Despite being one of the most popular crops in home gardens, tomatoes are susceptible to a number of problems, pests being one of them. As it turns out, a number of tiny insects love those red ripe fruits just as much as you do.
It can be very disappointing to find black bugs eating tomatoes that you spent so much time and effort growing. While they eat away the fruits, the bacteria carried by their bodies can damage the tomato plant and lower the yield. However, typically, simple home remedies are enough to get rid of them and salvage your harvest.
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What Are The Tiny Black Bugs Eating Tomatoes?
There are several insects that can bother your tomato plants. If you notice black bugs eating tomatoes on the vines, you’re most likely dealing with either aphids or flea beetles. Both the species are common pests that attack ripe tomatoes. It’s important to identify exactly what type of insect you’re up against to be able to control them effectively.
Aphids are tiny insects that feed on the sap from tomato plant leaves. While few aphids won’t harm your tomatoes, heavy infestations can cause problems. Since aphids multiply very quickly, you’ll need to take action promptly before they become a problem. While weakening the plants as they feed on them, they can also transmit viral diseases and cause a significant loss in the harvest.
Aphids are very small, pear-shaped insects, between 1/16 to ⅛ inches long. Other than black aphids, you can also find them in other colors, including red, brown, grey, white and green. Mature aphids may or may not have wings. The winged varieties are typically darker in color.
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Symptoms Of Aphid Damage
You may not notice any symptoms until the aphids multiply and turn into heavy infestations. Misshapen, curled, yellow and wilted leaves are often a result of heavy aphid infestations. As they suck the sap from the plants, they leave behind a sticky substance called honeydew. Honeydew encourages the development of black sooty mold on the leaf surfaces, stems, and sometimes even on the soil surrounding the plant.
Flea beetles are another common pests that attack tomatoes. Besides tomatoes, these black bugs also feed on other garden vegetables, including pepper, eggplant, corn, cabbage, etc. Most often, flea beetles attack tomato seedlings, but sometimes they may also directly feed on the ripe fruits. While the adult flea beetles feed on the leaves, the larvae attack the underground parts of the plants.
Flea Beetle Identification
Flea beetles are tiny, hard-shelled insects, about 1/10 inches long. Different species of flea beetles exist in different colors, including black, brown and blue. Some species also have stripes. They have longer hind legs for jumping, especially when threatened and feed by chewing small holes in the leaves.
Symptoms Of Flea Beetle Damage
A series of small holes on the leaf surface, most often on tomato seedlings, is often an indication of flea beetle infestation. The holes are round and initially appear on the new leaves. Although the damage is insignificant on mature plants, young seedlings can suffer more. Since the flea beetles also spread bacterial diseases, wilt and blight are common problems found in tomato plants infested by these pests.
How To Control Black Bugs On Tomato Plants
While the insect damage may itself not always be a problem, it’s the bacterial and viral diseases they carry that threatens the tomato plants most. Control the black bugs bothering your tomato plants before they take a toll on them. Here’s how to manage each type of pest:
The easiest way to get rid of aphids is to blast them off with a strong stream of water from the hose. Though the trick is safer on mature plants, you’ll need to be more careful with seedlings, making sure not to knock them over. Insecticidal soaps are also effective against aphids but you’ll need to cover the leaves completely with the spray for it to be effective. You’ll need to spray it a couple of times during the season until the aphids are completely gone.
Flea Beetle Control
Set up sticky traps on the plant to catch flea beetles. Dusting the plants with talcum powder or diatomaceous earth also helps deter them from your tomatoes. Use row covers to protect tomato seedlings from flea beetles and other pests until they are established to put up a better resistance. Insecticides are also available for controlling flea beetles. Sprays with pyrethrin are acceptable for use in organic gardens.
How To Prevent Pests In Tomato Gardens
Good gardening practices are helpful in keeping most pests, including aphids and flea beetles, away from your vegetables. Keep the garden weed-free since weeds are often the spots where pests overwinter to attack your garden as soon as spring arrives. Keep the plants well-watered and fed because healthy plants are less prone to infestations and diseases.
Attract beneficial insects in the garden by avoiding the use of insecticides to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Beneficial insects prey on pests, keeping their population down. Practice crop rotation, making sure to plant non-host crops in alternative seasons if certain pests are more problematic in your garden.
That’s how to get rid of black bugs eating tomatoes. Follow all the tips above to identify and eliminate the pest so you can enjoy unblemished, juicy tomatoes throughout the rest of the summers.