Mad About Berries

15+ Most Common Tomato Pests: How to Identify and Control Them

tomato pests mTomatoes are one of the most widely grown crops but are also prone to numerous pests.

These pests can cause significant damage to the plants, reducing yield and ultimately impacting your harvest.

Published: March 29, 2023.

Tomatoes are rather simple to grow and maintain plants, being very decorative and often yielding great harvests.

However, tomatoes are tasty not only to humans but also to many pests, which can lead to sick and dying plants and deformed and unusable fruits.

So, it is important for any gardener to know the most common tomato pests, how to distinguish them, and how to fight them.



Aphids are a common pest of tomato plants and can cause significant damage if left untreated.

These small insects are usually green but can also be yellow, brown, or black. They feed on the sap of the tomato plant, weakening the plant and reducing its overall growth. In severe cases, aphids can also transmit diseases between plants.

One of the main signs of an aphid infestation is the presence of sticky honeydew on the leaves and stems of the tomato plant. This sugary substance is excreted by the aphids as they feed.

In addition, the leaves may appear distorted or curled, and the plant may have stunted growth. If you notice any of these signs, it is important to take action to control the aphids before they cause further damage.

There are a few different methods for controlling aphids on tomato plants. One option is to simply spray the plants with a strong jet of water from a garden hose. This can dislodge the aphids and wash them away.

However, this method may not be effective if the infestation is severe. In this case, you may need to use an insecticidal soap or oil spray to kill the aphids.

Another option is to introduce natural predators of aphids to your garden. Ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps are all natural enemies of aphids and can help keep their populations under control.

Finally, it is important to take steps to prevent aphid infestations from occurring in the first place. This can include regularly inspecting your tomato plants for signs of aphids, avoiding over-fertilizing the plants (which can attract aphids), and using companion planting to help repel aphids.

Tobacco Budworms

Tobacco budworms are a type of caterpillar that feeds on the foliage, flowers, and fruit of tomato plants. They are difficult to control because they have a rapid lifecycle and can become resistant to pesticides. These pests are especially problematic in warmer climates, where they can reproduce multiple times in a season.

The damage caused by tobacco budworms can be extensive, leaving large holes in leaves and fruits. These holes weaken the plant and create an entry point for other pests and diseases.

In addition to tomatoes, tobacco budworms can also attack other plants in the garden.

Prevention is key in managing tobacco budworms. One effective method is to use floating row covers to keep the moths from laying eggs on the plants.

Also planting resistant varieties of tomatoes can also help. Crop rotation is another helpful strategy, as tobacco budworms tend to overwinter in the soil.

If tobacco budworms are already present in your tomato plants, using insecticides may be necessary.

However, it is important to choose insecticides specific to tobacco budworms and use them according to the label instructions. Additionally, introducing natural predators like lacewings or ladybugs can be a helpful biological control method.

Root-Knot Nematodes

Root-knot nematodes are tiny, thread-like roundworms that invade the roots of tomato plants. They are so small that they are almost impossible to see with the naked eye, and they cause tomato plants to wilt and eventually die. These pests are found in most parts of the world and can infect many different types of plants, including tomatoes.

The damage caused by root-knot nematodes is due to their feeding habits. They attach themselves to the roots of the tomato plant and feed on the plant's sap, causing the roots to become swollen and deformed. This can lead to stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and reduced yields. In severe infestations, the entire plant may die.

To control root-knot nematodes, it's essential to take preventive measures.

The first step is to choose tomato varieties that are resistant to nematodes. These varieties have been specifically bred to withstand nematode infestations.

Another approach is to use crop rotation. Avoid planting tomatoes in the same spot every year. Instead, rotate your crops, planting tomatoes in a different location every year. This can help to prevent nematodes from building up in the soil.

Also, another option for controlling nematodes is to use soil solarization. This technique involves covering the soil with clear plastic, which heats the soil to a temperature that kills nematodes and other soil-borne pests. Solarization is most effective in warm climates and requires several weeks to be effective.

Tomato Pinworms

Tomato pinworms are small, grayish-white, slender larvae that grow to about 0.3 to 0.4 inches (7-10 mm) long.

