So you want to know how to get rid of aphids on tomato plants? Did you know there are two types of aphids that typically attack tomato plants? They are green peach aphids and potato aphids. These two species of aphids are about the same size (an eighth of an inch long) but look slightly different.
Potato aphids have pear-shaped bodies in shades of pink and green marked by a dark stripe. In addition, they have a pair of rear appendages that look like long, thin tails.
In contrast, Green peach aphids also have pear-shaped bodies, but they are solid green or greenish-yellow, and their rear appendages are short.
Both types of aphids appear early in spring and begin sucking sap from tomato plants. For the most part, healthy plants can survive a single onslaught, but stunted growth may result if they are infested multiple times.
It is also important to understand that aphids carry plant viruses that can devastate your tomato crop.
This article provides five smart ways to deal with aphids on tomato plants. Read on to learn more.
Controlling Aphids On Tomato Plants Takes Coordinated Effort
Aphids are tenacious, and they reproduce rapidly. For this reason, controlling and getting rid of them is not a one-step process.
It typically takes fairly continuous effort and a combination of several techniques.
Here are three easy ways to discourage aphids on your tomato plants.
1. Be Vigilant!
Inspect your plants every day. When you see aphids, brush or wash them off your plants.
If you brush them onto the ground and then water them deeply, they are unlikely to be able to make their way back onto your plants.
2. Spray With A Dish Soap Or Insecticidal Soap Mix.
Carry a spray bottle in the garden when you inspect your plants, and spray aphids with a mild mixture of water, dish soap, or insecticidal soap.
A tablespoonful of soap per quart of water will do the trick.
If you wish, you can make this mixture a little more powerful by using a 50-50 mix of water and rubbing alcohol.
If you decide to do this, avoid spraying during the heat of the day because this solution will cause leaf burn (phytotoxicity) if applied at high temperatures or in direct sunlight.
3. Use An Oil-Based Spray
If you haven’t noticed aphids until they have become a major infestation, you’ll need to use harsher methods than simply brushing them away or spritzing them with a spray bottle.
In this case, you will need to use neem oil or horticultural oil solution.
- Neem oil has natural insecticidal properties, and its oiliness smothers aphids. Even so, it is relatively safe for beneficial insects.
You can purchase the oil concentrate and mix it up at a rate of about a tablespoonful for every 16 ounces of water.
Spray this mixture on all surfaces of each plant every week. Use as a Neem soil soak or drench as well.
It is also possible to purchase neem preparations as a pre-mixed spray-on product. Whichever you choose, be sure to read and follow the packaging instructions carefully.
- Vegetable-based (e.g., sesame, cottonseed, soybean) horticultural oils work entirely by suffocating aphids, and they also help to remove the mold infestation that accompanies aphids.
Petroleum-based horticultural oils are available, but it is always better to avoid petroleum products in the yard and garden.
Note that both neem products and horticultural oils may cause phytotoxicity if applied during the day’s heat. Therefore, apply these products early in the morning or at dusk.
Do Not Use Sticky Traps
Aphids multiply rapidly, and in vast numbers, so sticky traps will not do much to control them.
Although a brief use of sticky traps to identify insects in your garden may be justified, sticky traps are generally destructive and should not be used on an ongoing basis.
While they will catch some aphids, they will also catch beneficial insects, small reptiles, and even small birds, such as hummingbirds.
Aphid Prevention Is Pretty Simple
It is a lot easier to prevent aphids from infesting your garden than it is to get rid of vast numbers of them. So try these tips to keep aphids from spiraling out of control in your tomato patch.
1. Use row covers early in the spring. When you first put your tomato plants out, before aphids have had a chance to arrive, set up row covers. This will help keep your plants protected from temperature extremes and aphids.
2. Encourage beneficial insects and other helpful garden dwellers.
Many predatory insects love to eat aphids. Among them are:
- Syrphid Fly Larvae
- Parasitic Wasps
- Damsel Bugs
Garden spiders, lizards, frogs and toads, and terrapins are also very helpful to have around the garden regarding insect pest control.
Plant a diverse garden containing plants attractive to pollinators to attract beneficial garden fauna.
3. Plant aphid-repelling companion plants.
Mingle garlic, chives, marigolds, borage, nasturtium, and basil amongst your tomatoes to repel aphids.
Note that if you have loose cats around your neighborhood, you may regret planting catnip.
You May Never Get Rid Of Aphids
These tiny creatures are fairly ubiquitous, and keeping them under control can be an ongoing task.
Luckily, using harsh, drastic, or dangerous methods is unnecessary to keep them from wreaking havoc on your tomato patch. Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied, and easy to remove with a blast from the garden hose or spray bottle.
In addition, they have lots of natural enemies who make lovely additions to your garden.
Follow the tips presented here on how to get rid of aphids on tomato plants and control aphids safely and easily.