are known to feed on more than 50 different trees and plants—including tomatoes!

Because these bugs thrive in hot weather, they are especially prevalent down south during the spring, summer, and fall months.

Closeup of a stink bug on a plant.
A stink bug.

How to Spot a Leaf-Footed Bug Infestation

Many leaf-footed bugs are similar in appearance, often taking on a green or brown hue and measuring at roughly 3/4-inch long. Because these tomato pests do very little direct damage yet carry viruses, the first time you notice any impact may be when your crops start to yield deformed, immature fruit.

How to Get Rid of Leaf-Footed Bugs

As an immediate solution, you can handpick leaf-footed bugs from your plants. Otherwise, planting companion plants like buckwheat, garlic, lavender, or chrysanthemums nearby can attract and trap these bugs so that they steer clear of your yummy tomatoes!

4. Slugs/Snails

Slugs and snails aren’t the prettiest grubs to grace our gardens, but they are an essential part of our ecosystem. While these “pests” are typically harmless, large populations of slugs and snails can thwart your tomato plant growth—usually affecting plants that are relatively young.

Closeup of a snail on a rock.

How to Spot a Slug/Snail Infestation

Slugs and snails aren’t difficult to spot. In fact, they’re among the largest tomato pests you’ll ever have to encounter. Just be sure to inspect your tomato plants regularly!

How to Get Rid of Slugs/Snails

There’s no quick fix for large populations of slugs. If you’re desperate, you can set up traps that will drown some of them overnight. The best course of action, however, is a preventative one: keep their predators around!

5. Borers

Like fruitworms, borers will often dig tiny holes that go unseen. The stalk borer, specifically, is a purple-colored caterpillar that preys on tomato plants and can be found throughout most of the United States.

Closeup of a stalk borer larva.
A stalk borer larva.

How to Spot a Borer Infestation

Newly hatched borers are much harder to spot than their adult counterparts, for obvious reasons. They do most of their insect damage at the stems of tomato plants, so watch for signs of disease or decay at the stems and foliage!

How to Get Rid of Borers

Frequent pruning and weed control are two of the most effective methods for eliminating borers. Cut down any tomato plants that have already been infested!

6. Beetles

There are multiple species of adult beetles—including blister beetles, Colorado potato beetles, and flea beetles—that can threaten your tomato crop, as well as just about any other crop you’re growing! Some of these beetles do minimal damage, while others leave tattered tomato plants in their wake.

Closeup of a striped Colorado potato beetle on a leaf.
A Colorado potato beetle.

How to Spot a Beetle Infestation

Make a habit of inspecting all areas of your tomato plants. Beetle infestations can occur on any part of the plant, depending on the species of bug.

What’s more, beetles vary in appearance. Blister beetles are black with red heads, Colorado potato beetles have alternating black and yellow stripes, and flea beetles are entirely black!

How to Get Rid of Beetles

Unfortunately, there’s no catchall solution for eliminating beetles, as different types of beetles respond to different methods.

Regardless, be careful when dealing with these tomato pests. Certain species are harmful to not only tomatoes but also humans. Research the specific type of beetle you see and wear gloves when dealing with it!

7. Thrips

Thrips are miniature, narrow insects that have sets of four wings. Unlike the average tomato pest, they do the majority of their damage through the wilt virus they carry—which can be devastating for seedlings.

Closeup of a thrip.
A thrip.

How to Spot a Thrip Infestation

While thrips are very small and seemingly invisible without the aid of a microscope, they often leave trails of brown spots on your tomato leaves—making them fairly conspicuous!

How to Get Rid of Thrips

Once you find the signature trail of dark spots, be sure to remove any infected plants and prune any infested foliage. Ladybugs and certain birds can keep thrips from returning to munch on your tomato plants!

8. Cutworms

Cutworms are soil-dwelling caterpillars that interfere with tomato seedlings by chewing right through their stems. In fact, these aggressive grubs need very little time to annihilate a newly planted crop.

Closeup of a cutworm.
A cutworm.

How to Spot a Cutworm Infestation

While you might spot a tomato cutworm anywhere on the plant, they do most of their damage at the base of the stem. These cream-colored grubs will usually stand out against your dark brown soil surface!

How to Get Rid of Cutworms

One of the best methods of eliminating cutworms is to scatter cornmeal around your tomato plants. What’s more, proper watering and soil care can help keep cutworms away from your crop.

9. Hornworms

Before they develop into five-spotted hawk moths, hornworms spend much of their youth terrorizing our crops. These common pests are prevalent throughout both Australia and North America—but particularly in the northern United States.

Closeup of a tomato hornworm on a tomato plant.
Thankfully, tomato hornworms only look dangerous!

How to Spot a Hornworm Infestation

While these large, green caterpillars stand out against the deep red hues of a ripe tomato, they just as easily blend in with the green foliage they prefer to munch on. They do, however, leave trails of black droppings on leaves that are a little easier to spot.

How to Get Rid of Hornworms

Because tomato hornworms are large, slow-moving grubs, most infestations are manageable. The best course of action is usually to carefully handpick them from your plants.

10. Whiteflies

Similar to aphids, whiteflies are sap-sucking insects that like to steal nutrients from healthy plants. In addition to limiting crop yields, these nuisances carry viruses that they spread from plant to plant.

