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7 Tomato Plant Pests: A Gardener's Guide

Tomatoes, while delicious, often face an array of pests that can wreak havoc on your garden. From aphids to stink bugs, these invaders can compromise your harvest. Let's explore seven common tomato pests and effective strategies to keep them at bay.

1. Aphids
Identification: Tiny, soft-bodied insects ranging from pale yellow to black.
Damage: Piercing plant parts, causing deformities and dropping blossoms.
Defense: Promote natural predators like lady beetles and lace wing larvae. Limit pesticide use to protect beneficial insects.

2. Armyworms
Identification: Small larvae with yellow or cream stripes.
Damage: Nibbling holes in ripening fruit, often damaging entire clusters.
Control: Use Bacillus thuringiensis for small larvae. Inspect leaves during flowering for early detection.

3. Cutworms
Identification: 2-inch-long worms in brown, pink, green, or black.
Damage: Feeding on stems and roots, cutting off water and nutrients.
Prevention: Place aluminum or cardboard collars around seedlings. Remove cutworms upon detection.

4. Hornworms
Identification: Large caterpillars with a distinctive "horn" on one end.
Damage: Voracious eaters, capable of defoliating a plant quickly.
Control: Handpick from plants and drop into soapy water. Leave parasitized hornworms for beneficial wasps.

5. Silverleaf Whiteflies
Identification: Tiny insects causing leaf yellowing and stem dieback.
Damage: Direct damage through sap-sucking and indirect damage by spreading diseases.
Defense: Promote a strong, healthy tomato plant. Provide adequate water and use mulch to prevent moisture loss.

6. Stink Bugs
Identification: Shield-shaped bugs in bright green or brown.
Damage: Piercing plant parts and sucking sap, causing mottled fruit.
Prevention: Keep garden surroundings tidy to reduce overwintering areas.

7. Tomato Fruit Worms
Identification: Green-yellow to brown larvae feeding on fruit and leaves.
Damage: Entry at the stem end of green tomatoes, causing decay.
Control: Natural insecticides like Bacillus thuringiensis, Spinosad, and pyrethrin. Liquid sprays offer better coverage.

By identifying these pests early and implementing targeted strategies, you can safeguard your tomato plants and enjoy a bountiful harvest.