They are often difficult to spot because they blend well with the tomato leaves.

The adult tomato pinworms are small moths that are about 0.4 to 0.6 inches (10-15 mm) long with a wingspan of about 0.6 to 0.8 inches (15-20mm).

They lay their eggs on the undersides of tomato leaves, and when the eggs hatch, the larvae burrow into the leaves to feed on the plant tissues. The larvae of the tomato pinworm can be identified by their dark head capsules, and as they mature, they may begin to spin webs around themselves.

Tomato pinworms can cause significant damage to tomato crops by feeding on the leaves, which can lead to defoliation and a reduction in fruit yield. If left uncontrolled, tomato pinworms can cause extensive damage to a tomato crop.

One of the most significant problems with controlling tomato pinworms is their resistance to many insecticides. This means that gardeners must be vigilant in identifying and controlling tomato pinworms before they can cause significant damage.

There are several ways to control tomato pinworms in a garden. The first step is to inspect tomato plants for signs of infestation regularly.

Look for small holes in the leaves, webbing on the leaves or fruit, and small, dark-colored droppings on the leaves.

Once tomato pinworms are identified, one method of control is to remove and destroy any infected plant parts. Another method is to use sticky traps to catch the adult moths, which can help reduce the number of eggs laid on the tomato plants.

Finally, organic insecticides, such as neem oil or Bacillus thuringiensis, can be used to control tomato pinworms.


Cutworms are a common pest affecting various plant types, including tomatoes. These pests get their name from their habit of cutting off seedlings at the soil level, causing significant damage to young plants.

Cutworms are actually caterpillars, which means they will eventually turn into moths.

There are several different species of cutworms, but they all have similar habits and cause the same types of damage. Cutworms tend to be more active at night and can be difficult to spot during the day.

However, you may notice that seedlings are wilting or have been cut off at the base. You may also see the caterpillars themselves if you look closely at the soil around your plants.

Using physical barriers around your plants is the best way to prevent cutworm damage. This can be as simple as wrapping a strip of cardboard or aluminum foil around the stem of your seedlings.

The barrier should be pushed an inch into the soil and at least an inch above ground level to ensure that the cutworms cannot get through.

Alternatively, you can sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the base of your plants, which will act as a barrier that will scratch and dehydrate the cutworms.

If you already have cutworm damage in your garden, you can try handpicking the caterpillars and removing them from your plants. You can also use a biological control method, such as introducing parasitic nematodes into the soil. These nematodes will infect and kill the cutworms without harming your plants.

Finally, proper garden hygiene can go a long way in preventing cutworm infestations. Remove any garden debris or weeds that may harbor cutworms or their eggs, and avoid planting new seedlings in areas where cutworm damage has previously occurred.

Vegetable Leafminers

leaf miner damage

Vegetable leafminers are tiny flies that lay their eggs on tomato leaves. When the eggs hatch, the larvae burrow into the leaves and begin to feed, creating narrow, winding tunnels known as "mines."

The mines are most noticeable on the upper surfaces of the leaves, where they appear as serpentine lines or wavy, discolored streaks. As the larvae continue to feed, they weaken the leaves, making them more susceptible to other pests and diseases.

One of the biggest challenges with vegetable leafminers is that they can be difficult to detect until damage is already done. In addition to creating visible mines on the leaves, they also cause stunted growth and reduced yields.

To prevent a major infestation, it's important to monitor your tomato plants regularly and take action as soon as you notice any signs of damage. Also, remove any infested leaves as soon as possible.

Fortunately, there are several ways to manage vegetable leafminers.

One approach is to use physical barriers, such as row covers, to prevent the flies from laying their eggs on the leaves.

Sticky traps can also help capture adult flies, reducing the number of eggs laid on the plant.

Another option is to use insecticides that are specifically designed to target leafminers. These can be applied as a spray directly onto the leaves.

However, it's important to use caution when applying insecticides to tomatoes, as they can also harm beneficial insects and pollinators.

Flea Beetles

flea beetle

Flea beetles are small, shiny, black, or brown beetles that, when disturbed, jump like fleas. They are only about 1/16 to 1/8 inch (1.5-3 mm) in length and can be difficult to spot due to their small size.

