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Holes in our tomatoes: what is causing this?

by Todd Hirsch
(Mena, AR)

Q. We live in Western Arkansas and are growing a variety of tomatoes. We have noticed that a good portion of the fruit have a hole here or there. We've kept vigilant about picking and killing any types of caterpillars that we've see on plants, including the tomato hornworm. I am wondering which pest is causing this problem. Also, is it necessary to throw the fruit with holes away or can that part just be cut out? Thanks.

A. Sounds like stink bugs (also called squash bugs) are attacking your tomatoes.

They insert their snouts into tomato skin and then drink the liquid in the tomato. Sting points produce dark pinprick marks on the tomato.

You can treat stink bugs by spraying with a stream of water (or water mixed with vegetable oil) or hand picking them. A non-toxic alternative, Kaolin (a silicate clay mineral), is combined with water and provides a coating that prevents stink bugs from reaching tomato tissue. If organic measures don't work, you can treat plants with Sevin or Eight (Permethrin) insecticides. But remember - if you zap stink bugs with insecticides, you'll kill other beneficial insects, too.

When you control weeds and plant trap crops near tomatoes, stink bugs are also drawn away.

Keep in mind that stink bugs emit a distinctive odor when they're threatened!

You can eat tomatoes that have been affected by stink bugs. Simply cut out the damaged part, which usually looks yellow on the outside of the fruit and hard and white inside. (The damage is called cloudy spot, by the way.)

Check out this page for more information on stink bugs.

Good Luck and Happy Gardening!
Your friends at Tomato Dirt

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