The last thing you would want is to watch your tomato crop being eaten away by pests. Yet, tomatoes are particularly attractive to many pests. The good thing about red bugs is that you’ll easily spot them as soon as the infestation starts. Their contrasting color to the environment gives you a chance to control the pests on time, before they take a toll on the crop. But how to get rid of red bugs on tomato plants?
Control begins by correctly identifying the pest you are dealing with. Red bugs could mean a number of different things. Let’s identify each red pest that could attack tomato plants and how to cater it.
Spider mites often cause trouble with tomato plants, besides other garden vegetables and ornamental plants. They typically attack plants in hot, dry summers. When the temperatures are above 70°F and rain is scarce, that’s when you’ll need to be worried about spider mites. In the ideal conditions, their population grows very quickly. These insects are present in different colors, ranging from red, yellow, green and brown. Often, they can change color as they go through different stages of maturity.
Identifying Spider Mites On Tomato Plants
Fine webbing, usually on the underside of leaves, is one of the first signs of spider mites. Each red spider mite being the size of a single salt grain, they are hard to spot, but the fine webbing will easily give them away.
They feed on the nutrient-rich sap of the leaves, spin webbing around the leaves and lay eggs, usually on the underside of leaves. The leaves initially become speckled and then turn bronze with the loss of chlorophyll. Defoliation follows if the infestation is large, exposing the fruits to sunscald. In young plants, severe defoliation can often kill the plant.
Controlling Spider Mites
Blasting the plants with a strong jet of water washes away the webbing, eggs and mites. Continue washing the plants regularly until the mites are gone for good. If the infestation is severe, prune out the heavily infested leaves and stems and dispose of them properly so the infestation won’t spread. Disinfect the pruning tools before using them on other plants.
After harvest, pull out the entire plant and dispose of it. The eggs of spider mites overwinter on plant debris to attack the following season’s crop. Make sure you clear the garden bed after harvest and throw away all the plant debris. Insecticidal soaps and horticultural oils are also effective against red spider mites.
Leaf-Footed Bug Nymphs
Red bugs in tomato plants could also be the nymphs of leaf-footed bugs. They look much like red spider mites in appearance, but are much larger in size. While they are red when young, they’ll develop into larger brown colored leaf-footed bugs as they mature. Both the nymphs and adults damage the buds, flowers and fruits, but the good news is that nymphs are much easier to control than the adults. They overwinter on weeds and under mulches and lay eggs on the underside of leaves.
Identifying Leaf-Footed Bug Nymphs
Leaf-footed bug nymphs have bright abdomens, often red, orange or yellow, while the legs are black. They have two spots on their lower abdomen. When they feed on the tomato fruits, yellow, hardened, sunken spots develop on the skin.
Controlling Leaf-Footed Bug Nymphs
Leaf-footed bug nymphs can be eliminated by picking them off by hand and dropping them in soapy water. One thing you should know beforehand is that the nymphs will release an unpleasant smell when disturbed.
Scrape off the eggs from the underside of leaves and drop them in soapy water. Insecticidal soap is also effective on nymphs since they are soft-bodied, but won’t necessarily kill the adults. Alternatively, dusting the plants with diatomaceous earth is also a good option. As the insects move over the powder, it cuts their skin, causing the nymphs to dehydrate and die.
Aphids are common pests that tomato growers often encounter. They come in different colors, black, white, green and red. Other than sucking sap from the plants, they also expose the crop to fungal and viral diseases and can cause a severe loss in production if not controlled on time.
Identifying Aphids On Tomatoes
If you find small red insects, the size of a sesame seed, especially on the underside of the leaves, stems of flowers, they’re most likely aphids. They often feed in colonies and excrete a sticky, transparent waste called honeydew. Honeydew attracts ants and also encourages the development of black sooty mold. Misshapen, yellow leaves, often curled are some of the symptoms of aphids.
You can dislodge them with a strong spray of water from the hose. However, be careful when spraying water on young plants and blossoms since they can also be knocked to the ground with the pests. In case of severe infestations, spray diatomaceous earth on the plants to kill the pests. Since aphids are soft-bodied pests, insecticidal soaps, horticultural oil, including neem oil, are all very effective treatments for controlling them.
Now you know how to get rid of red bugs on tomato plants. Most of them are easy to control with some simple techniques. Since chemical pesticides also kill beneficial insects, they should always be the last resort. Try to control the red bugs with simple organic techniques initially, and if these don’t work, you may use a chemical pesticide. Always follow the instructions on the package and avoid using more than the recommended concentrations and frequencies.