However, the damage they cause is easy to see. They feed on the leaves of tomato plants, leaving small holes or pits in the foliage. Over time, this can cause the leaves to turn yellow and eventually die.

To control flea beetle damage, there are several options available. One of the most effective is to use row covers. These are lightweight fabrics that are placed over the plants to create a physical barrier between them and the flea beetles.

Another option is to use sticky traps, which can be placed near the plants to attract and trap the beetles. In addition, companion planting can be used to deter flea beetles. Plants such as radishes, onions, and garlic can be planted near the tomatoes to repel the beetles.

Prevention is also key when it comes to flea beetle damage. One way to prevent infestations is to rotate crops each year. Flea beetles tend to lay their eggs in the soil near the plants they feed on, so by moving the tomato plants to a different location each year, the beetles are less likely to return.

Also, keep the garden clean and remove any debris, including old, dry, or ill leaves, branches, and plants.

Cabbage Loopers

Cabbage loopers are one of the many pests that can attack your tomato plants, causing damage and yield losses.

These caterpillars are small, measuring about 1-2 inches (25-50 mm) long, and are green in color with a white stripe running down their back. They are known for their distinctive looping motion when they crawl, which is where they get their name from.

Cabbage loopers can be a major problem for tomato plants, as they feed on the leaves and can cause extensive damage if left unchecked.

One of the most effective ways to prevent cabbage looper infestations in your tomato plants is to practice good garden hygiene. This means regularly removing plant debris, dead leaves, and other organic matter from your garden. This will help prevent the buildup of potential breeding sites for pests such as cabbage loopers.

In addition, you can also use row covers to physically prevent the moths that lay cabbage looper eggs from accessing your tomato plants.

If you do find cabbage loopers on your tomato plants, there are a number of effective control methods you can use.

One option is to manually remove the caterpillars from your plants and drop them into a bucket of soapy water to kill them. You can also use organic insecticides that contain Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a naturally occurring soil bacterium that is toxic to many types of caterpillars, including cabbage loopers.

Another method of control is to introduce natural predators such as parasitic wasps, ladybugs, and lacewings. These insects feed on cabbage loopers and can help keep their populations in check.

Finally, some gardeners have had success using pheromone traps to lure and capture cabbage looper moths before they can lay eggs on tomato plants.

Stink Bugs

stink bug

Stink bugs are a common pest in the tomato garden, and their damage can be quite devastating if left unchecked. These bugs belong to the family of shield bugs, and they derive their name from the odor they produce when they feel threatened. While stink bugs can attack a range of plants, they are particularly drawn to tomato plants because of their high sugar content.

Stink bugs have a piercing-sucking mouthpart to suck out the sap from tomato plants. This results in a range of symptoms, including sunken and discolored spots on the fruit, yellowed and wilted leaves, and stunted growth. Additionally, stink bugs can transmit bacterial infections to tomato plants, further exacerbating the damage.

If you suspect that your tomato plants have a stink bug infestation, you can take some steps to control their population. The first step is to identify the bugs - stink bugs are often found on the underside of tomato leaves and have distinct shield-shaped bodies.

You can also look for the symptoms of stink bug damage, such as sunken spots on the fruit and yellowed leaves.

Once you have identified stink bugs on your tomato plants, you can take several measures to control their population. One effective method is to use insecticidal soap, which is a natural insecticide that can be sprayed on plants to kill bugs. You can also introduce natural predators, such as birds and assassin bugs, into your garden to help control the population.

Another option is to use pheromone traps designed to attract and trap stink bugs. These traps release a synthetic version of the stink bug's mating pheromone, which lures the bugs into the trap. Once the bugs are inside, they cannot escape, and they eventually die.

Southern Potato Wireworms

Southern Potato Wireworms are the larvae of click beetles and are known for their voracious appetites and ability to burrow deep into the soil.

They are typically found in the southeastern United States but have been known to occur in other regions as well. These pests feed on the roots of tomato plants and can cause significant damage to the entire root system. This can result in stunted growth, reduced yields, and even plant death.

