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Aphids On Tomato Plants – Complete Guide to Natural Aphid Prevention and Control

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Some of the most troublesome tomato bugs you will come across are aphids! Aphids on tomato plants can be a real menace, ruining all your efforts and reducing your crop to almost nothing. But can you get rid of aphids on tomato plants naturally, or are insecticides the only solution?

We have a ton of experience growing tomatoes, and we’ve encountered plenty of aphids. And we want to share some of our best aphid control methods with you.

A nasty aphid infestation on tomato leaves.

Sound good?

Then let’s continue!

What Are Aphids?

If you encounter aphids on your plants, the instinctive reaction is to get rid of them as quickly as possible! However, knowing what aphids are and why they love our vegetables is part of the key to removing the problem altogether.

Aphids are tiny little winged insects that survive by sucking the sap of various species of plants. They are at the bottom of the food chain and are a tasty snack that many other insects, birds, and animal life love. They breed rapidly in vast numbers and have a short life cycle. And they seem to have no purpose at all!

There are over 4,000 aphid species around the world. Some can only survive on one type of plant, while others will feast on anything they come across.

aphid pests sucking sap from a backyard tomato plant
Do you have aphids on tomato plants? Then don’t panic! Your tomato garden can usually handle a minor infestation. And while aphids are natural antagonists, a few aphids will not usually cause fruit loss. That said, any detectable accumulation is enough to stress you out. For sure! That’s why we scan all plant species in our garden, including the underside of leaves. When we see a few random aphids, we spray them off with a strong water stream. (We read that hornworms, fruit worms, and stink bugs are more significant predators of tomatoes. My gardening experience also dictates that aphids are less of a threat.)

Do Aphids Live In Soil?

Most aphids are airborne insects, flying from plant to plant for their favorite food. However, certain species of aphids have adapted to live in the soil, feasting on the roots of plants.

If your plants are stunted, slow-growing, or have abnormal growth, root aphids (Pemphigus species) may be the problem.

How to Spot Aphids On Your Tomato Plants

If you’ve found little green bugs on tomato plants, they are likely aphids. The most common type of aphid is also known as greenflies. The name greenflies come from their distinctive bright fluorescent green color. The neon green appearance can make them hard to spot against new growth on vegetable plants – a devilishly cunning disguise!

Aphids live on the undersides of leaves and can be hard to spot. Often, the first sign we see of aphids is damage to the plant itself. If you see any curled, deformed leaves, look underneath, and if you see a huddle of tiny green insects, you know that insects such as green peach aphids (Myzus persicae) are to blame.

Aphids also tend to leave sticky residue on the leaves, called honeydew. This residue is markedly sweet and can attract other insects. Ants, in particular, love honeydew. Ants will farm aphids so they can harvest the honeydew for themselves.

The relationship between aphids and ants is beneficial for both species. Ants feed on the honeydew and in return, they protect the aphids from enemies.

Some ants even go so far as to build small shelters for the aphids or to keeping root-feeding aphids inside their own nests. A few species of aphids have become so dependent on their ants that they won’t even excrete honeydew unless stimulated by an ant!

University of Wisconsin-Madison – Horticulture Extension

So, if you see ants running up and down the stems of your tomato plants, you’ll most likely find an aphid farm at the top!

massive aphid colony infesting tomato plants
Gardening is a battle. You must know your enemy! There are two or three common aphids likely invading your tomato garden plant. The first is the green peach aphid, as seen in the image above. You’ll also find potato aphids, black aphids, and white aphids. Potato aphids are red and also larger than peach aphids. Luckily, the best remedy for aphids is 100% natural. We’re talking about natural aphid predators. Parasitic wasps, green lacewings, damsel bugs, and ladybugs are among the most famous. (Avoid using pesticides that may kill these predators. And let nature take its course.)

Red Aphids On Tomato Plants

Sadly, tomato plants don’t just suffer from greenflies – you may also find red aphids hiding under the leaves. These red aphids are probably potato aphids. Red aphids, despite the name, love to feast on tomato plants. (Well, tomatoes and potatoes are related, after all!)

Identifying exactly which aphid species is inhabiting your plant can be incredibly confusing. The University of Wisconsin’s Horticulture Extension mentions:

Many species have two color types, such as the green peach aphid, which has both a green and a red form.

University of Wisconsin-Madison – Horticulture Extension

So even though your aphids are green, they aren’t necessarily green peach aphids!

red aphids swarming a garden plant
Aphids aren’t only green and white. They come in many colors! Tomato gardeners will also find many aphids with various red shades – including pink, maroon, crimson, bright red, and orange. We despise them all equally. And we don’t discriminate. Get the hose and rinse them all away!

