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I found this insect that looks like a praying mantis on my plant which was infested with aphids. I sprayed neem oil and most aphids died, even one of these praying mantises did. But here in this picture is one and I want to know if it is going to eat the aphids so I can stop spraying neem and killing every bug in the process.
The insect is around 2 centimeters long.
This is in a hot and humid area in the middle east. The plant, I guess, is from the jasmime family. It produces small scented roses (hasn't flowered yet due to the aphids problem).
Based on the head morphology and the upper limb visible on the first picture, I would say it looks like a mantis. The length of the abdomen also confirms the same.
The internet is also full of several non-scientific sources that seem to confirm they eat aphids. Animals will normally learn to avoid bitterness in food as it's a sign of toxicity. I haven't found a lot of information about how bitter are aphids, however mantis are sit-and-wait predators, so they will try most things that crawl their way. Judging by the following pictures (and the article linked at the end), I would say it's very likely:
Indeed, catching every prey would be a beneficial strategy because of uncertainty in encountering another prey due to a sit-and-wait strategy. By holding prey with its forelegs and gradually eating the prey by chipping away at it, the mantis has enough time to find edible parts of prey and reject unpalatable parts/prey (Reitze and Nentwig 1991).
Are Aphids on Milkweed Really a Bad Thing?
During this time of the season, many of us are closely monitoring milkweed in our yards and on our property for monarch caterpillars. However, it is not uncommon to notice large populations of small yellow insects covering the leaves and stems of the milkweed plants. This year, we’ve noticed large populations of aphids on swamp milkweed plants and we’ve identified them as the oleander aphid (Aphis nerii), which is sometimes referred to as the milkweed aphid (Figure 1). However, these are not a native species and were introduced into the U.S. on oleander.
Oleander aphids are bright yellow with black legs, antennae, and cornicles (tail pipes) (Figure 2). They commonly infest oleander, common milkweed, swamp milkweed and butterfly weed. Like other species of aphids, their populations can explode in a short amount of time. When large populations are present, the plants will appear shiny due to the excretion of honeydew, which can also promote the growth of sooty mold.
Unlike most other species of aphids, oleander aphids are sometimes left alone by predators. This is due to the oleander aphids sequestering the cardenolide toxins from the milkweed, which are toxic to predators. This in turn prevents predators from effectively feeding on their populations.
While these aphids are easy to spot because of their bright color, smaller numbers of them can be found by following ants as they move around the plant. Ants will tend these aphids and collect their honeydew as a food source.
So, what can be done to limit oleander aphids on milkweed? First and foremost, we do not recommend using foliar insecticides. The purpose of milkweed is to encourage monarchs to lay eggs and allow monarch caterpillars to develop. Spraying the plants would be detrimental to the caterpillars. Instead, water the plants to ensure that they are able to tolerate the aphid feeding. Also, it is important to not fertilize the milkweed plants. Aphids reproduce more quickly on plants that have high nitrogen concentrations.
If the populations become too dense, use your fingers to squish the aphids. You might want to wear gloves when doing this, as it will be a sticky mess. We don’t recommend using high pressure water to remove the aphids as this could also remove any monarch caterpillars that are present on the plant.
Tomato Insect IPM Guidelines
Fresh market tomato acreage has been gradually increasing in Kentucky during the past few years. Growing a new crop often means dealing with a different pest complex. Fortunately, insect problems on tomatoes in Kentucky are light to moderate when compared with that in other production areas. This publication provides information on the biology, identification and integrated pest management (IPM) guidelines of tomato pests. Specific information on insecticides is available from ID-36, Commercial Vegetable Crops Recommendations.
EARLY SEASON PESTS
As soon as the plants are set, they are vulnerable to attack by two species of flea beetles, the tobacco and potato flea beetles. The potato flea beetle is about 1/10 inch and brownish black in color. The tobacco flea beetle is about the same size, but is yellowish brown with a dark band across its wings.
Figure 1. Flea beetle damage to tomato seedling.
These beetles infest solanaceous crops such as tobacco, potato, tomato, and pepper. Flea beetles attack the foliage leaving small round holes in the leaves large numbers may destroy entire leaves. Potentially they can be serious pests early in the season when the plants are less than 4 to 6 inches tall. As they grow, larger plants can withstand substantial flea beetle damage without loss of yield.