One of the challenges of controlling Southern Potato Wireworms is their ability to burrow deep into the soil, making them difficult to spot and remove. Additionally, they have a long life cycle, with some larvae taking up to 3 years to mature into adults. This means that once an infestation has taken hold, it can be difficult to eradicate completely.

There are several methods for controlling Southern Potato Wireworms in tomato crops.

One approach is to use beneficial nematodes, which are microscopic worms that feed on the larvae of the wireworms. These nematodes can be purchased and applied to the soil, effectively reducing the wireworm population.

Another option is to use insecticides, although this should be done with caution, as many pesticides can be harmful to beneficial insects and other organisms in the soil.

Prevention is also key when it comes to controlling Southern Potato Wireworms. Crop rotation can help to reduce the population of these pests, as can practicing good soil health practices, such as regular aeration and fertilization.

Additionally, avoiding overwatering and ensuring good drainage can help discourage these pests from residing in your tomato garden.


tomato hornworm

Hornworms are the larvae of sphinx moths, also known as hawk moths, and are commonly found on tomato plants.

These pests are easily identified by their size, ranging from 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) in length, and their green coloration, providing excellent camouflage on tomato foliage.

Hornworms have a distinctive "horn" or spike on their rear end, which is where they get their name. Despite their large size, hornworms can be difficult to spot as they blend in well with the plant leaves.

Hornworms can quickly defoliate an entire tomato plant. They can consume up to their body weight in foliage and fruit in a single day, making them a significant threat to tomatoes and other crops.

In addition to their feeding habits, hornworms can also spread diseases such as tobacco mosaic virus and bacterial spots, which can further damage the plant and reduce yield.

Fortunately, there are several methods for controlling hornworm populations.

One common approach is to handpick the pests off the plants, which can be a tedious but effective method for small gardens.

Another option is to use biological controls such as predatory wasps, which will parasitize the hornworms and prevent their spread.

Additionally, applying insecticides such as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) can also be an effective control method. Bt is a naturally occurring bacteria that targets only the larvae of certain insects and is safe for humans, pets, and beneficial insects.

Note: hornworms are very similar to tobacco worms - tobacco hornworm caterpillars have 7 (seven) diagonal stripes on each side and a red-brownish posterior horn, while tomato hornworm caterpillars have 8 (eight) stripes on each side and a bluish-black horn.

Blister Beetles

Blister beetles are a type of beetle that belongs to the Meloidae family. They are typically elongated and have soft, leathery bodies.

There are over 300 species of blister beetles in North America alone, but only a few of these species are commonly found in gardens.

Blister beetles can range in size from less than 1/2 inch to over an inch in length. They are typically gray or black in color, although some species are brightly colored with stripes or spots.

Blister beetles feed on the foliage of plants, including tomato plants. They have powerful mandibles that they use to chew through leaves and stems. The damage caused by blister beetles can be severe, and if left unchecked, they can strip a plant of all of its foliage. This can lead to stunted growth, reduced yields, and even death.

To prevent blister beetles from damaging your tomato plants, it's important to take steps to keep them away.

One way to do this is by keeping your garden free of weeds, as many blister beetles use weeds as their host plants.

You can also use row covers to keep blister beetles off your plants.

But, if you find blister beetles on your plants, you can use a garlic spray or a neem oil spray to repel them.



Whiteflies are about 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) long and have white wings with a powdery wax covering. They are similar to aphids in that they feed on the sap of plants.

When whiteflies feed on tomato plants, they suck the sap from the leaves and stems, causing them to yellow and wilt. This can result in stunted plant growth, reduced yield, and even death of the plant. Whiteflies can also transmit plant viruses, which can lead to further damage.

To prevent and control whitefly infestations, it is important to monitor your tomato plants regularly for signs of these pests. Look for white, waxy-looking adults on the undersides of leaves and yellowing leaves and wilting stems. Early detection is critical to preventing infestations from spreading.

One way to control whiteflies is by introducing natural predators, such as ladybugs, to your garden. Ladybugs are beneficial insects that eat whiteflies and other pests, helping control infestations.