Black Aphids On Tomato Plants

Black aphids on tomato plants are less common but are easier to spot. Black aphids, also known as black flies, tend to prefer bean plants but will colonize tomato plants as well.

black and red aphids attacking a plant
We don’t see as many black aphids on tomato plants as we’ve caught green and red aphids. But, unlike green aphids, which blend perfectly on tomato stems and leaves, black aphids are much easier to spot traveling on your vegetable plants. They may be easily mistakable as dirt along the branch at first. Until you notice they’re moving. Yikes!

White Aphids On Tomato Plants

White aphids often look like a patch of mold or fungal growth at first, appearing as a woolly patch on the underside of the leaf. Look closely, and you’ll spot tiny whiteflies sucking away at the sap of your tomato plants.

whiteflies swarming on outdoor garden plant
Here you see a nasty whitefly infestation. But removing these pests is easy. The first step is to get a garden hose and gently mist the leaves. Most of the whiteflies will wash away. If a leaf gets infested beyond the hose’s ability to help, it’s best to slice away the infected leaf with sharp garden scissors.

Why Do My Tomatoes Have Aphids?

If I didn’t see aphids in my garden, I’d be worried that something was seriously wrong! Aphids will seek out their favorite plants to feast on, and tomato plants come pretty high up the list.

One of the best gardening advice I remember hearing was the following. “If something isn’t eating your plants, your garden is not part of the ecosystem!”

Many homesteaders are coming to realize that working with nature, rather than against it, is the key to a flourishing and abundant vegetable garden.

And, as aphids are at the bottom of the food chain, they are essential to support many other beneficial insects.

So, if you find signs of aphid attacks on your tomato plants, don’t panic! If you’ve got the balance right in your garden, natural predators will shortly be along to enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet of their favorite snacks.

Do Aphids Hurt Tomatoes?

Tomato plants are resilient to aphids. And a healthy plant can tolerate a surprising number before the health of the plant starts to suffer.

The main problem occurs when the leaves become damaged, reducing the plant’s ability to photosynthesize effectively. This leaf damage can slow plant growth and lead to lower tomato yields.

Reduced leaf coverage can also be problematic in hotter climates, as the tomato fruits become exposed and are more prone to sun scorching.

Can Tomato Plants Survive Aphids?

Tomato plants are tough, resilient, fast-growing, and will bounce back quickly from an aphid infestation. Ensure your plant has everything it needs to thrive – water, nutrients, and warmth – and that new, healthy growth will soon replace curled or damaged foliage.

How to Get Rid Of Aphids On Tomato Plants

Most tomato plants will tolerate a few aphids without any issues. However, they multiply rapidly. And can soon become detrimental to the plant’s health and crop yield.

Later we can look at permanent solutions to aphid problems. But let’s also look at some quick fixes to bring your plant back to life.

What Is the Best Aphid Killer?

I’ll put my neck on the line here and say that there is no such thing as a good aphid killer!

Using an insecticide on aphids would be about as effective as spraying mosquitoes around a pond in summer – you would have to drown the whole area in chemicals to make even the slightest dint in the population.

Aphids multiply quickly. And even a few can infest your entire tomato crop as soon as your back turns. Luckily, nature has the perfect solution to your problem!

yellow aphid attacking a greenhouse tomato leaf
Here you see a green aphid resting on a tomato leaf inside a greenhouse. Tomato greenhouse aphid infestations raise a unique aphid challenge! The reason is that greenhouses may not contain many natural aphid predators – whereas outdoor plants are more likely to have ladybugs, wasps, et cetera. In this case, we still recommend using a steady water stream to blast the aphids off the tomato plant. If the infestation grows out of control? Then natural pesticides like neem or canola oil are an organic and safe aphid control method.

How to Get Rid of Aphids On Tomato Plants Naturally

Illustrations of the natural predators of aphids - The aphid midge with its larvae, the green lacewing and its larvae, the lady beetle, the parasitic wasp, damsel bug, and ground beetle.

In the long term, the key to aphid management is to attract beneficial predatory insects to your garden. In recent years, insect populations have plummeted due to the overuse of insecticides, so we can all do our bit by helping them become part of our little ecosystems.

My preferred way to eliminate aphids on tomato plants is to leave one or two sacrificial plants with an undisturbed aphid population. Many of our gardening friends have observed that aphids prefer weaker plants. So, it is not an overwhelming loss if aphids colonize these plants.

The thinking behind this is that when aphids come, a wide range of beneficial predatory insects is not far behind! These include ladybugs, syrphid fly larvae, damsel bugs, and tiny parasitic wasps.

It can be a fun game to spot these natural enemies as they arrive. And the job they do at removing aphids is remarkable. Just one ladybug can eat 50 aphids every day – what an appetite!

Read More!