Closeup of whiteflies on a tomato leaf.
Whiteflies on a tomato plant.

How to Spot a Whitefly Infestation

Unfortunately for whiteflies, their bright appearance gives them away. Although an adult whitefly is roughly 1/32-inch long, you can easily spot it against a red tomato or against green foliage.

How to Get Rid of Whiteflies

As you would with an aphid infestation, carefully prune any foliage that has been affected. You can also release ladybugs and lace bugs to deal with these pests for you!

11. Spider Mites

Spider mites are tiny arachnids that are most often found in areas that have cool weather—and especially in greenhouses and other indoor facilities. These pests will feast on a tomato plant by piercing its leaf surface and draining the nutrients.

Closeup of a tomato plant with spider mites and webbing.
Spider mites.

How to Spot a Spider Mite Infestation

At first, spider mite infestations are difficult to identify. These bugs leave almost no trace aside from the occasional web and some fine speckling on leaves. Eventually, however, dead leaves will turn yellow and fall from your tomato plants.

How to Get Rid of Spider Mites

To prevent spider mites, make sure your plants are adequately watered and fed. If your tomato plants have already been affected, carefully prune any bad foliage. Horticultural oil spray and insecticidal soap can be effective as well.

12. Wireworms

Similar to cutworms, wireworms are the larval stage of another bug—click beetles. Before they are fully mature, these pesky grubs will attack tomatoes, their root systems, and their stems.

Closeup of an orange-brown wireworm on a log.
A wireworm.

How to Spot a Wireworm Infestation

Keep a close eye on your seedlings, as new plants are especially vulnerable to these tomato pests. While wireworms typically start at the root of the plant, they often inch their way up through the main stem as well.

How to Get Rid of Wireworms

If you’re dealing with a wireworm infestation, try to attract birds to that area. These are various species of birds that will feed on these frustrating grubs and eliminate them for you!

13. Nematodes

Nematodes, also known as tomato eelworms, are arguably the most problematic tomato pests. There are more than 20,000 different species of this insect worldwide, yet the species that typically affects tomato plants is the root-knot nematode. These grubs create knobby roots that prevent the plants from getting the nutrients they need.

Closeup of a plant root system with root knots caused by nematodes
A root knot caused by nematodes.

How to Spot a Nematode Infestation

The first sign of a nematode infestation is usually plant discoloration. The most blatant sign of an infestation, however, is found once the plant is lifted from the soil: a knobby root system, filled with various bumps and galls.

How to Get Rid of Nematodes

Nematodes are difficult to manage, as they do much of their damage at the root and also play an important role in controlling other garden pests. If you have a severe nematode problem, focus on growing nematode-resistant varieties until these grubs have settled down.

14. Psyllids

Psyllids are plant lice that have the ability to jump, allowing them to move from plant to plant swiftly. Resembling miniature cicadas, these sap-suckers inflict a significant amount of damage and are considered the biggest threats to tomato plants in certain states.

Closeup of a psyllid on a plant leaf.
A psyllid on a plant leaf.

How to Spot a Psyillid Infestation

Psyllid saliva also has a toxic effect on tomato plants, bringing about a condition referred to as “psyllid yellows.” This causes foliage to turn yellow and fall from the plant. These bugs are also known to leave trails of psyllid sugar on leaves.

How to Get Rid of Psyillids

Sometimes winter will eradicate psyllid infestations naturally, as these jumping plant lice can’t survive harsh conditions. Allowing spiders, birds, and predatory insects to thrive can also help control psyllid populations.

15. Tarnished Plant Bugs

The tarnished plant bug (Lygus lineolaris) is a tomato pest that, like many of the pests that have been mentioned, sucks nutrients from stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits alike. While it can be spotted in most regions throughout the country, it’s most prevalent along the eastern side.

Closeup of a tarnished plant bug on a leaf.
A tarnished plant bug.

How to Spot a Tarnished Plant Bug Infestation

There are a handful of ways to identify a tarnished plant bug infestation—the first being the black spots that they leave in their path. These pesky bugs can also cause deformities, including catfacing and cloudy spots on tomato fruit.

How to Get Rid of Tarnished Plant Bugs

Frequently weed the areas around your tomato plants, as certain weeds—such as dandelions and pigweed—can provoke an infestation. Encouraging pirate bugs and big-eyed bugs can also help keep tarnished plant bugs at bay!

Keep Those Tomato Pests Away for Good!

Pink-red tomatoes on the vine.
Healthy, delicious tomatoes are the prize for winning the war against tomato pests!

Now that you’re aware of the different kinds of tomato pests that can easily make their way into your garden, it’s time to do something about it!

Inspect your tomato plants regularly and take the proper steps to eliminate any bugs as soon as you detect an infestation.

Have you had a run-in with tomato pests? Share your best tips and tricks in the comment section below! Otherwise, click here to check out some of our other helpful tomato-related articles.

Ed cody

Tuesday 19th of July 2022

Have I discovered a new variety? Looks like a giant mosquito. I can’t attach a pic.

Matt

Monday 25th of July 2022

I'm not sure what that would be!?!