In the early spring, winged aphids migrate into tomato fields from wild hosts and begin to establish colonies on the plants. Two species of aphids are common on tomatoes, the potato and green peach aphids.
Figure 2. Potato aphid is a common aphid pest of tomato.
Although similar in size, about 1/8 inch, these aphids vary in appearance. The potato aphid is pear-shaped and may be solid pink, green and pink mottled, or light green with a dark stripe. It has a long slender pair of tail-like appendages (cornicles). The green peach aphid is pear shaped and pale yellow to green in color. The cornicles are much shorter on this species.
Aphids remove sap from the plant with their piercing-sucking mouthparts. Tomato plants can tolerate large numbers of aphids without suffering yield loss. However, severe infestations can cause leaves to curl and may stunt plants. Decreased leaf area can increase sun scald to the fruit. Aphids are also vectors of certain plant viruses. However, there are many predators and parasitoids that can aid in controlling aphid populations. These include lady beetles, syrphid fly larvae, damsel bugs, and tiny wasps.
Colorado Potato Beetle
Colorado potato beetle is an infrequent pest of newly set tomato plants. The half inch, convex beetle is yellowish black with 10 black stripes on its wings.
Figure 3. Adult Colorado potato beetle.
Adults that have overwintered in the soil emerge and migrate into tomato fields and frequently begin their feeding on field margins. The adult and larva feed on the leaves and terminal growth of tomato plants, but typically only cause serious damage to young plants. Once plants reach eight inches, adult or larval feeding, regardless of the apparent severity of damage, does not reduce fruit yield.
INSECT PESTS DURING FRUIT SET TO HARVEST
Tomato fruitworm is potentially the most damaging insect pest of tomato. The larvae are variable in color, ranging from pale yellow, to red, to green, to brown with pale stripes running lengthwise. The larvae have four pairs of prolegs and are densely covered with microscopic spines that makes the larvae feel rough.
The moths lay eggs at night on leaves near green fruit at the outer edges of the plant. The dome-shaped eggs are white when first laid and develop a reddish brown band before hatching. After the egg hatches, the larva feed for a short period of time on the foliage before attacking the fruit. They prefer to feed on green fruit and usually do not enter ripe fruit. Damage consists of deep watery cavities frequently in the stem end of the fruit. During its development, one larva may injure several fruit.
Figure 4. Tomato fruitworm is also known as the corn earworm.
The tomato fruitworm has a wide host range and the attractiveness of tomatoes for egg laying vary with the time of year. Early fruitworm generations attack corn, particularly when it is silking. But tomatoes are preferred for egg laying over corn when the silks turn brown and dry.
Stink bugs have a distinctive shield shape and produce an odor when handled. There are several species of stink bugs that feed on tomato fruit, but the brown stink bug is the most serious. Stink bugs feed with piercing-sucking mouthparts which cause whitish-yellow corky spots underneath the skin of the fruit. This damage is serious for fresh market tomatoes and whole pack processing tomatoes because they render the fruit unmarketable.
Figure 5. Adult brown stink bug.
Adult stink bugs migrate from weedy areas into tomato fields, particularly when the plants begin to decline. On green fruit, stink bug damage appears as a pin prick, surrounded by a light discolored area. This may turn yellow or remain green on ripe fruit and the tissue below these spots is corky.
Figure 6. Stink bug damage to tomatoes appears as off-color patches under the skin.
Cabbage looper can be common in tomato fields in Kentucky, but they rarely cause serious damage as they are foliage feeders rather than attacking the fruit. Because it does not feed in the fruit, it is only an indirect pest and relatively higher numbers can be tolerated.
Figure 7. Cabbage looper. Its name comes from the looping-motion as it crawls.
The cabbage looper larva is pale green with two pairs of prolegs in addition to the anal prolegs. They body is narrower at the head and widens toward the tail.
When large populations are present they can lower yields by reducing plant vigor and increasing sun scald of fruit through foliage loss. Typically, insecticides used to control tomato fruitworm keep cabbage looper under control.
