Stink bugs: how to identify and control them on tomatoes

Stink Bugs: How to Identify and Control them on Tomatoes

Stink bugs (sometimes called “shield bugs”) are pests that infest tomato plants and destroy fruit.

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Stink bugs: how to identify and control them on tomatoes
There are more than 200 species in North America, all members of the pentatomidae insect family.

When threatened, these pests expel a repellent odor from their thoracic gland for which they are named.

In short, they stink.

What does the stink bug look like?

Shape: shield-like
Color: most are variations of brown or green
Markings: different species can have yellow, red, or pink markings
Size: about ВЅ inch long

What do they do to plants?

  • These pests insert their snouts underneath tomato skin. The enzyme they leave at the sting point turns that area of the tomato into liquid. The bug then drinks the liquid.
  • Sting points produce dark pinprick marks on the tomato.
  • Discolored areas appear on tomatoes where fluid is removed. They’re often white, yellowish or light green. Damage can appear knot-like.

When do they do their work?

Stink bugs are in their adult stage when they attack tomatoes.

How can you control stink bugs?

The best control measure is prevention (see below). Take other steps to keep these pests away from your tomatoes.

    Control weeds. Excess foliage in the garden and adjacent areas provide perfect breeding habitats for the bugs. Keep your garden plot well-weeded beginning early in the season before the population matures. You’ll to prevent them from taking up residence on your tomatoes. Continue to control weeds until harvest to keep bugs at bay.

What is the stink bug’s life cycle?

Our insect friend follows a typical three-stage metamorphosis: egg, nymph, and adult.

  • Adults lay eggs in early spring (March and April) on plant stems and undersides of leaves.
  • When hatched, nymphs move through 5 developmental stages over the course of 4-5 weeks.
  • Adults overwinter in garden debris and leaves, then lay eggs for the next cycle.

How can you prevent them from infesting your tomato patch next season?

  • Keep weeds down. Stink bugs hide in dense foliage. By removing as many weeds and unnecessary garden foliage as possible during the growing season, you can take away places for them to live and hide.
  • Remove debris. After your last harvest, destroy weeds that could become an overwintering habitat for adult bugs. Remove and destroy affected plants at the end of the season.
  • Space plants. When setting out seedlings in the garden next spring, allow extra space in between tomato plants. Space gives extra circulation and provides fewer places for bugs to hide and grow.

What else is important to know about these pests?

  • Stink bugs dislike heat and migrate from south to north when temperatures rise.
  • However, longer growing seasons in the south allow them to reproduce more frequently. That means infestations are longer in warmer regions. If winter is mild, adult bugs will continue to be active.
  • Bugs are attracted to light. They will hover around outdoor lights and even more indoors during summer evenings.

How to Get Rid of Bugs on My Tomato Plants

Whether you have them in the garden or planted in containers on the porch, if the leaves on your tomato plants are mysteriously turning yellow or disappearing one by one, there is a good chance that you have a bug problem. Fortunately, there are ways to get rid of bugs on tomato plants, and once you know a few things to do, they are not that hard to vanquish.

Prune the leaves and stems of the tomato plants away from the ground. Use garden shears to remove lower branches and leaves. This will discourage bugs from climbing onto the tomato plants from the ground.

Remove larger bugs by hand. Many bugs such as hornworms, stink bugs or fruit worms can be taken from the plant by hand. Wear gloves for protection and drop troublesome bugs into a container of warm soapy water to dispose of them.

Spray with a soap and oil mixture. If removing bugs by hand is not for you, try spraying them with soapy water mixed with vegetable oil. Mix 2 tsp. mild dish soap with 1 tsp. vegetable oil (olive or canola) in a small spray bottle and top with water. Spray bugs until they are saturated with the mixture.

Plant trap crops. Keep bugs off of tomato plants by giving them a tastier food choice. Dill and borage are attractive to tomato pests, and once they have located these plants, they will be much easier for you to see and get rid of.

Sprinkle cornmeal around the base of the tomato plants for controlling hornworms. Although hornworms will readily eat cornmeal, their digestive systems cannot handle it and the cornmeal will kill them.

If you would rather live in harmony with nature, try using other plants near the tomato plants that may repel them instead. Onions, garlic, marigolds and basil are all known to repel some insects, but not all, so a combination of this and another method is usually the most effective option.

Although herbicides are very effective, they also kill beneficial insects and destroy tomato bugs’ natural predators. To prevent this from happening, attempt organic control first, before trying chemical methods.

