Tomato plants are a great addition to any home garden but can be susceptible to aphids and several other annoying insect pests. Aphids are tiny bugs that can cause severe damage to your plants if left untreated. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to get rid of them and keep them from coming back.
Let’s discuss what aphids are, why they are a problem for tomato plants, five methods for getting rid of them, and how to prevent them from showing up on your tomatoes in the first place.
What are aphids?
Aphids are small, soft-bodied creatures that are often found in large colonies on the undersides of leaves. They range in colour from green to black and have long, slender antennae. Aphids feed on plant sap, and they are capable of reproducing at an astonishing rate.
A single aphid can birth as many as 50 offspring in a day. Yikes! As a result, aphid populations can explode quickly, causing extensive damage to crops and gardens.
Aphids are notoriously difficult to control once an infestation has been established since they often develop resistance to pesticides. In short, aphids are one of the most destructive pests a gardener can encounter.
Why are aphids so bad for tomato plants?
Aphids are tiny, sap-sucking insects that can cause significant problems for tomato plants. These pests feast on the plant tissue, leading to distorted growth, stunted plants, and yellow leaves.
Aphids secrete a sticky substance known as honeydew, which can encourage the growth of sooty mold. While a few aphids may not cause serious harm, large infestations can quickly weaken the plant and make it more susceptible to disease.
How can I get rid of aphids on tomato plants?
1. Introduce natural predators
One of the best ways to eliminate aphids on tomato plants is to introduce natural predators into your garden. Ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps are all beneficial insects that will feed on aphids. You can purchase many of these insects from your local nursery or online. Attracting them to your garden through companion planting is one of the best ways to lure them to your tomato plants for free, though.
2. Remove the aphids by hand
A safer and more effective option is to remove the aphids by hand. To do this, simply take a damp cloth or paper towel and wipe them away. You may need to do this several times, but eventually, you can remove all of the aphids. You can also wipe them off with a gloved hand. Removing aphids by hand is gentle on your plants as long as you’re careful not to tug on the stems or leaves.
3. Use insecticidal soap
Insecticidal soap is a safe and effective way to get rid of aphids on tomato plants. The soap works by suffocating the aphids and causing them to dehydrate. You can make your own insecticidal soap at home using Earth-friendly dish soap or purchase the soap solution from your local nursery or online. Insecticidal soap is a popular choice for gardeners looking to control various pests.
However, there are some downsides to using this type of soap. For one thing, it is only effective against certain types of bugs. Soft-bodied insects, such as aphids and mealybugs, are particularly vulnerable to insecticidal soap. It has little to no effect on hard-shelled pests, such as beetles or caterpillars.
Insecticidal soap can also kill beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and honeybees. As a result, it’s a good idea to use this type of soap sparingly and only when necessary. When used correctly, however, insecticidal soap can be an effective tool for controlling garden pests.
4. Neem oil
Neem oil is another effective method for removing aphids on tomato plants. The oil works by disrupting the life cycle of the aphids and preventing them from reproducing. You can purchase neem oil at your local nursery or online.
Neem oil is a natural substance that is extracted from the neem tree. It has a wide range of uses, including as an insecticide, fungicide, and pesticide. Neem oil is effective against various pests, including mites, aphids, whiteflies, and caterpillars. In addition, neem oil can help control fungal diseases such as powdery mildew and black spot.
While neem oil is generally considered safe for use around humans and pets, there are some downsides to using it in the garden.
- Neem oil can be harmful to beneficial insects such as bees and ladybugs.
- It can also kill plants not listed on the label as susceptible to neem oil.
- Neem oil must be diluted before use unless otherwise stated, and it can be challenging to remove from clothing and skin.
When used correctly, however, neem oil can be an effective way to control pests in the garden. One tip I should add is to look for cold-pressed neem oil while shopping for this pest-repellant.
Cold-pressed neem oil is more potent. The process of cold pressing preserves the oil’s integrity, which means it retains all its beneficial properties. It has a more pungent aroma, which helps to repel insects, and it also contains more azadirachtin, a compound known for its pest-killing ability.
Cold-pressed neem oil is more environmentally friendly. It doesn’t require the use of harsh chemicals or high temperatures, which can be damaging to the environment.
Pyrethrin is a common insecticide that is derived from the chrysanthemum flower. It is often used in gardens to kill pests such as aphids, beetles, and caterpillars. It can be harmful to bees and other pollinators. Pyrethrin can also be toxic to fish, so care should be taken when using it near waterways.
Pyrethrin is mildly toxic to humans and animals and should be kept with a clear warning label visible. If it comes in contact with your skin, you may experience irritation. If it makes contact with your eyes, nose, or mouth, it’s recommended to call poison control for an expert opinion.
When shopping for Pyrethrin, be sure to choose a product that is labelled as safe for use around bees and other pollinators. It’s essential to read the labels carefully and follow the directions for safe storage and use.
6. Hose them off
If you have a small infestation of aphids on your tomato plants, you may be able to simply hose them off with water. This will remove the aphids from your plants and kill them in the process.