Groups of 10 plants should be randomly selected at each of a minimum of 4 locations per field. An additional 10 plant sample should be added for each 3-acre increase in field size over 5 acres. It is not necessary to sample more than 10 locations regardless of field size. Samples should be evenly distributed throughout the field so that plants near the edges and middle of the field are examined.
CAUTION! Pesticide recommendations in this publication are registered for use in Kentucky, USA ONLY! The use of some products may not be legal in your state or country. Please check with your local county agent or regulatory official before using any pesticide mentioned in this publication.
Of course, ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS FOR SAFE USE OF ANY PESTICIDE!
Biology Teaching Resources. Aphids
The aphids are probably best known as "greenfly" on roses or "blackfly" on broad beans. They belong to a group of insects known as "bugs" or Hemiptera, the mouth parts of which are modified to form piercing and sucking tubes, the insects obtaining their food by sucking plant juices or the blood of other animals. Water boatmen, for example, are Hemipterans which prey on other pond creatures the frog-hoppers and "cuckoo-spit" insects draw fluids from plants. This group of insects has an incomplete metamorphosis, there being no pupal stage but a series of moults in which the nymph gradually becomes a mature adult.
There are over 400 species and varieties of aphids but the account given below applies in general to those commonly encountered as garden and orchard pests.
Life history. In October the females lay eggs usually on the stems of trees or shrubs. The eggs are black, with thick shells and can withstand extremes of temperature. It is in the egg form only that aphids pass the winter. In March the eggs hatch out into wingless female nymphs which are similar to the adults, with three pairs of legs, compound eyes, antennae, etc. There is no larval or pupal stage comparable to those of the butterfly, but with successive moults and continuous growth the nymphs become mature females. No males are hatched at all.
The female nymphs feed on the shoots and leaves of the tree on which they hatch, at the time when the buds are sprouting. After a series of ecdyses (moults) they become mature and give birth to daughter aphids without any fertilization. This kind of reproduction is called parthenogenesis. The daughters, moreover, are not produced from eggs but are born alive as nymphs though they are surrounded at first by a transparent capsule like an egg membrane.
The daughters grow quickly and themselves have offspring by parthenogenesis. Some of these develop wings which grow larger at each ecdysis. These winged daughters fly off to an herbaceous plant such as a rose tree or bean plant. The winged forms have two pairs of wings of which the hind pair are quite small. Both pairs are transparent with few veins. The aphids are not strong fliers but tend to be carried by chance air currents rather than make direct flights. Spruce aphids were once found in Spitsbergen, and are thought to have been carried in the upper air some 800 miles across the sea from Russia where the nearest spruce trees grow.
When the winged generation reach the new food plant they give birth to wingless daughters parthenogenetically. In warm weather these may mature in 8 to 10 days and begin to reproduce in the same way by bearing winged daughters which fly off and infest new plants. This process of parthenogenesis goes on all through the summer months, winged and wingless generations more or less alternating. Enormous numbers of aphids are produced in this way, though a great many are killed by birds, ladybirds and their larvae, lace-wing larvae, and cold weather.
In October the first males appear. They have wings, and fly to a tree. Winged females fly to the same tree and there give birth to wingless daughters. The males mate with these when mature, and the wingless females subsequently lay eggs on the twigs of the tree. The eggs remain dormant until the following spring when the tree buds begin to sprout.
Feeding habits. Nymphs and adults feed in the same way. Their mouth parts consist of a slender tube with two sharp stylets running down each side. All these are enclosed in the sheath-like labium and are held horizontally below the thorax when not in use. During feeding the labium is bent and shortened as the stylets and central tube are pushed through the epidermis of the leaf or stem until they reach the sieve tubes of the phloem in a vascular bundle. Saliva is injected through the puncture to begin the digestion of the sap and cytoplasm, and the fluids are then pumped up by muscular movements of the gullet into the alimentary canal. The fluid pressure existing in most plant cells probably assists the flow of liquid through the aphid's mouth parts. Most aphids seem to take in from the plant sap more sugar than they can assimilate, so that their faeces consist of a sweet syrup, honey dew, that is passed out of the anus. Some species of ant like to feed on this exudation and may be seen clambering over the colonies of aphids on nettles and other plants to collect it. Other species of ants &lsquofarm&rsquo aphids by keeping them in the nest below ground where they suck fluids from roots, the ants then collecting the honey dew as it is egested.
