Stink bugs are on your tomato plants because the plants are a source of food and nutrients for them. The bugs pierce and suck on the leaves, seeds, and fruits of tomatoes. Once you spot signs of stink bug infestation on your tomatoes, you must address the issue immediately.
Read on to know more about stink bugs — how to control them, how to minimize future stink bug infestations on your tomato plants, and what species you should look out for.
Solutions to a Stink Bug Infestation
Controlling stink bugs can be difficult because their attack pattern seems random. For example, some parts of your garden may suffer from heavy damage, while others are barely touched.
Even a single stink bug can decimate your tomato fruits within a short period — so imagine what a whole swarm can do. Therefore, as soon as you spot signs of a stink bug infestation in your tomato garden, you need to stamp out the pests as soon as possible.
Here are some ways to get rid of stink bugs from your tomato plants.
1. Pluck Out Stink Bug Nymphs and Larvae
If you want to get rid of stink bugs without the use of extra tools or equipment, you literally need to take matters into your own hands. Take a couple of hours to walk around your garden and handpick the nymph-stage and adult stink bugs you see. After you pluck these out, toss them immediately into a bowl of water mixed with some dish soap to kill them off. You can repeat this process every few days or so if it’s not practical to do it daily.
2. Use Chemicals
Handpicking stink bugs may not be the most efficient option, especially if you have a large infestation in your tomato garden. In that case, you may need to use chemicals.
For the best results, you should spray these chemicals into your garden as soon as the first signs of stink bug infestation show up. Remember to follow the instructions on applying these chemicals and the necessary safety precautions.
Chemicals that can help control an attack of stink bugs include:
3. Consider Organic Pesticides
As their name suggests, these pesticides are manufactured using natural ingredients, meaning you don’t have to worry about accidentally harming your tomato plants as you try to take care of your stink bug problem.
For example, neem oil is one of the best organic stink bug killers available. The oil isn’t toxic to your tomato plants or other beneficial insects, as it’s not sprayed directly on the plants.
Here is how to control stink bugs with neem oil.
- Mix about 3 cups (24 oz.) of neem oil with water.
- Spray the mixture all around the bottom of the tomato plants. You can also spray at the parts that stink bugs are most likely to attack.
- Repeat this procedure every two weeks.
I recommend the Bonide BND022 – Ready to Use Neem Oil (available on Amazon.com) whether you’re growing an organic or non-organic garden. You don’t need to mix in any additional ingredients to use it: Just spray it on the affected plants. Also, it’s a “dormant spray,” meaning it’ll protect your plants for as long as possible.
4. Introduce Biological Predators Into Your Garden
Some beneficial animals can help get rid of stink bugs in your garden. These animals include:
- Some mammals
However, there may be a risk that these biological predators may feed on your tomatoes as well. To avoid this, make sure you don’t use mating pairs and that you get them out of your garden as soon as the job is done.
5. Use Pheromone Lures
These lures secrete sex pheromones that can help you get stink bugs into the traps you set for them. However, they can attract other pests into your garden as well. Therefore, only use this method if everything else I’ve listed so far (short of contacting pest control) doesn’t work.
How To Keep Stink Bugs Away From Your Tomato Plants
As the old saying goes: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Rather than go through the trouble of getting rid of stink bugs, you may want to know how to not have stink bugs in your tomato garden in the first place.
Here are tips to keep stink bugs away from your tomato plants.
- Be extra careful during the summertime when the bugs are most active. This is especially important if your garden has been attacked by stink bugs before.
- At night, turn as many of your lights off as possible to avoid attracting stink bugs.
- Clean and inspect your tomato plants regularly.
Species of Stink Bugs That Attack Tomato Plants
There isn’t only one type of stink bug that attacks tomato plants. To address a stink bug infestation in your garden effectively, you need to know how to identify the specific species that attack tomato plants.
Consperse Stink Bug
This species is commonly found on the North American continent. It has a thick, irregularly strewn outer body surface, which gives it its name. It’s a major pest of tree fruits, berries, and tomatoes, feeding on every part of the plant and causing severe damage.
Adult consperse stink bugs are a half-inch (1 cm) long with greyish-brown bodies. To correctly identify them, look out for yellow or orange legs and abdomens marked with dark spots. Their antennae are also red with dark tips.
The nymphs of the consperse stink bug are white with red markings. As they grow into adults, the molting nymphs turn brown with black markings.
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
These bugs are prevalent in small-scale gardens and commercial farms. Their natural habitat ranges from Europe to North and South America, where they attack a wide variety of crops including tomatoes. This species feeds on tomato plants by injecting enzymes that break down the plant tissues into liquid juices that the bugs suck on.
The brown marmorated stink bug has a veiny exterior and is slightly longer than the consperse stink bug at 0.67 inches (1.7 centimeters). The insect has a dark brown outer surface and a cream abdomen.
Unique features of this stink bug species include two light bands on the antennae and dark bands on its abdomen. The younger nymphs are brown with an orange abdomen. The latter goes through a series of color changes until they become white adults.
Green Stink Bug
The green stink bug feeds on beans, cotton, and vegetables like tomatoes. They can also survive on the nutrients from uncultivated plants like mustard and use them to reproduce. These bugs lay clusters of 40 eggs under the leaves of the plants they attack.
The green stink bug nymph changes its color as it grows, changing from red as a young nymph to green with orange markings as an older nymph. The adult stink bug, which is about 0.75 inches (1.9 centimeters) long, has yellowish color with black markings.
Green stink bugs cause whitish spots on green tomato fruits. They can be difficult to spot because they spend most of their life cycle below the tomato plants.
Red-Shouldered Stink Bug
The red-shouldered stink bug is a pest of plants like hemp, beans, tomatoes, and wheat. This insect feeds on the plant’s leaves, fruits, and even seeds. It inflicts the most damage to the seeds because it decelerates seed production.
The red-shouldered stink bug is broad and is about 0.5 inches (1 cm)long. It has a light green color and has red markings around its abdomen behind the head (hence its name).
A stink bug infestation on your tomato plants can seem like a challenging problem to solve. But if you use the solutions I outlined above, I believe you can keep those pesky pests to a minimum (if not eliminate them entirely).