Skip to Content

Common Tomato Plant Pests: Identify and Prevent (2023)

This site is supported by our readers. We may earn a commission, at no cost to you, if you purchase through links.

common tomato plants pestsAn ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This old adage rings especially true when it comes to common tomato plant pests. While there are many varieties and degrees of pest problems, any home gardener who has grown tomatoes before knows how difficult it can be to keep pests away from the plants.

From aphids and leafhoppers to fruitworms and flea beetles, identifying these critters early is key to preventing major damage down the line.

Key Takeaways

  • Aphids, cutworms, flea beetles, and root-knot nematodes are common pests that can damage tomato plants.
  • There are various methods to control these pests, including utilizing deterrent plants, attracting beneficial insects, and practicing organic approaches.
  • Some specific control methods include handpicking hornworms, deterring slugs and snails with eggshells or copper tape, and applying insecticidal soap or neem oil.
  • Preventative strategies, such as companion planting, enhancing soil health, and implementing crop rotation, can help ensure pest-free tomato harvests.


Aphids are one of the most common tomato pests. You’ll want to check the undersides of leaves for clusters of these sap-sucking, pear-shaped green or black bugs, which can quickly damage your tomato plants if left unchecked.

Detection and Identification

Look under the leaves for tiny clustered bugs to spot aphids damaging your plants. Aphids can spread quickly, covering leaves and stems in groups. Their pear-shaped green or black bodies and soft structure make them easy to squish once detected.

Careful inspection of leaf undersides is crucial to catching infestations early before the sap-sucking bugs proliferate. Don’t let aphid colonies grow unchecked, as they secrete honeydew leading to sooty mold growth.

Natural Methods to Control Aphids

You’ll have a field day releasing ladybugs and lacewings to gobble up those pesky aphids. Introducing beneficial predators like ladybugs is an organic way to control aphid infestations. Try spraying plants with neem oil or insecticidal soap for safe and effective treatment.

Grow nasturtiums, garlic, and other aphid-repelling plants nearby as a companion strategy. With some creativity, you can implement natural aphid remedies that nurture the whole garden ecosystem.


While walking through your garden at night with a flashlight, cutworm caterpillars can be spotted clinging to tomato stem bases or hiding in the top inch of soil.

To prevent cutworm damage, scatter crushed eggshells or cornmeal around the base of plants, which deters cutworms. Water tomato plants regularly and deeply to avoid stems drying out and becoming vulnerable.

Choose cutworm-resistant tomato varieties like Cherokee Purple or Amish Paste. Protect transplants with cutworm collars made of cardboard.

Attract predators like birds, spiders and ground beetles that feed on cutworms. Handpick any visible cutworms and drop them into soapy water. A healthy garden ecosystem with biodiversity naturally controls these underground pests.

Flea Beetles

Flea Beetles
You could control flea beetles by growing cilantro as a companion plant near tomatoes, since its strong scent repels them.

Plant flea beetle resistant tomato varieties like Mountain Merit, Defiant PHR, and Mountain Fresh Plus.

Use floating row covers or aluminum foil mulch early in the season before flea beetles arrive.

Check young plants daily and handpick beetles. Early detection allows you to control infestations before major damage.

Introduce beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings which prey on flea beetle larvae and eggs.

Root-Knot Nematodes

Root-Knot Nematodes
Root-knot nematodes, some nasty microscopic worms, can severely stunt tomato growth and ruin your entire crop if you don’t practice smart prevention.

Rotate crops each year to prevent buildup – tomatoes in one bed, then unrelated vegetables like lettuce or broccoli in that bed the next year.

Improve overall soil health with compost and mulch to promote beneficial microbes that attack nematodes.

Choose nematode-resistant tomato varieties like Cherokee Purple or Amish Paste when replanting beds previously used for tomatoes.

A healthy garden ecosystem starts below ground. Focus on building rich living soil and you’ll avoid losing your cherished tomatoes to tiny but mighty root-knot nematodes. Practice crop rotation, boost your soil, and pick resistant varieties – three powerful tools in your root-knot battle kit.

Blister Beetles

Blister Beetles
We’ve all felt the sting of those nasty blister beetles munching holes through our lovingly grown tomatoes. While their name comes from the blistering rash their bodies can cause, it’s the damage they inflict on plants that’s most irritating.