Damage and control. A large number of aphids on the growing shoots of a plant can cause damage, partly by the excessive removal of food that would otherwise pass to the growing leaves, partly by the digestive action of the saliva injected and also by introducing virus diseases from one plant to another, particularly in the potato, sugar beet and sugar cane. Young leaves attacked by aphids usually curl up and wither and the growth of the entire shoot may be arrested.
Aphids can be destroyed by spraying them with solutions or suspensions containing insecticides which kill them on contact. Covering the leaves with poisons is useless because the aphid draws its food from below the surface. For this reason systemic insecticides are often used. These are absorbed into the plant tissues so that the aphids are poisoned when they ingest the plant juices. Once the leaves have curled up under a heavy aphid attack it is difficult to reach the insects with sprays. A less direct method of control in winter is to spray the trees in the garden or orchard where the autumn eggs have been laid. Poisons dissolved in water run off the thick shell, so solvents such as paraffin, and liquids such as tar oil, are used, these penetrating the shell and destroying the egg. This must be done before the foliage develops, otherwise the sprays will damage the leaves.
Larval and adult ladybirds eat a great many aphids, and an ichneumon parasite causes many deaths by laying its eggs in the bodies of the aphids. These predators, parasites and spells of cold weather help keep down the numbers of aphids.
For illustrations to accompany this article see Insect Life-Cycles
12 Bugs That Eat Leaves
Since you rarely see the pest that is eating your plants, you often have to decide upon a treatment by observing the damage done. Here are the most common culprits who are eating your leaves and what you can do about it.
- 1. Leafminers are larvae of flies, sawflies, and beetles that feed on leaves and causes discolored blotches or wiggly lines. Leafminers particular like columbine, mums, citrus trees and tomatoes. The damage is usually relatively harmless to the plant but if it does get out of control spray neem oil, like our Safer® Brand Neem Oil RTUspray, on the top and bottom of leaves to protect them.
- 2. Box suckers are wingless nymphs of the box psyllids often found inside ball shaped shoot tips in spring. To control the damage, cut off the shoot tips you find suckers and discard. The damage caused by box suckers looks like tiny holes poked into leaves. Aphids, squash bugs and spider mites are all sucking insects that cause this type of damage. Red spider mite damage will show yellow mottling on leaves. Gall mites will often cause raised pimples or clumps of matted hairs on leaves. Sucking insects are mostly harmless but you can keep them away by using insecticidal soap, like our Safer® Brand Insect Killing Soap .
- 3. Scale insects cause tiny blister or shell-like bumps on leaf backs, sticky excretions, and sooty mold on plant leaves. The damage caused by scale insects could stunt growth so be sure to wash leaves off and spray with horticultural oil or neem oil.
- 4. Thrips are tiny black flies that suck sap from leaves, which causes white patches to appear on leaves and petals of mostly indoor plants. Get rid of thrips with diatomaceous earth (DE) or insecticidal soap. 5. Vine weevil larvae are cream-colored grubs with brown heads that feed on plant roots which causes plants to suddenly collapse. Adult vine weevils are flightless nocturnal black beetles that can make notches in leaves. To kill the larvae, use nematodes and, to kill adult vine weevils, use our Safer® Brand Diatomaceous Earth (D.E).
- 6. Caterpillars are probably what comes to mind for most people when you first see holes in your plant&rsquos leaves. For the majority of caterpillars, you can take the time to rub off the eggs you find on the plant and pick off caterpillars. It&rsquos best to go inspect your plants early in the morning, which is when you will most likely find them chewing away. You can also apply sticky traps to capture adult moths before they can lay their eggs on your trees and plants. There are several different kinds of caterpillars that might be causing the damage. Cabbage white caterpillars love to eat brassicas and nasturtiums. Tomato hornworms are the caterpillars who often damage fruits. To get rid of caterpillars, spray your plants Safer® Brand Caterpillar Killer . Caterpillars will leave black excrement dots called &ldquofrass&rdquo on leaves. Since earwigs can cause similar looking bite patterns in leaves as caterpillars, finding frass is a good way to tell if it is caterpillars that are damaging your plants.