Stink Bugs On Tomatoes: Learn About Leaf-Footed Bug Damage To Tomatoes

Stink bugs and leaf-footed bugs are closely related insects that feed on tomato plants and fruit. The damage to the foliage and stems is negligible, but the insects can ruin young fruit. Find out how to get rid of leaf footed bugs and stink bugs before they destroy your crop.

How Do Stink Bugs Damage Tomatoes?

The severity of leaf-footed bug damage to tomatoes depends on the size of the tomato when the insect attacks. When the bugs feed on tiny, new tomatoes, the tomato will likely never mature and develop. You may find that little tomatoes drop off the vine. When they feed on medium-sized tomatoes, they cause scars and depressions in the fruit. When the insects feed on large, nearly mature fruit, they cause minimal damage, and the fruit is often good enough to eat, though you may notice discoloration.

Stink bug damage to tomato plants may also be a concern. Although the damage on foliage and stems may look minimal, the insects can carry viruses that they spread to the plants. They also leave excrement on both foliage and fruit.

Stink bugs and leaf-footed bugs have long mouthparts they use to pierce tomato leaves, stems and fruit. The length of the structure depends on the size of the insect. After penetrating tomato plants and fruit, the insects suck out the juices. If they encounter seeds, they inject digestive enzymes to dissolve them.

The piercing mouthpart may carry a yeast infection that causes fruit discoloration. The likelihood of yeast infection increases during wet weather. The damage is only cosmetic, and it won’t make you sick if you eat it.

How to Get Rid of Leaf-Footed Bugs and Stink Bugs on Tomatoes

Keep the garden weed and debris free to eliminate hiding places and overwintering locations. Begin handpicking the insects early in the growing season. They are easy to pick off when they are young because they congregate in central locations. Look carefully under leaves and among fruit clusters. Knock them into a jar of soapy water or use a small, hand-held vacuum to remove them from the plants.

They have quite a few natural enemies, including birds, spiders and insects. The broad spectrum insecticides that kill the target insects also kill their natural enemies as well as bees and other pollinators. You can usually keep them under control by handpicking alone, but it you find that they continue to damage your crop, spray young nymphs with insecticidal soap or neem spray. These sprays won’t kill adults.

Pests on Tomato Plants – How to Control 3 Common Ones Naturally

As a tomato gardener, you will no doubt encounter a whole host of common garden pests. Creepy critters like cutworms, flea beetles, grasshoppers, spider mites, and root weevils are all too eager to feast on your beautiful, healthy plants.

Three of the most common pests on tomato plants you’ll want to guard against are aphids, stink bugs and tomato fruit worms. The damage these little buggers cause is varied, so it pays to know exactly what you are up against with each. So, let’s look at each one and discuss some organic solutions to get rid of them.

Pests on Tomato Plants


These tiny green or black insects can either be winged or wingless and like to hang out in clusters on the bottom side of tomato leaves or tomato stems. They suck moisture and nutrients out of your tomatoes, causing curled and yellowed leaves and stunted plants.

Stink Bugs

True to their name, stink bugs let off a very foul odor if threatened or squashed. Both nymphs and adults damage your tomatoes by sucking their sap and attacking the fruit. Young and adult stink bugs look the same with an easily recognized shield-shaped body. Adults can be black, brown or green, and either with or without markings.

Youths are basically just smaller versions of adult stink bugs. When they attack your tomatoes, your plants are weakened and young fruit may form improperly as a result. Yellow-white spots beneath the skin of ripened fruit are a common sign of stink bug damage to your crops.

Tomato Fruit Worms

Also known as the corn earworm, these pink, green or brown insects with light striping can grow to nearly 2 inches long. They are actually moth larvae that bore into tomato fruit to feed. Moths lay their eggs close to tomato stems with green fruit, and approximately one week later, you will have a tomato fruit worm problem.

How To Get Rid of Bugs on Tomato Plants Naturally

  1. Hand picking – throw on a pair of gardening gloves and fill a large can with warm, soapy water. Then simply pluck the little “darlings” off your plants and drop them into the can.
  2. Weeding – if you have planted your tomatoes directly into the ground, keep the areas around your plants free from weeds and other garden debris as this eliminates a favorite habitat and hiding place for many garden pests.
  3. Organic insecticidal soap – mix the soap with water to create a 2 to 3% solution and apply directly to common tomato pests for best results.
  4. Neem oil – this organic, plant-based oil is very effective against aphids, stink bugs and tomato fruit worms. You can find it in many garden centers or order it online. Apply according to package directions for best results.
  5. Beneficial insects – introduce beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, praying mantis, and lacewings (all available for order online) to your garden and let them do what they do best.


Garden pests on tomato plants are an inevitable fact of life for gardeners. However, with a little education and the right resources, you’ll be able to protect your hard work so you can relax and enjoy the fruits of your labors!

