Aphids and flea beetles are two small black bugs that are feeding on your tomato plant. To get rid of them you can either use insecticide or use a stream of water to wash them off.
Tomatoes are delicious and easy to grow at home. Most first-time growers start their gardening journey with tomatoes.
No, surprise it is one of the most grown and used fruits in the US.
Gardening comes with a responsibility to take care of and protect plants from insects.
Black bugs on tomato plants result in wilted, yellow, and curled leaves. These tiny black bugs feed on leaves and may result in holes.
It’s easy to grow tomatoes in your backyard, but the hard part is to protect them from insects.
To protect healthy tomatoes and have an increased yield, you must identify insects that are feeding on your tomatoes.
Like you, flea beetles or aphids enjoy the flavour of red tomato and the bacteria carried by these small black bugs can cause more damage to your tomato plant.
However, with simple home tricks, you can prevent black bugs on tomato plants.
Apart from natural pests, there are companion plants that will either repel bugs or attract helpful insects to protect tomatoes.
Also read: How to Grow Organic Tomatoes at Home?
What are Little Black Bugs on Tomato Plants?
Several pests attack your ripe tomatoes, but the most common among them are aphids and flea beetles.
- Aphids are small insects that feed on tomatoes and spread the infection to your plants. Leaves affected by aphids turn yellow and then curl.
- There are several types of aphids varying in color (black, pale green, and pink) and size.
- This pinhead size insect can also spread the virus to your tomato plant.
What are Aphids on Tomato Plants?
Aphids feed on tomatoes with their long slender mouthpart. These are soft-bodied small insects that puncture stems, leaves, and other plant parts to suck its fluid.
Depending on the species, aphids can be of different colors including, yellow, red, brown, or black.
Most aphid species are wingless and move slowly when disturbed.
Aphid damage on tomato leaves
If your plant has a moderate number of aphids, then you can easily get rid of them without much damage.
But, a large group of aphids feed on leaves and produce a sticky substance called honeydew which turns black with mold fungal growth.
Symptoms like yellow curled leaves can be noticed in tomato plants.
These insects can be easily transmitted to other plants.
How to Control Aphids?
- Wipe black bugs using a strong stream of water or with hand after wearing gardening gloves.
- Horticultural oils are prominent for their efficiency to control pests. Using this pesticide you can get rid of aphid eggs.
- You can also grow companion plant that helps to repel aphids and other insects. Or you can just grow your army to fight aphids.
Monitoring your plant regularly helps to combat aphids when they are in low numbers. One way is to notice if ants are climbing your plant for honeydew secreted by aphids.
Natural enemies like lady beetle, soldier beetles, and syrphid flies can be used to combat aphids on tomato plants.
Apart from this, you can use chemical-incorporated insecticides to get rid of aphids in your vegetable garden.
Read more on aphids and how to control them here.
If you don’t want to try chemical insecticides, then you can opt for an organic way of controlling aphids.
- Mix 1 tsp liquid dish soap and a pinch of cayenne pepper with 1 quart of water. Spray this solution on aphids-infected plants.
- You can use neem oil or horticultural oils to wipe out these black bugs from a tomato plant.
- Companion plants like garlic, onions, marigold, and dill can help to avoid aphids attack on veggies.
Check this article: How to Use Epsom Salt for Tomato Plant?
What is Flea Beetles on Tomatoes?
Unlike aphids, flea beetles fly when disturbed and they often feed on young plants.
Flea beetles feed on stems and tomato leaves resulting in shothole wounds. If your tomato plant is severely infected by this insect, then it might be killed.
Signs on tomato plants include yellowing of leaves, shot-like holes, and small black beetles on plants.
Most flea beetles feed on plant leaves and few can feed on plant roots.
- Flea beetle is another commonly found insect that damage tomato plant. These tiny insects are found in different colours like black, brown, or blue.
- Measuring about 1/10 inches, young flea beetles feed on underground parts of the plant. Though mature plants overcome this damage, the young plant can’t withstand and they suffer the most.
- Adult flea beetles damage leaves by making holes in foliage and resulting in early blight.
How to Control Tomato Plant from Flea Beetle?
Colorado State University states damage done by flea beetle is insignificant and plants can outgrow with time.
However, in some cases treatment helps sensitive seedlings.
- Regularly remove weeds and debris around the plant; this will avoid adult black bugs to live overwinter.
- You can also use row covers to protect young tomato plants.
- Before tomatoes, as plant radish as a trap crop.
- When you notice alarming number of flea beetles on tomato plant, then you should use chemical insecticides to get of them immediately.
How to Protect Tomato Plant from Black Bugs?
If you ignore to take certain steps, you will be not going to harvest too many tomatoes at the end.
- Support your tomato plants with steel cylindrical cones. The cage helps to elevate branches and leaves. It also prevents blossom-end rotting.
- Plant herbs like basil, cabbage, marigold or nasturtiums beside tomato plants to repel aphids and flea beetles.
- Aphids or black bugs feed on weeds, so pull down weeds surrounding your tomato plant.
- You can just pluck large insects using gardening gloves, but tiny black bugs should be removed by spraying natural pesticides.
Studies proved that use of companion plants can growth aphid growth.
Marigold, basil, garlic, onions, cabbage, capsicum and fennel can naturally repeal aphids either by chemical reaction with host plant or by confusing aphids to not locate the host plant.
Row covers or netting
Using breathable fabrics as covers to protect from aphids and flea beetles will protect your young tomato plants.
But, you must remove covering when tomato plant starts to flower. This is to encourage pollination.
Inspect your tomato plant regularly for any possible insects. Early finding can easy your work to combat black bugs.
Insecticidal soap or neem oil
Neem oil and other organic ways to get rid of aphids and flea beetle are effective and most vegetable gardeners use it.
You just need to spray soapy solution or neem oil solution on infected tomato plant.
As mentioned above, lady beetle and syrphid fly can be used to attack aphids. You must learn how to release these solider flies.
In severe situations when there is no way to save your tomato plant, then you must use insecticides to kill black bugs.
Also read: 20 common tomato plant problems
Tomato Plant Care Tips
- Apply a physical barrier, such netting or row covers, to keep pests away from tomato plants. Insects won’t be able to get near the plants because of the barrier that will be created.
- Choose the plant location that are far from potential chemical pesticide drift areas. This will lessen the chance of unintentional chemical exposure to tomato plants.
- Think about rotating your crops and managing disease and pests organically.
- Plant tomato seeds that have been bred to be resistant to infestation
- This could reduce the need to treat the plants with insecticides.
- Companion planting with vegetables like onions and garlic, utilizing beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewings, and handpicking any visible pests from the plant are effective natural methods for managing pests without the use of chemical insecticides.
Read these tomato related articles:
- Why Are Bottom of Tomatoes Turning Black?
- How to get rid of White Lines on Tomato Leaves?
- Why Are Eggshells Good for Tomato Plants?
You can prevent black bugs on tomatoes through simple methods listed above.
Companion plants and row covers are great way to guard your tomato plants from aphids and flea beetles.
Choose tomatoes seeds that are disease-resistant can reduce infestation and use of insecticide.
Beneficial insects such as ladybugs or parasitic wasps can help manage aphid populations without using chemical insecticides.
You can also wipe them using stream of water or handpick visible pests from tomato plant.
When natural ways of controlling black bugs on tomato plants aren’t working, then you can use chemical insecticides to combat these insects.