Tiny pest. Big damage. Aphids on tomato plants can stunt your crop and cause leaves to curl. That’s one good reason they’re also called “plant lice.”
Of 4400 aphid species, 250 are harmful to plants, which is why you may see white aphids on tomato plants … black aphids on tomato plants … red aphids on tomato plants … non-flying aphids along with winged aphids on tomato plants.
And, these buggers just won’t quit. Aphids are very prolific. Females can give birth to up to 80 offspring a week. That’s a whole lot of aphid nymph mouths to feed, especially when you don’t want your tomato plant to be part of the aphid nursery. And all those nymph babies can turn into adults in just 7 or 8 days.
The good news is that your tomato plants can recover from an aphid attack. If you discover aphids on tomato plants, you can take steps to escort them away. Plus, you can take measures to minimize aphids in your garden. But first …
Aphids are small (2-4 mm), pear-shaped, soft-bodied insects. They can be green, gray, black, brown, yellow, or white – often mimicking the color of the plant they feast on. They don’t limit themselves to tomatoes. You can find aphids on cucumbers, squash, melon, peppers, potato, and a host of other crops.
They flourish in colonies. You won’t see one or two aphids. You’ll see a mass.
Check the undersides of tomato leaves, the crevices and sides of stems, and inside your tomato plant’s blossom. Aphids favor the newer parts of the tomato plant over older, established growth. Newer leaves and stems are more tender and easier for aphids to attack.
Clearly you want to avoid hosting these critters in your garden.
Aphids are most productive in the spring and fall. They back off during hot weather.
You’ve got several treatment options you can use to get rid of aphids on tomato plants naturally.
Home improvement expert Bob Vila recommends making your own insecticidal spray by mixing 1 tablespoon regular dish soap with 1 quart of water. Apply the mixture with a garden sprayer to your plants every day or two until your aphid infestation disappears.
While this home remedy for aphids on tomato plants is certainly cost-effective, be aware of a couple of things.
First, most dish soaps do not contain fatty acids. Soap particles attach less effectively to aphids, meaning your attempt at suffocation by dish soap may take a couple of tries. And many dish soaps contain fragrance, hand softeners, degreasers, or antibacterial agents, which can slow effectiveness and in some instances even harm plants. Best soap to use: Castille soap, which is made from vegetable oils and will adhere to aphids.
Another option: create a solution of one part rubbing alcohol and nine parts water. Any stronger may injure plants. Apply your rubbing alcohol spray to a test leaf. Leave it for two days to make sure leaves don’t get damaged. When all looks good, then apply to the entire plant. You can repeat the application about once a week. Rubbing alcohol, like fatty acids, works to melt insects’ exoskeletons, which dehydrates them.
More about Tomato Pests
By Kathy Widenhouse, award-winning writer and owner of Tomato Dirt, a leading online source for growing tomatoes and using them.
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