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How to Prevent Tomato Pests: Tips and Tricks

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If you’ve ever tried growing tomatoes in the garden, then the expression, there are 101 ways to kill a tomato, probably makes perfect sense to you. Pests can be one of the many issues gardeners have with trying to grow a full and healthy tomato crop. Let’s take a look at the most common tomato pests and how to prevent and get rid of them.

tomatoes growing on the vine

Why Tomatoes Can Be Difficult to Grow

There are a number of reasons why tomatoes can be difficult to grow. They are very susceptible to diseases and pests, including diseases they may be both airborne or present in the soil.

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Tomatoes, a member of the nightshade family, need a lot of water and nutrients, they require very warm temperatures to produce fruit, and for larger tomato varieties, the fruit takes longer to grow and ripen, giving pests more opportunity.

All of these factors make tomatoes challenging to grow, but with the right information and care, it is possible to have a successful tomato crop.

Common Tomato Pests and Prevention

So if you are growing these sweet summer orbs in your home garden, and you happen to notice damage to your plant or fruit, what might be the culprit? Here are some of the most common tomato pests, both big and small, and how you can prevent them from snacking on your tomatoes or get rid of them once they’ve made an appearance.

Tomato Hornworm: The Tomato Hornworm is the larva of a common hawk moth. The caterpillars are large, green, and have white stripes running down their sides. They can grow up to four inches long and are voracious eaters, capable of destroying an entire plant in just a few days.

To prevent them:

  • keep your garden clean
  • use companion plants such as basil and dill
  • simply keep an eye on your plants a few times a week or more.

To get rid of hornworms:

tomato hornworm

Tomato Fruitworm: The fruitworm is the larva of a common moth. The caterpillars are small, green or brown, and have white stripes running down their sides. They grow up to an inch long and can bore into the fruit of tomatoes, leaving behind small holes.

To prevent them:

  • cover your plants with row covers
  • keep your garden clean
  • avoid planting tomatoes beside corn

To get rid of fruitworm:

  • release natural predators such as parasitic wasps into your garden.
  • remove any damaged fruit immediately
  • spray young fruits with BT
  • be on the lookout for eggs on leaves and pick these off

Aphids: Aphids are small, pear-shaped insects that come in a variety of colors, including green, black, brown, and yellow. They congregate on the undersides of leaves and stems and suck the sap out of plants. Aphids can cause stunted growth, curled leaves, and yellowing of foliage. (See my full post on How to Get Rid of Aphids.)

To prevent them:

To get rid of aphids:

  • use a strong blast of water from the hose to knock them off (one of my favorite methods!)
  • try insecticidal soap or neem oil on the tomato plants
aphids on plant stem

Whiteflies: Whiteflies are small, white insects that congregate on the undersides of leaves and suck the sap out of plants. They can cause stunted growth, curled leaves, and yellowing of foliage. You’ll notice a scattering of the tiny flies every time you move plant limbs around.

To prevent them:

  • keep your garden clean (notice a trend?)
  • use reflective mulches under plants
  • plant companion plants such as catnip, basil, and marigolds

To get rid of whiteflies:

  • attract natural predators such as ladybugs and parasitic wasps into your garden
  • to reduce whitefly numbers try insecticidal soap or neem oil on the tomato plants
  • use sticky traps

Larger tomato pests and how to prevent

While smaller pests like worms and flies can wreak havoc on a tomato crop, so can larger nuisances such as deer, rabbits, and birds. To protect your tomato plants from these larger pests try the following:

Deer: To keep deer away from your tomato plants

  • try hanging bars of soap or scattering hair around the perimeter of your garden (my mom was a hairdresser, so we had it on hand growing up.)
  • You can also spray plants with a mixture of water and garlic or pepper.
  • Use protective cages, like these DIY Blueberry Bush Covers, easily made from PVC and netting.
blueberry bush covers
blueberry bush covers that can be used on other plants

Rabbits: Rabbits are more common in rural areas but can be found in suburban and even urban gardens. To keep rabbits away from your tomato plants, try the following:

  • Use a physical barrier such as chicken wire or hardware cloth to keep them out of the garden.
  • Plant companion plants such as marigolds around the perimeter of your garden.
  • Spray plants with a mixture of water and garlic or pepper.
  • Use a pvc cover, like the one mentioned above

Birds: Birds can be a real problem when it comes to tomato plants. They love to sit on the ripe fruit and peck at it, leaving behind ugly scars. To keep birds away from your tomato plants try the following:

  • Hang shiny objects such as CDs or pie pans from the branches of tomato plants. The reflection will scare the birds away.
  • String shiny ribbon or streamers around the perimeter of your garden.
  • Use a physical barrier like wildlife netting to keep them out of the garden. THis works particularly well if your tomatoes are trellised or staked, since it gives the netting a place to be attached at the top.

Hopefully, these tips and tricks will help you prevent common tomato pests in your garden! Do you have any to add? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy gardening!

Natural Pest Control Helps

Want to garden organically and without the use of harsh chemicals and pesticides? Use these natural gardening helps and articles to grow a successful and thriving vegetable garden.

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