- 7. Earwigs are usually more beneficial than harmful since they eat insect eggs and adult aphids. However, they do like their fair share of soft fruits and new plant growth. Sometimes, older leaves tend to be chewed around the edges and look ragged when earwigs are involved. Use a pot filled with hay to attract earwigs and then release elsewhere. If you&rsquore determined to kill the earwigs invading your home, sprinkle diatomaceous earth around and on plants with bite marks.
- 8. Sawfly larvae are caterpillar-like white larvae that eat leaves on plants like roses, gooseberries and Solomon&rsquos seal. Leaf rolling is a sign of sawflies. They lay their eggs on plants and their larvae eat the leaves, they make holes that still have some plant tissue intact so the damage looks transparent. It may eventually break down and leave holes. Use insecticidal soap or horticultural oil to protect your plants from sawfly larvae. You can also pick caterpillars off plants or spray with pyrethrum, like our Safer® Brand Insecticidal Soap and Pyrethrin Insect Killer.
- 9.Viburnum beetles, both the adult and larvae, eat leaves, which can slow your plant&rsquos growth and looks ugly. To get rid of viburnum beetles and larvae, throw out twigs in late summer that have viburnum beetles&rsquo eggs on them or release lady bugs in the spring to capture the larvae. 10. Japanese beetles feed on flowers and the tissue between leaf veins. Their larvae often causes brown patches in grass. To get rid of Japanese beetles, spray your plants and grass area with neem oil and set up these our Japanese Beetle Kit to capture the adults.
- 11. Slugs and snails like areas that are moist and shady and eat irregular-shaped holes in the leaf (but not along the edges). To see of snails and slugs are your plant-eating culprits, come out at night with a flashlight and look under leaves. Pour beer in a used, open tuna tin or plate to attract slugs and snails away from plants and into the beer. Slugs and snails often leave shiny trail on leaves and the holes are larger than a pencil eraser but smaller than a quarter. Slugs will also eat ripening fruit touching the ground. If you have a bad infestation, use Dr. T&rsquos Slug and Snail Killer for quick results that won&rsquot harm other beneficial insects.
- 12. Cucumber beetles can destroy an ornamental overnight. Cucumber beetles will leave tiny transparent circles on plant leaves. Take immediate action to control these plant bugs with diatomaceous earth or use row covers to protect plants before cucumber beetles become a problem.
Don&rsquot think your plants are being eaten by any of these bugs? Animals can often eat your plants too so watch out for possums, rats, deer and rabbits around your garden.
How to Treat Your Garden for an Aphid Infestation
You’ve prepared your garden as best as you could. It was cleaned out during the fall to prevent bugs and eggs from overwintering, you’ve companion planted, added beneficial bugs, and sprayed prior to the growing season.
Still, aphids found their way into your garden. Don’t panic because there are still methods to manage aphids once they’ve moved in:
1. Spot Them Early
Defeating aphids in your garden will depend a great deal on when you spot them. If you catch them when there are fewer, you have a greater chance of getting things under control.
However, if you let them multiply, you’ll have a much larger fight on your hands. Catching them early is the first step in making progress.
2. Look at the Age of the Plant
If you have aphids on your younger plants, you must jump into action quickly. Aphids suck the juice from inside your plants.
The older the plant, the stronger it is and more established. This makes them able to withstand more. Younger plants can be killed easier by aphid activity.
3. Give Them a Cold Shower
My favorite way to defeat aphids is to take out my aggression on them. When I’m watering my garden, and I see them on my plants, I use my water hose to defend my garden.
A hard spray of cold water on the plants should be enough to dislodge the aphids from the plant. Chances are, the aphids won’t return to the same plant.
4. Add a Little Flour
When water fails, flour is your next best option. If you have a large infestation of aphids, this may be your best bet as well.
Sprinkle flour all over your crops. The flour will suffocate the aphids and as a result, they’ll die. Flour is an inexpensive way to protect your garden from the pest which has set out to destroy it.
5. Oils and Soaps Can Help
If you’d like to purchase an option to protect your garden from aphids, consider buying the following:
6. A Little Dishwater
If the cold water didn’t blast all the aphids away, consider coming back with a little dishwater to get the job done.
