Be on the lookout for indoor tomato pests that can attack your plants – most often aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies. With a little bit of care you can control them and keep your tomato plants healthy.
Most often, pests ride along with when outdoor plants are brought inside or nursery plants are brought home.
Outdoors pests have to contend with wind, rain and predators. Indoors, they are sheltered. It's a comfortable place to be.
A good first step to clearing up indoor tomato pests from plants is to put them outside for a while, weather permitting.
Indoors, only non-toxic controls are acceptable since humans occupy the same space as plants. Use these methods in combination to control pests and keep indoor tomato plants healthy.
capture flying indoor tomato pests. You can buy them or make your own by cutting strips of yellow cardboard, covering them with petroleum jelly, and hanging them near your tomato plants. Or insert houseplant sticky stakes in the soil to nab pests in and around plants.
's fatty acids remove an insect’s protective waxes and cause disruption of insect cell membranes. They are effective when applied directly to the insect on the plant. Mix with water to produce a 2-3% dilution. One advantage of using insecticidal soap is less residual effects on other organisms.
and as ready-to-use
) is derived from seed extracts of the neem plant. Oil-based sprays block an insect’s air holes, interfere with an insect’s metabolism, disrupt feeding, or inhibit insect growth.
Photo: University of Kentucky
Aphids attack the tip of the stems and the leaves, sucking out plant sap. Affected plants may wilt, drop leaves, or have yellowing leaves. Look for a light-colored residue (“honeydew”) on leaves and stems, which can turn black and promote the growth of mold. Aphids on tomatoes reduce tomato quality, fruit yield, and can cause stunted growth.
If possible, identify and control aphids in the early stages, since they multiply rapidly and will spread over your entire plant and to other plants, too. Aphids will start to produce live young almost as soon as they are born.
around plants or insert sticky stakes
in the container to thwart them.
, to control aphids.
Photo: Tulsa Master Gardeners
Spider mites are tiny, single-bodied insects about 1 mm long – almost microscopic. Look for them on leaf undersides. You may even need a magnifying glass.
Spider mites pierce leaves and feed on plant sap, beginning on leaves’ undersides. They work from the lower part of the plant to upper leaves. Small wounds on plants that look like white specks tell you that spider mites have been hard at work. If left unchecked, affected leaves develop a bronze or gray color, turn brown, and fall off. Spider mites also leave their signature webbing strung between plant parts or beneath leaves. They are active year- round.
Spider mites are difficult to control and have stumped many a tomato gardener. With a life cycle of 1-2 weeks in optimum conditions, spider mites multiply rapidly and feed continuously. Identify and control spider mites quickly to prevent them from spreading through your entire indoor tomato crop.
) to control spider mites. Oils are only effective when wet, so repeat applications at systematic intervals to eliminate a colony.
work on pests when wet. Apply them repeatedly to eliminate spider mites.
Photo: University of California IPM
Whiteflies suck juices from leaves, causing wilting, leaf damage, brown leaves, and stunted growth. If left unchecked, white flies can quickly defoliate your indoor tomato crop.
around plants or sticky stakes
in containers to thwart them.
, to control whiteflies.
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