How to prevent aphid infestations on your tomato plants
One way to control aphids is through companion planting. Certain plants, such as marigolds and nasturtiums, emit a strong scent that aphids don’t like. Basil and catnip might also help to repel aphids. By planting these plants around your tomato patch, you can help to keep aphids away from your plants.
Check your tomato plants regularly
To prevent aphids from damaging your tomato plants, it is essential to check them regularly. Look for small, winged insects on the stems and leaves of the plant. If you see any aphids, take action to remove them immediately. Regularly checking your tomato plants can prevent severe damage from aphids.
Use row covers
One way to prevent aphid infestations is to cover the plants with row covers. Row covers are made from a light, permeable fabric that allows sunlight and water to pass while keeping insects out. They can be placed over the plants at the beginning of the growing season and removed when they begin to flower.
Row covers have several advantages: they are relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and effective at preventing aphid infestations. However, there are also some drawbacks. Row covers can create an ideal environment for fungal diseases to thrive, and they can be difficult to remove if they become entangled with the plants.
In addition, row covers can prevent pollinating insects from reaching the flowers, which can negatively impact yield. As with any pest control measure, there are pros and cons to using row covers on tomato plants. Ultimately, the decision whether or not to use them should be based on the grower’s specific needs.
Attract beneficial insects (like ladybugs)
Ladybugs are voracious predators of aphids, and a single ladybug can consume hundreds of aphids in their lifetime. In addition to ladybugs, other beneficial insects that feed on aphids include lacewings, parasitic wasps, and pirate bugs. These predators help to keep aphid populations in check, reducing the need for chemical pesticides.
Plant various flowering plants to attract ladybugs and other beneficial insects to your garden. Many species of ladybugs are attracted to the nectar and pollen of flowers. planted alongside vegetables or other susceptible plants will help to keep aphid populations under control.
Space out your tomatoes correctly
One way to help prevent aphid infestations is to space your tomato plants correctly. Giving each plant enough room to grow will discourage aphids from congregating in large numbers.
Your tomato plants should have at least 18-24 inches between them for the best results. This not only helps to prevent infestations but also allows better airflow throughout your tomato patch, which helps to prevent diseases from taking hold.
Proper spacing can help maximise yields by allowing each plant to reach its full potential. So, spacing your tomatoes correctly is a smart move whether you’re looking to avoid pests or boost your harvest.
Yellow sticky traps
These traps are coated with a sticky substance that aphids are attracted to. When the aphids land on the trap, they become stuck and can’t escape.
Yellow sticky traps can be purchased at most garden supply stores, or you can make your own by coating cardboard or paper with petroleum jelly or honey. Once the traps are in place, be sure to check them regularly and remove any aphids that have become caught.
Maintain healthy soil
Aphids congregate on the undersides of leaves, feeding on plant juices. This feeding damages the leaves, weakening the plant and making it more susceptible to disease. Even worse, aphids can spread harmful viruses from one plant to another.
One way to help prevent aphid infestations is to maintain healthy soil. Healthy soil is rich in nutrients and beneficial microbes, which help to support plant health. In addition, healthy soil helps to regulate moisture levels and prevent erosion. Taking care of your soil is essential in keeping your tomato plants happy and healthy.
FAQs for Getting Rid of Aphids
Do aphids damage tomatoes?
Yes, aphids can damage tomatoes by sucking the sap from the plants. This feeding damages the leaves, weakening the plant and making it more susceptible to disease. In addition, aphids can spread harmful viruses from one plant to another.
How many aphids can kill a tomato plant?
It only takes a few aphids to kill a tomato plant. However, aphid populations can grow very quickly, so it’s essential to act quickly to prevent an infestation from getting out of control.
What do aphids look like on tomatoes?
Aphids vary in color depending on the species, but they are typically small, soft-bodied insects that range in color from green to yellow to brown. Aphids are often found on the undersides of leaves, feeding on plant juices.
What is the best way to get rid of aphids?
Various ways to get rid of aphids include using natural predators, planting certain flowers, and using yellow sticky traps. You may need to use a combination of these methods for the best results.
Do aphids come back?
Yes, aphids can come back if they are not adequately controlled. Be sure to check your plants regularly and remove any aphids. You may also need to treat your plants with pesticides to prevent aphids from returning.
Aphids can be a significant problem for tomato plants. They suck the sap from the plants, causing them to wilt and die, and they can spread diseases like tomato mosaic virus. There are ways to eliminate aphids on tomato plants, though.
You can use natural methods, like hand removal, spraying them off with water, or using an Earth-friendly dish soap mixed with water to create your own insecticidal soap. You can also opt for a more aggressive approach using Pyrethrin, Neem oil, and other effective remedies.
Preventative measures to help avoid aphids can make it less likely that you’ll need to resort to any of the options on this list. Using row covers, attracting ladybugs, and adding yellow sticky traps to your garden can sometimes keep the aphids at bay altogether.
Whichever route you choose, make sure to act quickly before the aphids do too much damage! Aphids are generally easily eliminated if you catch the infestation in its early stages.