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Huge holes in my tomatoes

by Penny
(Orlando, FL)

Q. I found such huge holes in my tomatoes. I thought birds were eating them, but the next day I found many small, red beetles eating the tomatoes, not the leaves or stems. They brush off easily, but are hard to catch because they move quickly. I sprayed oil on the plants, but it may be too late. What could be eating my tomatoes? If these bugs are the problem, what are they and what can I do to keep them away?

A. Several pests feast on tomatoes. Here's a list of the main culprits and how you can tell them apart.

  • The tomato hornworm is 3-4 inches long and bright green. Remove manually.
  • The tomato pinworm is just 1/3 long (yellow, gray, or green) and has purple spots. Commercial farmers treat by plowing under infestations and applying phermone traps when planting.
  • The tomato fruitworm is a light-colored caterpillars with a brown or dark-colored head and dark hairs. Worms can turn green, yellow, brown, red, or black. Stripes can run lengthwise on the worm’s back. They prefer green fruit. Apply Bt, neem oil, or insecticidal soap.
  • The cucumber beetle looks like a green ladybug, and can be treated by manual removal or with malathion.
  • Stink bugs are shaped like a shield and can be variations of brown or green with yellow, red, or pink markings. Treat with Sevin dust.
  • Birds often peck holes in tomatoes.

Milkweed bugs generally do not feed on tomatoes.

Good luck and happy gardening!
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