Horticultural oil is another effective way to control whiteflies. This oil suffocates whiteflies at any stage of life, so it is important to apply it thoroughly to the entire plant.

Another method of preventing whiteflies from infesting your tomato plants is to practice good plant hygiene. This includes removing any dead or diseased plant material from your garden and regularly washing your plants with water. Whiteflies are attracted to dusty leaves, so keeping your plants clean and dust-free can help prevent infestations.

Slugs and Snails

slug on the leaf

Slugs and snails are among the most common pests that can cause damage to tomato plants.

Slugs and snails are often found in damp and humid conditions, making tomato plants a suitable environment for them. They are usually more active at night, feeding on the leaves and stems of the plants. They leave behind a trail of slime that can be seen on the foliage and fruits of the plant.

If left untreated, these pests can cause significant damage to the plant, leading to reduced yields or even death.

Several methods can be used to control slugs and snails in tomato plants. One effective method is handpicking the pests and disposing of them manually.

This can be done by going out at night with a flashlight and picking the pests off the plants. It may be time-consuming, but it can be effective in small gardens.

Another method is to use traps such as beer traps, which attract the pests and then trap them in the liquid. This method is not only effective but also environmentally friendly.

Another effective way to control slugs and snails is by using natural predators. Some animals, such as ducks, chickens, and hedgehogs, feed on slugs and snails.

Introducing these animals into your garden allows you to control the pests without using chemicals. Additionally, adding barriers such as copper tape or mesh around the plants can help keep slugs and snails away from the plants.

Spider Mites

spider mites

Spider mites are small, eight-legged pests almost invisible to the naked eye. They are typically found on the underside of the leaves of the tomato plant, where they suck out the sap and nutrients from the plant, leaving behind a web-like substance that covers the leaves. This can cause the leaves to turn yellow, wilt, and eventually fall off, severely impacting the plant's photosynthesis and overall health.

To control spider mites, it is important to catch them early before they can spread throughout the entire plant.

One effective way to do this is to regularly inspect the leaves of the tomato plant, looking for signs of webbing, yellowing, or wilting. If spider mites are detected, it is essential to immediately prevent them from spreading.

One way to control spider mites is to spray the tomato plant with a powerful stream of water, which can dislodge the pests from the leaves and reduce their population.

Another option is to use insecticidal soap, which can kill the mites without harming the plant or other beneficial insects. Neem oil is also a natural and effective way to control spider mites, as it works by interfering with the mites' reproduction and feeding habits.

Prevention is always the best course of action when it comes to controlling pests, and this is true for spider mites as well. To prevent spider mites from infesting your tomato plants, make sure to keep the plants well-watered and fertilized, as healthy plants are less susceptible to infestation.

It is also important to keep the area around the plants free of weeds and debris, which can harbor spider mites and other pests.

Tomato Fruit Worms

Tomato fruit worms are small caterpillars that are green, yellow, or brown in color. They are about an inch long and have a distinctive dark band around their head.

These pests feed on the fruit of the tomato plant, causing damage that can reduce the yield of your crop. In addition to tomatoes, they also feed on corn, peppers, and other crops.

There are several methods for controlling tomato fruit worms. One of the most effective is to use biological control, which involves introducing natural predators, such as parasitic wasps, to the garden to help control the pest population.

In addition, you can use insecticides to control the worms. However, it's important to choose an insecticide that is safe for vegetable use and follow all instructions carefully.

Another way to prevent tomato fruit worms is to practice good garden hygiene. Remove any diseased or damaged fruit from the plant and dispose of it properly. This will help prevent the pests from breeding and spreading. You can also cover your tomato plants with a lightweight row cover to prevent the worms from laying their eggs on the plants.

 Few Final Words


By learning to identify tomato pests and taking steps to control their populations, you can protect your tomato plants and enjoy a successful harvest.

Whether you prefer natural or chemical methods, there are many ways to manage tomato pests and keep your plants healthy and productive. Personally, it is better to throw away a few diseased and infested branches and even plants than to use harsh chemicals.

In short: garden hygiene, regular tomato pruning, crop rotation, variety selection, and companion planting will take care of most tomato pests. But, even then, one must be careful and vigilant.

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