The best defense against these black or gray half-inch bugs is cultivating their natural predators, like birds, spiders, and parasitic wasps. Planting beetle repellent herbs like mint, tansy, and catnip can also help deter them.

Handpicking and dropping beetles into soapy water or vacuuming them up can provide immediate relief. With some thoughtful companion planting and invitation of beneficial bugs, we can tip the balance in the garden to keep blister beetles from blistering our tomatoes.


Try handpicking hornworm caterpillars off your plants with care. Our veggie patch needs a gentle touch. Hornworms begin as tiny eggs laid on foliage by hawk moths. Within days, the voracious caterpillars emerge to feed on leaves and tomatoes.

Watch for curled, stripped foliage and black droppings. Though large and camouflaged, handpick mature green larvae with white v-shaped marks.

Cultivate wasps, which lay eggs in hornworms controlling their spread. Interplant tomatoes with herbs like dill, which repels hornworm moths. Grow mustard greens nearby, as eggs laid on them won’t hatch. Maintain your garden’s biodiversity for natural checks.

Slugs and Snails

Slugs and Snails
You can ward off slugs and snails by sprinkling eggshells, crushed sea shells, or diatomaceous earth around your tomato plants. These sharp, rough materials will deter slugs and snails from crawling over them to get to your plants.

Create a physical barrier with copper tape around pots and garden beds. The metal reacts with the slug slime and gives them a small electrical shock. Handpick slugs and snails after dark or place beer traps in the soil to attract and drown them.

Choose resistant tomato varieties and plant companion plants like garlic, chives, and mint that slugs avoid. Maintain proper garden sanitation and avoid overwatering or thick mulch which slugs love. With vigilance and using multiple organic slug deterrents, you can protect those tender tomato seedlings and have a bountiful harvest.

Spider Mites

Spider Mites
Spider mites are tiny pests that suck juices from leaves, causing stippling damage.

  1. Regularly mist plants to increase humidity and disrupt mite activity.
  2. Prune leaves showing stippling or bronzing as early detection is key.
  3. Release predatory insects like ladybugs, lacewings, and predatory mites to feed on spider mites.
  4. Plant companion plants like onions, garlic, and marigolds which deter spider mites.
  5. Remove any infested plants at end of season to prevent overwintering populations.

Natural methods focused on increasing predatory insects, proper watering, and companion plants will help you successfully manage spider mites organically. A vigilant eye and swift action are your best defenses against this common tomato pest.

Tomato Fruit Worms

Tomato Fruit Worms
Lookin’ for those creamy-white eggs proves fruit worms are attackin’ your tomatoes from the inside. The pesky fruitworm larvae hatch from eggs and burrow deep inside ripenin’ tomatoes, causin’ nasty rotten spots.

Stop ’em before they start by coverin’ plants with fine nettin’ just after flowerin’.

Plant fruitworm resistant tomato varieties like Celebrity, Defiance, and Mountain Merit. Trap adults by hangin’ pheromone traps nearby. Intercrop with strong smellin’ herbs and flowers that confuse and deter fruitworm moths.

A diverse garden with beneficial insects controls fruitworms without chemicals. With some diligent garden patrol and smart companion plantin’, you’ll keep those fruitworms from spoilin’ your precious tomatoes this season.


You’ll often find whiteflies on the undersides of leaves. Their sap-sucking damages plants. When scouting for whiteflies, check for eggs and juvenile insects on the undersides of leaves. Spraying the undersides of leaves with water can knock off and kill some insects.

Covering young plants with floating row covers excludes whiteflies. Allowing beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings to prey on whiteflies helps too. Planting geraniums, marigolds and nasturtiums nearby deters whiteflies. Lemongrass, garlic and chives also repel whiteflies.

If whitefly damage is severe, apply insecticidal soap or neem oil. Focus on the undersides of leaves and repeat applications may be needed. With vigilance and using organic remedies, you can protect tomatoes from whiteflies.


Tomato plants have a variety of common pests, but these can be managed with the right strategies. Aphids, fruitworms, leaf-footed bugs, slugs, borers, beetles, thrips, cutworms, hornworms, and whiteflies are just a few of the pests that can damage your tomato plants.

To protect your harvest, it’s important to identify these pests and take preventive measures. The good news is there are plenty of organic solutions that won’t harm your plants.

Consider companion planting, releasing beneficial insects, or focusing on soil health. With some effort, you can create a resilient garden that will produce delicious, pest-free tomatoes year after year.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.