Becoming a vegetarian in 2012 meant I had to learn how to eat vegetables-not something customarily in my menu beyond lettuce & carrots. I also choose to live as simply as possible. Gardening is a natural part of this new path for me. Learn more about me here.

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Effective Measures to Control Stink Bugs on Tomatoes

Stink bugs on tomatoes require immediate control measures, as they cause damage to both young and ripe fruits. Here is a discussion about the remedies to get rid of these insects from your vegetable garden.

Stink bugs on tomatoes require immediate control measures, as they cause damage to both young and ripe fruits. Here is a discussion about the remedies to get rid of these insects from your vegetable garden.

Stink bugs are small insects that are destructive to garden plants, including tomatoes, sorghum, millets, wheat, and sunflower. As of date, more than 4,500 species of these insects have been identified by entomologists. One of the peculiarities of this insect is that it contains glands in the thoracic region. When frightened or in case of danger signs, these bugs release a foul-smelling substance from these glands to drive away the predators. Hence, the name stink bugs has been assigned to these flying insects.


Possessing a protective shield that covers the body, stink or shield bugs are very easy to identify. Before you get busy with controlling their infestation on the tomatoes, first check for the signs of infestation to confirm their presence. Search for these insects underneath the leaves, on stems, and on fruits. The plants that have been infested by these foul-smelling insects will exhibit various signs, like discoloration of green tomatoes and formation of whitish or yellowish marks underneath the skin of ripe tomatoes. If such symptoms are present, most probably your plants are under attack by stink bugs and you need to implement pest control methods to get rid of them.

Control Measures

Some types of stink bugs are grouped under major garden pests in North America and many other parts of the world. So, don’t be surprised if you come across these pests on tomato plants or other garden crops. They suck the plant sap and juices from fruits, thus affecting the quality of fruits. In order to save your garden from these destructive pests, act immediately without delay. Otherwise, infestation may spread to other plants in the vegetable garden, after which it will be very difficult to handle effectively.

  • Avoid Overcrowding:
    A good step for controlling stink bugs in garden is by identifying the factors that favor infestation and avoiding them. One such aspect is overcrowding of the plants, which leads to less exposure to sunlight. So, to reduce infestation of stink bugs on the tomatoes, trim weak branches and cross branching twigs. This, along with weed control, will increase air circulation and at the same time permit sunlight penetration.
  • Cultural Control:
    Another effective way of stink bug control is planting other crops near the tomato plants, which will help in luring these harmful pests away. Some best crops that distract these insects away from tomatoes are sorghum, millet, and sunflower. Most probably the bug will attack the trap plants and spare your tomatoes.
  • Manual Killing:
    No doubt stink bugs are small in size, but that does not mean that you can detect them. So, look for them properly and consider killing them. If you are allergic to their smell, wear protective hand gloves and use a pair of tweezers to remove them. Also, do not forget to inspect the underside of the leaves for eggs that are laid in groups.
  • Repelling Solution:
    Instead of using chemical-based pesticides, you can prepare homemade sprays from vegetable or essential oil. All you need to do is mix oil and water in the proportion 1:2. Fill this mixture in a spray bottle and apply on the infested plants. The strong-smelling oil repels insects from the leaves, stem, and fruits of tomato plants, thus helping in stink bugs control.
  • Homemade Sprays:
    Coming to effective ways of getting rid of stink bugs, spraying Kaolin mixed with water gives a protective coating to the plant’s parts. Another method is to prepare a nicotine solution to control these pests. Just remember to soak the tomatoes for some time in water and rinse properly before using for consumption purpose.

For gardeners, it is quite disheartening to notice stink bug infestation on tomato plants. Whenever possible, avoid using insecticides and proceed with natural approaches to control these pests. By doing so, you can still enjoy chemical-free, organic tomatoes from your garden.

How to Keep Bugs Away From Tomato Plants

Nearly everyone enjoys the plump crimson fruit of the tomato plant. But any number of bugs may plague your tomatoes, attacking both the fruit and the foliage. Spraying tomato plants with a chemical insecticide should be your last resort. With the right cultural practices and garden management, you can deter and repel bugs to protect your tomato harvest.

Keep your tomato plants healthy. A healthy, vigorous tomato plant is less susceptible to insect pests. Provide the thirsty tomatoes with sufficient water (4 to 6 quarts per day), amend the soil with aged compost and standard garden fertilizer (apply according to the fertilizer’s label, since potency varies by product) and harvest the tomato fruits as soon as they’re ready to avoid attracting hungry bugs.