You can mix water with dish soap and spray your plants. It won’t hurt your plants or their fruits, but it will cause the aphids to dislodge themselves from the plants.
7. Diatomaceous Earth
You can sprinkle diatomaceous earth all over your crops. This is another natural option to defeat aphids in your garden.
Be sure to only use DE when your plants aren’t blooming because the DE can also kill bees which are pollinating your plants.
8. Get Rid of Ants
Ants and aphids have a symbiotic relationship. The aphids leave a honeydew substance on the plants from where they suck their juice.
The ants thrive off of this substance and will protect the aphids since they recognize them as a means for their survival. Ants will bring aphids into their nests at night to protect them from other enemies.
Therefore, if you get rid of ants, aphids lose their ‘bodyguards.’ Get rid of ants by sprinkling artificial sweetener, cinnamon, or cayenne pepper around your garden.
Artificial sweeteners are toxic to ants, and the spices apparently turn the ants off from the area.
You can also sprinkle diatomaceous earth around your plants. This will slice through the ants and kill them off.
Aphids are interesting creatures which can wreak havoc on your garden if allowed to flourish. Instead, they must be closely monitored and dealt with immediately.
By recognizing aphids, understanding how they feed on your plants, how to stay ahead of them, or rid your garden once they’ve moved in, it could save your gardening efforts.
Hopefully, this information will help you have a beautiful and thriving garden this year and for years to come.
How to Prevent Aphids from Feeding on Your Plants
It’s impossible to keep aphids at bay or out of your garden for good. If this were to be achieved, you’d have to keep all your plants under protective covers. Tackling aphids require consistent effort. It’s not something you pick up today and drop like hot potatoes tomorrow. It’s important to work at it.
If you do own an organic garden and wish to explore options, consider learning about organic aphid control interventions that can benefit your garden.
Are you looking for more ways to deal with aphids in your garden? Have you ever tried a garlic aphid spray ? Research shows that garlic extract repels aphids from your garden, and at the same time attracts predatory insects of aphids like lady beetles and lacewings.
How Do Aphids Spread?
Aphids have the ability to travel great distances. Most species do not have wings, but are light enough to get carried by the wind. This is usually done by riding on the winds.
Aphids can also travel by produce that is being transported on trucks from farm to farm, and which has been inadequately treated.
There are a few aphid species that produce winged offspring. These are called alates. They can fly to other parts of the city to find food.
Even if you had a healthy garden last year, there are no guarantees that it will be aphid-free this year. It’s important to be wary, especially if you’ve had a particularly windy spring, or you have installed a lot of new plants in your garden.
What Kinds of Plants Do Aphids Eat?
Aphids not only harm gardens, but fruits, vegetables, flowers, herbs, and decorative plants. They can also get inside, ruining your planters, containers, and boxes.
There is one type that loves to gobble up lettuce that is grown in Australia and New Zealand. You can imagine the frustration of farmers who are trying to grow produce for their families and businesses. Produce cannot be sold when full of holes or torn to shreds by bugs.
Do I Need to Do Anything for My Plants?
While many people are squeamish when there are bugs in their garden, there are many types that love to eat aphids. Don’t kill spiders just because you see them, as they love to eat aphids. So do ladybugs, which are beneficial for your garden for many different reasons.
Many people may feel that bugs are a natural part of a garden, but aphids can quickly take over the garden, despite the best efforts of other bugs that enjoy eating them.
Your garden can become unsightly when you have torn plants and flowers, plus, looking at small clusters of dark bugs running over leaves and petals is unpleasant.
If you live in a temperate zone of the world, aphids may be more of a problem, though they can live in almost any type of climate. Many times you may think you have rid your garden of aphids, but they seem to come back in the heat of summer.
It takes time to tend to a garden so you don’t want it eaten up before you’ve really had a chance to enjoy it for the current season.
It’s important to immediately apply an aphid spray if you see any on your plants. The spray will not only kill living ones, but also help to control any others who may hatch in the upcoming week.
You’re also being a good neighbour when you quickly treat any aphid infestation. This will prevent the aphids from travelling into your neighbour’s gardens to wreck them too.
You may wish to let your neighbours know about your aphid infestation so they can take preventative measures too. If you see aphids on city-owned trees and bushes, give City Hall a call to report them.
