How do I keep stink bugs or (or leaf-footed bugs) off my tomatoes?

by Jimmie Stang
(Pasadena, TX)

Dear Tomato Dirt,

Stink bugs evidently stick their little snout in the tomato. If the tomato is not used soon it gets a translucent place that gets larger and the tomato gets sour and bad. Lots of chemicals kill these bugs when sprayed directly on them. But I have found nothing that will keep them off the plants or fruit. Do you know of anything?

Dear Jimmy,

Try kaolin (sold as Surround WP). It's is a soft, white, silicate clay mineral combined with water and applied with garden sprayers. After application, water evaporates leaving a protective powdery film. The coating acts as a physical barrier to insects, preventing pests from reaching tissue. Kaolin is natural and non-toxic.

You can also take some preventative measures. Plant a trap crop in an area around the tomato garden but set apart from the tomato plants. Trap crops are natural deterrents that draw stink bugs away from tomato plants and provide them with a thriving habitat. By planting abundant areas of small-flowered plants, you also encourage parasitic wasps, birds, and other predators that feed on the bugs. Stink bugs are known to be attracted to the color yellow. Mustard, millet, buckwheat, sorghum, sunflowers, marigolds, garlic, lavender, and chrysanthemums are good trap crops for these pests.

There's a list of ways to prevent stink bug infestations on this page:
Stink bugs: how to identify and control them.

Happy Gardening!
Your friends at Tomato Dirt

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