What Natural Remedy Kills Aphids?

OK, so we should leave some aphids undisturbed to attract beneficial predators, but what about the rest of our plants? While I’m happy to sacrifice one or two tomato plants for the cause of a balanced ecosystem, there is no way I’d jive with losing the whole crop.

For the remaining plants, natural methods are perfect for killing aphids. Remember to check for any natural enemies first – if you spot any ladybug larvae, they’ll do a far better job than you could ever do! If something is already attempting to cull your aphid infestation? The best thing to do is leave them to get on with it.

spraying natural oils on infested tomato plants
If we notice aphid-infested plants, we get a quart of water inside a spray bottle. We then add a dash of liquid dish soap and mix it. We then spray the aphids with a strong stream. It knocks the aphids loose in record time – permanently dislodged from the plant. Soapy sprays can kill aphids outright, along with other annoying plant pests like whiteflies, rose slugs, spittlebugs, and mealybugs. Good riddance! Soap is an organic and safe remedy for aphids! But what if you have aphids on the tomato plant? In that case, we say skip the soap. Spray the plants without the soap! Soap can hurt tomato plants, depending on the tomato cultivar. (It’s true. Soap and water may prove a volatile blend for your tomato plants. We’ve seen it happen firsthand! But a watery mist can knock the aphids off the plant without hurting your tomatoes.)

Can I Spray Aphids With Vinegar?

Vinegar is highly acidic and will kill aphids, but unfortunately, it will also damage your tomato plants and deter any beneficial insects.

You may have luck with diluted apple cider vinegar, which can kill aphids without harming the plant. But weakened tomato plants can be particularly susceptible to acidic solutions, like vinegar. If you try vinegar, dilute it with water using a one-to-three ratio. (One part vinegar, three parts water.) And try it on just one or two plants.

Can You Spray Aphids With Soapy Water?

Soapy water is often recommended as a solution for aphids and can be very effective. The good thing about soap is that it only kills soft-bodied insects like aphids. And, soapy water is hopefully not as detrimental to beneficial predators as vinegar.

To kill aphids with soapy water, make a 2% soap solution and spray it directly onto the insects – you may need to lift each leaf and thoroughly spray the underside. Tomato plants are more sensitive to soap than most other plants, so test the solution on a few leaves! That way, you can gauge the plant’s response first before spraying the whole plant.

How Do I Get Rid of Aphids Permanently?

You will never get rid of aphids permanently, and it would be wrong to try and do so. A whole host of hungry insects exist waiting to take care of your aphid problem, given half a chance!

The key to keeping aphid populations to a minimum is attracting the best type of predators to your garden. These include ladybugs, parasitoid wasps, hoverflies, and lacewings. Many of the larvae of these insects also eat aphids.

So, how do you get the ultimate pest control team into your garden? As with any ecosystem, they need the best habitat and food source.

Ideally, you want the predators in place before the aphids even arrive. Plant a range of flowers that attract different insects in the spring, such as alyssum, yarrow, dill, sunflowers, and cosmos. Borage and phacelia are also good choices, and once established, self-seed happily in nooks and crannies around your yard.

Let me paraphrase Kevin Costner in Field Of Dreams. If you plant it, they will come!

ladybugs hunting aphids on garden plants
Aphids on tomato plants are enough to ruin your day. But luckily – we know the best aphid predators to help. Ladybugs! Ladybugs are famous for hungrily devouring various insect pests – and they are our favorite form of organic aphid control. We’ve seen swarms of ladybugs move in and minimize a severe infestation, eagerly devouring the aphids at an alarming rate! Just how many aphids do ladybugs eat? Well – we read that a single ladybug can eat over 5,000 aphids over its lifespan. So, instead of using insecticidal soap on your infected plants, invite some ladybugs! (That’s another reason we don’t use insecticides! We want the ladybugs to flourish and hunt along various plant tissues without getting sick.)

Conclusion

Thanks for reading our guide about how to manage aphids on tomato plants.

Every year, writers on our team grow tomatoes from all over the world – from Australia, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Portugal!

And no matter where we grow them – aphids always appear! We know aphids can stress you out. But remember, nature knows best how to handle them.

So, instead of reaching for your insecticide? Let nature take its course!

All you need is a few ladybugs to find the aphids. And then they shall not last much longer. We guarantee it!

Thanks again for reading.

Have a great day!

ant protecting aphids on a plant
One more note about aphids on tomato plants! Always remember that ants protect aphids. (Ants can’t resist the sweet dewy honey that aphids create.) The problem is that ants may attack ladybugs and other aphid predators on sight! So, if you notice that your aphids are dominating your garden, it may be wise to add some ant traps. That way, you get rid of the aphid guardians. Food for thought!

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