Beneficial Insects for the Garden
There are a number of beneficial insects for the garden. In addition to common pollinating insects like bees and butterflies, many other bugs can be helpful. The following ‘good bugs’ should also be encouraged to your garden:
Parasitic wasps may be tiny, but their presence is of great importance. These beneficial insects lay their eggs in the bodies of numerous pests, feeding off of them and eventually killing them. Some of their victims include:
You can welcome these parasitic friends into the garden with plants such as dill, yarrow, white clover, and wild carrot.
Centipedes & Millipedes
You may be surprised to learn that the good deeds of both the centipede and millipede far outweigh the bad. Centipedes wipe put all sorts of soil-dwelling pests, such as slugs, while millipedes help break down organic matter.
Assassin bugs do just as their name implies. These insects are a natural part of the garden and help suppress harmful bug populations by feeding on flies, harmful beetles, mosquitoes, and caterpillars.
Aphids, a common nuisance in the garden, are extremely destructive to plants. They not only suck out the sap but spread disease as well. However, there are a number of good bugs that will take advantage of their presence by devouring the harmful pests. The aphid midge is just one of them.
If you plant some flowering weeds, such as wild carrot and yarrow, between your garden crops, you are sure to attract another helpful insect. The adult hover fly may not do much but just one of its larvae will do the trick, devouring approximately 400 aphids during its development.
Green lacewing larvae also feed on aphids as well as the following pests:
These insects can be encouraged into the garden by providing water sources and flowering weeds.
Another aphid-eating insect is the kindly ladybug. Soft-bodied insects, as well as their eggs, are also a favorite of ladybugs. These attractive insects are tempted into the garden with flowering weeds and herbs that include dandelions, wild carrots, yarrow, dill, and angelica.
Pirate bugs attack many bad insects and are especially fond of thrips, spider mites, and small caterpillars. Plant some goldenrod, daisies, alfalfa, and yarrow to charm their presence.
The praying mantis is a popular garden friend. This insect will feed on virtually any type of bug including crickets, beetles, caterpillars, aphids, and leafhoppers.
Although most beetles are harmful to plants in the garden, ground beetles are not. They feed on cutworms, caterpillars, snails, slugs, and other soil-dwelling insects. Incorporating white clover into the garden entices this good bug.
Commonly taking shelter beneath stone or wooden walkways are valuable decomposers called rove beetles. Besides feeding on organic matter, they also eat harmful insects such as snails, slugs, aphids, mites, and nematodes.
The soldier beetle can be enticed into the garden by mixed planting s of hydrangeas, goldenrod, and milkweed where it will feed on caterpillars, aphids, and grasshopper eggs.
How Aphids Damage Plants
Aphid infestations tend to develop quickly, and the insects are highly mobile: they rapidly travel from one plant to another. In the outdoor garden, aphid colonies are often tended by ants, which feed on aphid honeydew— a sugary liquid that is secreted by aphids as they feed on sap. Indoors, aphids spread between plants by flying or crawling.
Aphids cause damage by sucking sap from new growth on plants. They tend to cluster at the growth end of plants and attach themselves to the soft, green stems. As a result, the new foliage may look crinkled or stunted, with the aphids usually plainly visible around the stem. If the infestation is bad enough, the plant will begin to drop leaves. Finally, like mealy bugs, the honeydew secreted by aphids can encourage the growth of sooty mold and fungus.
Insect Pests of Tomato
There are many pests of tomato plants – these are some of the most common.
Common tomato pests, and pests of just about everything else (at least in my garden), are aphids. Aphids populate new stems and the undersides of leaves leaving sticky honeydew in their wake. They suck the nutrient rich sap from the plant. The honeydew attracts other pesky insects.
A strong stream of water can wash them off but it might damage the tomato. You can also spray with an insecticidal soap or garlic oil spray to reduce the population or encourage natural predators, such as lacewings or ladybugs, who will only gladly help reduce their numbers.
Blister beetles also like to dine on your tomatoes and if there are many of them, can defoliate a plant. These medium sized black, red, gray, or striped beetles eat grasshopper eggs, which can be a good thing, but their rampant appetite for the tomato foliage is less desirable.
