Last Updated on May 16, 2023
If you have ever grown tomatoes in your garden, you will know that tomatoes are very susceptible to aphid infestations. These little critters can cause incredible damage to your crop if you do not take care of them early. In this article, we will be talking about aphids on tomato plants: How to naturally get rid of them.
If you have kept tomatoes for long enough, there’s a high likelihood of finding aphids on the plants. Aphids are common, even in an organic garden. They can quickly take over the garden and can be frustrating to deal with. If you are faced with this problem, do not despair. We have a lot of tips, tricks, and control methods that we will give to you.
What Are Aphids?
Aphids are small pests that belong to the family Aphididae. Worldwide, there are more than 4000 species of aphids. They occur mostly in moderate and warm climates.
Aphids have tiny bodies that are soft and pear-shaped. A lot of them are similar in size, which is about an eighth of an inch; aphids vary in size. They come in different colors. Depending on the type, they can be pale green, or black aphids on tomato plants, red, yellow, or white aphids on tomato plants.
They usually occur in clusters at the base of leaves and stems of plants. They then bite into these plant parts and suck out the liquids inside.
Tomato plants usually get infested with potato aphids. This type is usually red aphids on tomato plants. Tomatoes can also get infested with peach aphids, which appear as green bugs on tomato plants.
Early in the spring, aphids migrate to tomato fields from hosts in the wild, and then they establish their colonies on the plants. Aphids have a very high rate of reproduction. A single aphid can easily lay up to a maximum of 100 eggs in its lifetime. Because of this, colonies of aphids increase very quickly in population.
Aphids in small populations are not a very big problem, however, if they are left untreated, they can completely destroy your crop.
Symptoms of Aphid Infested Tomatoes
Once aphids are present in high numbers in an area, they develop wings that help them spread to form colonies in other areas with susceptible plants, such as a tomato garden. They may be hard to spot if you are not paying attention to them. There are some symptoms that you can look out for.
Because aphides like to colonize the bottom parts of leaves, they can easily suck up the sap from the leaves unnoticed. This will cause the leaves to wilt and turn yellow. New growth on the plant may have become stunted growth. The result of this is that the tomato yields will be reduced and the fruits may become deformed.
Stunted leaves with a deformed appearance or curled edges are a clear sign of aphid damage on tomato leaves. When these pests suck the sap and nutrients from the leaves and stems of the plant, the leaves will not grow properly.
Aphids produce honeydew, a clear and sticky substance that coats the areas that the aphids have been on. Because honeydew is sugary, it attracts ants. If you notice populations of ants on your tomatoes, it could be a sign that you have an aphid infestation.
If the leaves and/or stems of your tomato plants appear black, it could be another sign that aphids have been infested. The honeydew produced by aphids can be a haven for sooty mold which paints the plant black.
Other symptoms of aphid-infested tomatoes include the wilting of plant stems from the loss of sap by the aphids feeding on them.
Although aphids are noticeable to the naked eye, it’s a fact that they can still be very small and difficult to see. The signs and symptoms listed above can help you identify when your tomato plants have been infested so that you can take care of the issue before it becomes a big problem.
Do Aphids Like Tomato Plants?
Tomatoes are great at attracting aphids into gardens. They especially enjoy sucking the sap from young plant leaves and fruits.
While aphids are generally attracted to tomatoes, they are not going to cause any damage if they are in small populations. But as soon as the infestation increases and takes over, the destruction of the plant tissues will begin and can eventually kill the plants.
In cases where aphids do not kill the plant, they can stunt the growth of plants. This would be a better scenario for the outcome of an infestation. Usually, an aphid infestation kills the plants by overfeeding the sap and transmitting diseases. Aphids feed on the plant sap by sucking it out with their piercing and sucking mouthparts.
Tomatoes are quite resilient to large numbers of aphids without suffering much damage. In severe cases, however, symptoms of damage such as leaf curling and stunted plant growth may be observed. The reduced leaf area will expose the fruit to sun scald, which will ultimately reduce yield.
Aphids are vectors of certain plant viruses. This means that even if they are not in high enough populations to damage the plants by overfeeding on the sap, they can transport certain viruses that may cause damage or even kill the plants. It is therefore best to take care of an aphid problem because it causes irreversible damage.
How to Get Rid of Aphids on Tomato Plants
Fortunately, there are numerous options you can choose from to get rid of aphids on your tomato plants. There are biological, cultural, physical, and chemical methods you can use. But if you want to be safe and not introduce any potential threats to your crop, it is best to stick to natural options and biological methods such as;
If you spot aphids on your tomato plants while they are still only a few, you can simply pick them and put them in a bucket filled with soapy water to kill them. Check the undersides of tomato leaves to make sure that you get all the pests off.
After the first time picking off the aphids, repeat the inspection daily for a few days to check whether or not you may need to take further steps to get rid of them.
