We get a lot of questions about urban garden pest control and today we wanted to share some good info on some of the insects that threaten the beloved tomato plant.
The tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) is an ugly beast. One look at them and you will easily see where they got their name thanks to the prominent horn that makes them look far more intimidating than they really are. The hornworm quickly defoliates the top of a tomato plant but they are often difficult to spot because their coloring allows them to blend easily with the plants they eat. They are also more likely to be found feasting on the underside the plant during the heat of day, preferring to come to the outer leaves only around dusk.
The most common way to eradicate the tomato hornworm is by picking off the offenders as they appear. To avoid them before they become a problem, rototilling the soil after the season ends will expose and destroy the pupae before they become a problem. A respectable level of preventative biological control has been realized with the use of Bacillus thuringensis or BT (soon to be available in the UrbanFig Shop)
Aphids are tiny little weapons of mass destruction that literally such the juices out of your tomato plants. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they can often infect the plants with diseases they pick up along the way. Sounds like common street trash you’d see on COPS, doesn’t it?
Aphids can be treated in several ways. Biologically, ladybugs and lacewings, along with some species of bird are known predators, and introducing ladybugs to your garden will almost certainly end your aphid infestation. Culturally, you can hose aphids from infested plants, trim away badly damaged areas and spray your tomato plants with non-toxic insecticidal soap. Neem oil has also been shown effective in the eradication of some species of aphid, though not all.