Spray the tomato plant with a homemade insect repellent. Boil a couple of heads of garlic in a quart of water. Allow the water to cool, and pour it into a spray bottle. Add 2 tbsp. of liquid dish soap. Spray the solution on your tomato plants. The soapy spray suffocates and kills insects, while the strong-smelling soap residue repels both insect pests and wildlife pests like rabbits and deer, according to

Plant insect-repelling herbs around your tomato plant. Cornell University recommends strong-smelling vegetation such as parsley, onions, dill and chives. For example, basil shrubs planted near your tomato plants help to drive away the tomato hornworm, a common tomato pest. Many of these herbs also attract beneficial insects that attack insect pests.

Dust your tomato plants with food-grade diatomaceous earth. This all-natural powder doesn’t harm your tomatoes but kills many types of bugs. When dusted onto the plant’s foliage, the powder deters caterpillars and other insects that may otherwise be drawn to the leaves.

Treat your tomato plants with a standard garden insecticide product like insecticidal soap formulated with neem oil. Such products can be obtained from all garden stores and nurseries and can defend your tomatoes should your deterrence efforts not be sufficient to ward off a bug invasion.

How to Get Rid of Bugs on Your Tomato Plants

Growing and eating your own tomatoes is very rewarding but you have to be patient and put in an effort to get rid of bugs as soon as possible, to help ensure table-quality tomatoes.

Natural Pest Control

The best way to get rid of bug infestation on your tomato plants is to introduce lady bugs. Lady bugs are carnivores that eat aphids and bugs but will not harm your plants.

Home-made Insect Repellent for Tomato Plants

You can make your own bug spray by combining one tablespoon of canola oil, one quart of water and a few drops of liquid soap. Spray the solution on the leaves and underside of leaves where insects often hide. The oil will smother insects and you will have to reapply this solution after heavy rains.

Pest Control for Tomato Plants

If you don’t have patience with natural insect repellents and you can try one of these methods:

  • An insect trap – you can buy or make home-made insect traps, and stake them to your tomato plants.
  • An electric bug zapper will help control any bug infestation on your tomato plants by luring bugs into it and killing them with electricity.
  • A non-organic bug spray – although this should be your last resort.

5 Ways to Get Rid of Tomato Hornworms

For anyone that’s ever grown tomatoes, you’re probably familiar with the super disgusting, tomato loving hornworm! These rather big and green tomato worms can be a HUGE pest and will obliterate your delicious tomato plants in rapid fire! Thankfully, there IS hope: these 5 ways to get rid of tomato hornworms are easy to follow and will ensure that hornworms are no more and that they won’t return either!

How to Get Rid of Tomato Hornworms: 5 Ways

Hornworms are some of the biggest caterpillars you’ll probably see in your garden, and tomatoes isn’t ALL the eat. Tomato hornworms also love tobacco, potatoes, eggplants, some pepper plants, some night-shade family plants, and moonflowers.

#1. Organic Ways

If you’re looking to kill tomato hornworms without harming other beneficial insects, go the organic way! Consider using Monterey BT spray, or BT which is short for Bacillus thuringiensis var. Kurstaki, which is a naturally occurring bacteria that will poison all manner of caterpillars, including tomato hornworm, cabbage worms, cabbage loopers, cutworms, and many other types of larvae.

Another organic thing you can use is Garden Dust, which is a powdered form of the BT spray. Simply sprinkle the dust on the tomato plants, and it will work just as well as the spray!

Another option would be to use pyrethrin sprays. There are many variations of these sprays on the market, such as PyGanic, which work very well.

#2. Environmental Control

One of the best and most environmentally-friendly ways to get rid of tomato hornworms is to use the environment against them! These will usually be predatory wasps that will lay their eggs inside or on top of the hornworm, and once the larvae hatch, they will devour the hornworm.

Lacewings and ladybugs are also helpful and killing off hornworms, because they will eat the eggs of the hornworms, although you’ll still have to pick off any grown hornworms.

Companion planting is also a great way to ward off hornworms. Planting basil near your tomatoes will improve their flavor but also keep hornworms away. Planting marigolds will attract predatory wasps, which will then kill off the hornworms.

#3. Preventing Hornworms

One of the best ways to get rid of hornworms, is to prevent them from being there in the first place. To do that, use floating row covers over your plants.

Tilling your garden at the end of the harvest season can also help reduce hornworm population.

So now that you know how to get rid of tomato hornworms, it’s time to start planting tomatoes!

8 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Aphids

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It’s easy to get rid of aphids without using dangerous chemicals that might hurt your plants, pets, or kids. Here are the 8 best natural ways to get rid of aphids.