A water spray with a garden hose is another great way of getting rid of aphids. Use a sharp but gentle blast of water to knock them off the tomato leaves and stems. This will surely decrease the aphid populations. Check every few days again to determine whether you need to repeat the process.
Be careful when using a water hose as it may also knock off beneficial insects from your plants, and may break the branches of the plant, especially the young ones.
Instead of buying store-brand bug repellents, you can use garlic, rosemary, peppermint, water, and dish soap to make your own at home. These are all-natural ingredients and will safely get rid of aphids from your tomatoes, as they are gentle.
This mix does not kill the bugs, but what smells will mask the scent of the tomato as the host plant so they will not be able to locate it.
Water and dish soap
A mixture of water and dish soap will also work fine to repel aphids from your tomato plants. Mix a few teaspoons of liquid dish soap with one quart of water. Simply spray this mixture on the plant leaves and it will kill the bugs by suffocating them.
Introduce predatory insects
The introduction of predatory insects into a garden that aphids have infested is one of the most efficient ways to get rid of or control them. Many people introduce insects such as ladybugs and lacewings into their gardens.
Birds such as hummingbirds are another great predator of aphids as they love to snack on them. Invite birds into your garden by strategically placing bird feeders in various places and they will help you out a lot.
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a powder made from fossilized algae that are rich in silica. It can be deadly to aphids. The edges of the DE grains cut into the soft bodies of aphids, causing them to dry up and die.
Sprinkle some DE onto both the soil and your tomato plants to kill aphids. Be careful to select food-grade DE when your purchase it from the store. It is safe for humans and can be used on plants, unlike filter-grade DE which is not. Only apply DE early in the morning or later in the evening when the dew has dried, as it does not work when wet.
Neem oil is a natural bug repellent that is useful against many different types of bugs and insects. It works similarly to insecticidal soap, that is by suffocating the aphids when sprayed on them. It also works systemically by interfering with the hormone receptors in the insects, hence it is referred to as a broad-spectrum insecticide.
Rubbing alcohol is an easily available, affordable, and simple solution to aphid infestations. Mix equal parts water and alcohol in a sprayer bottle, add a teaspoon of soap to make the mixture more effective, and spray it on your infested plants.
Adding humus as a soil amendment around your tomato plants will control infestations, as aphids do not like it.
If you notice that only certain leaves of the tomat0 plant are heavily infested, and perhaps have started showing signs of damage, pruning them off may be the best way to get rid of the clusters of aphids and will stop them from breeding.
In summary, natural options such as rubbing alcohol and neem oil are great products to use for treating aphid infestations on tomato plants. If these are unavailable to you, mix a few teaspoons of liquid dish soap with one quart of water. Always make sure to check the undersides of tomato leaves to get rid of aphids efficiently.
How to Prevent Aphids on Tomatoes
As you probably know, prevention is better than cure. Instead of waiting until you get an infestation to deal with, there are certain proactive steps you can take to prevent or minimize the risk of getting an aphid infestation on your tomatoes;
Healthy soil and healthy plants
Insects and other pests prey on weak plants that are growing on low-quality or degraded soil. The best way to avoid this is to build up healthy soil in your garden by mulching or adding organic matter so that there is a constant availability of nutrients to your plants.
Planting fragrant flowers and herbs alongside tomatoes can help control pests. Plants such as marigolds and basil are great insect and pest repellents that can ask the scent of tomatoes, hiding and protecting them from aphids.
Aphids are attracted to bright colors such as yellow. You can purchase yellow sticky boards and place them around your tomatoes. The aphids will get attracted to them and will get trapped before they get to the plants.
Attract more aphid predators
Aphids have natural predators such as lady beetles, syrphid flies, and lacewings. If you can find a way to grow these insects in your garden, they will do a great job of helping you out with pest control.
Setting up birdhouses and feeders in the garden before there is any noticeable infestation may be a great idea t keep it at bay.
Place row covers over your tomato plants immediately after planting them. This will help to protect them from extreme weather conditions and changes that could potentially hurt the growth and health of their plants, making them susceptible to opportunistic pests.
Conclusion – Aphids on Tomato Plants
Aphids can cause great destruction to tomato plants if left unchecked. It is therefore best to tackle them as soon as you notice them in your garden before they cause devastating that they are very well capable of in large populations. Another great way to deal with a possible infestation is by being proactive and placing systems and measures in place that will prevent infestations from taking place.
Use the tips and tricks provided in this article to get rid of aphid infestation problems in your tomato plants so you can get a good harvest.
An aquaculture specialist and freelance writer. Passionate about anything sustainable living, such as growing your own food, and if you can do it in conjunction with fish farming, even better! I currently work as an aquaculture researcher where I can expand and share my knowledge and skills on aquaculture, crop farming and adding value to wastewater by using it to grow food products. I enjoy reading and learning as much as possible, and writing is another avenue for me to share the knowledge I gain with others. I want my writing to inspire people to try their hand at gardening, whether indoors or outdoors. You can even start by keeping a few houseplants indoors to help you gain a bit of confidence if you need to.