How to Kill Mealy Mites on Tomatoes

Overview

In just a matter of weeks, a mealybug infestation can attack and overwhelm your favorite tomato plant. Without proper care, these insects--which are actually scales, not mites--can kill your tomatoes. Don't let these small, white bugs ruin your harvest. Take immediate steps to kill and eradicate mealybugs on your tomato plants to restore the health and beauty of your vegetable garden.

Step 1

Use sharp scissors or pruning shears and cut off any wilted tomato leaves or foliage that is already dead or heavily covered in mealybugs. Wilted leaves are beyond hope of saving and will only limit the penetration of any treatment you apply. Discard the vegetation in a sealed bag or container.

Step 2

Spray the infested tomato vines or bushes. Use a mealybug-specific insecticide such as Applaud, Malathion or Decis. Mix the insecticide according to the label's guidelines, as toxicity varies widely by product, and spray an even coat on all exposed tomato surfaces, from the base to the plant's crown.

Step 3

Repeat the insecticide treatment 14 days after the first application to kill any mealybugs that hatched after the initial spraying. This effectively kills both mature and larvae mealybugs and efficiently disrupts the insects' life cycle.

Step 4

Spray structural surfaces if you're growing the tomatoes in a greenhouse. This includes pots, planters and any tables on which the tomato plants are sitting.

Step 5

Maintain and control the mealybug population. Mist the plants every two weeks with a standard insecticidal soap such as sprays made with all-natural neem oil. This keeps mealybugs at bay and controls the residual population without needing the continuous application of more powerful insecticides. Mealybugs can become resistant to insecticides if used too often.

Tips and Warnings

  • Symptoms of mealybug infestations include visible white insects on the plant leaves and stems, sticky honeydew residue or sap on the plant, widespread wilting and lack of tomato production.

Things You'll Need

  • Scissors or pruning sheaers
  • Mealybug insecticide
  • Insecticidal soaps

References

  • "Tomato Plant Culture in the Field, Greenhouse, and Home Garden"; J.Benton Jones; 1998
  • "The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control"; Barbara Ellis and Fern Bradley; 1996
  • USDA Center for Plant Health, Science and Technology: Mealybugs
Keywords: kill mealybugs, tomato plant pests, remove mealybugs on tomatoes

About this Author

Josh Duvauchelle is an editor and journalist with more than 10 years' experience. His work has appeared in various magazines, including "Honolulu Magazine," which has more paid subscribers than any other magazine in Hawaii. He graduated with honors from Trinity Western University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in professional communications, and earned a certificate in applied leadership and public affairs from the Laurentian Leadership Centre.