Handpick these pests from the plant and drop them into a bucket of soapy water.
Another tomato plant insect pest is a smooth underground operator. The cutworm is a one inch (2.5 cm.) caterpillar that curls into a C-shape under the soil that can eviscerate young plants at the surface.
Use a collar made of paper cups with the bottoms cut out or a 2-inch (5 cm.) portion of a toilet paper tube pushed down around the base and just under the soil surrounding the roots of the plant. This can keep the worms from gnawing at the tomato. Shallow tin cans, like tuna fish cans, with the bottoms removed will work the same way. Blood meal scattered around the plant will also repel cutworms. Also, dig up the garden in the early spring to expose the rascals and kill them off by freezing or starving them.
Flea beetles are yet another insect pest of tomato plants. These tiny metallic, dark brown beetles eat holes in the leaves, which will eventually stunt or even kill young plants.
Remove weeds around the plants where the beetles nest and spray the tomatoes with an insecticidal soap. Basil planted nearby is also said to repel them.
Leafhoppers also like to munch on your tomatoes. These wedge shaped, pale green hopping insects feed on the sap and cause the leaves to curl, but that isn’t the real problem. Leafhoppers transmit pathogens that can cause devastating plant diseases.
As with aphids, a strong blast of water can remove them or spray with an insecticidal soap or organic pesticide or dust with sulfur. Also, try covering the plants with a floating row cover.
Tomato spider mites are tiny insects that produce webbing that makes the plant look as if it is covered in white mold. Their favorite areas are leaf tips and blossom buds, but they feed on the sap of the leaves as well.
Keep the tomato plant consistently watered, which reduces the incidence of these mites, and avoid nitrogen fertilizer. Use predator mites to aid in controlling the pest mites. Wash the plant with mild soap and rinse well to remove some of the mites and prune out heavily infested areas.
Nematodes are microscopic worms that cause odd swelling on roots, yellow foliage, wilting, and stunting in plants. They are easily spread on your garden tools and boots.
The key to treating these pests on tomatoes is sanitation. Sterilize your tools, boots and gloves. Clean potentially contaminated pots with a 10% bleach/water solution. Remove and destroy all infected plants.
Remove as much of the infected surrounding soil as possible. To treat the soil, plant marigolds and then when they are done flowering, dig them under. The chemicals that are released are abhorrent to nematodes. Also, only plant nematode resistant tomatoes, which will have an “N” listed under the plant name.
Slugs and snails
Slugs and snails are ever present in my neck of the woods. They will eat both foliage and fruit near the soil surface.
Handpick these slimy pests or make trap with a shallow pans of beer placed near the plants. If you would rather drink your beer, use one tablespoon (14 ml.) of flour, 1/8 teaspoon (0.5 ml.) of yeast and one cup (236 ml.) of water. Commercial baits work as well. Also, to discourage snails and slugs, mulch around the tomatoes with coarse hay or place rough rocks around plants.
Tomato fruitworms, AKA corn earthworm and cotton bollworm, are 2-inch (5 m.) long striped yellow to gray worms. They tunnel into the fruit and feed on the leaves of tomatoes.
You can handpick both larvae and eggs to reduce the population. Also, till the soil in the fall to expose the pupae where predators or cold will kill them off. Bacillus thuringiensis is also an effective control for these and any other caterpillar or worm pest, as is the use of garlic spray.
Spray foliage in the morning to disrupt their feeding pattern and dislodge eggs, nymphs and pupae. Lower temps will also reduce whitefly activity. A natural predator, Encarsia formosa can reduce populations.
Wireworms are light brown, hard bodied worms. They are the larval stage of the click beetles and feed on underground stems and roots, which stunts the plant and reduces yield. Till the soil to expose them to birds and other predators and apply beneficial nematodes and rotate the crops each year.
As you can see, there are a multitude of pests that can affect tomatoes. Identifying and treating pests on tomatoes is the key to squelching the problem as soon as possible. Plant pest resistant varieties, if possible practice crop rotation keep the garden and equipment sanitary stake and mulch tomatoes to keep them from coming into contact with the soil and use well-draining soil amended with plenty of organic matter. Inspect your seedlings and transplants and dispose of them if you see any signs of infestation or disease.