Imagine, if you will: it’s a beautiful summer day, and you mosey out to the garden after work. It looks wonderful from afar–watermelon, zucchini, tomatoes–everything is growing well and you’re looking forward to a great harvest.

Then you get a closer look and gasp in horror. Your precious, precious vegetables, that you’ve loved, cared for, and nurtured since they were seedlings, are covered with teeny bugs of evil–APHIDS.

What are aphids?

Aphids are very small bugs that feed on plant juices. They can be white, brown, gray, or light green.

You’ll know you have aphids when you see them on your plants, see misshapen or curled leaves, or if the leaves are covered with a sticky substance. This is politely called honeydew, but it’s actually aphid poop. The honeydew can attract ants, who gather it for food (eeeeew).

Why are aphids bad?

Aphids are bad for the garden because all of those little critters will bite your plants into oblivion. It truly is death by a thousand cuts. Your flowers or vegetables can be deformed or killed by an aphid infestation. Aphids can also transmit disease viruses between plants.

Grrrr. So what’s a gardener to do?

A few aphids are not a disaster. They only become a problem when allowed to breed unchecked–then they weaken the plant so much that it can’t recover.

How do I get rid of aphids?

Unfortunately, I have a lot of experience battling aphids in the garden. But I have good news–it’s easy to get rid of aphids without using dangerous chemicals that might hurt your plants, pets, or kids.

Here are the 8 best natural ways to get rid of aphids and save all your delicious veggies and beautiful flowers.


In the morning, spray the underside of the affected leaves with a blast of water from the hose. A sprayer nozzle can help with this. The spray of water will dislodge them from the plant, and they’ll fall to an untimely demise in the dirt.

You want to spray in the morning to allow the leaves to dry in the sun. It won’t do you any good to wash off the aphids and then have the plant develop fungus from being wet at night.

Dish Soap

Put ВЅ teaspoon dish soap into a 32 oz spray bottle with water. Spray the affected areas and rinse off. This is a good tactic if the aphids are on a single plant (I use this on my rose bush).


Buy and release ladybugs. Yes, you really can buy ladybugs for your garden! Ladybugs love to eat aphids, the kids will have a blast releasing them, and the ladybugs will be thrilled at having an all-you-can-eat aphid buffet.

More Gardening Tips You’ll Love

Garlic Spray

Garlic spray is a great natural insecticide because it doesn’t kill the good bugs. It doesn’t kill any bugs, actually (surprise!). It just makes your plants so stinky that the bad bugs don’t want to hang out or lay eggs there.

To make garlic insecticide spray, crush a full head of garlic and steep in 2 cups hot water overnight. Strain out the garlic pieces and put them in your compost. Put the garlic water in a glass or plastic spray bottle along with 1 Tablespoon of dish soap and 1 Tablespoon hot pepper. Label and store in the fridge so it doesn’t spoil. Spray the tops and undersides of the leaves.

Neem Oil

Neem oil is made from the azadirachta indica tree, and is used in soaps and organic cosmetics. It’s insecticidal and antifungal, and is very safe if applied properly. It’s most often used as a soil drench, and is absorbed by the plant through the soil.

Neem oil will keep the aphids from feeding, prevents larvae from maturing, and/or suffocates the aphids on the plant. Pretty thorough, yes?

Insecticidal Soap

This is a safe, inexpensive, virtually nontoxic way to control aphids, and it can be used right up until harvest. Insecticidal soap suffocates the aphids, and as an extra bonus will help wash off the honeydew that the aphids excrete.

Don’t use straight dish soap or laundry soap! These are far too harsh and will burn or kill your plants. You’ll dilute the insecticidal soap according to label directions, and spray the tops and undersides of the leaves. You may have to repeat in 5-7 days until the aphids are completely eliminated.


Encourage bug-eating birds to visit your garden. Wrens, chickadees, and titmice all love to eat bugs. Lay out the welcome mat with some shrubs or a birdhouse to nest in, a nice birdfeeder, and maybe a birdbath (I’m secretly in love with this solar-powered birdbath).

Companion/Distraction Planting

These are two different methods of planting that will help save your veggies. You can use one or both!

Distraction planting is planting flowers that the aphids like in a different part of the garden. They’ll be attracted to those instead of destroying your vegetables. Zinnias, dahlias, and cosmos are great for this.

Just as the bugs don’t like the garlic spray, they don’t like garlic plants. Plant garlic or members of the onion family (bulb onions, spring onions, chives, etc) in a little “fort” around your most delicate plants. This is known as companion planting, and you can learn lots more about it in the book Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening.

I sincerely hope you don’t have any aphids in your garden this year…but if you find some, now you’re ready to eliminate them naturally.

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