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How to Keep Bugs Off My Tomato Plants

By Joshua Duvauchelle ; Updated September 21, 2017
Protect your juicy tomato harvest from insect pests.
tomato #2 image by Adam Borkowski from Fotolia.com

Tomatoes are the quintessential backyard vegetable plant, known for their relatively easy care and their red fruit. Though low-maintenance, tomato plants are occasionally afflicted with insect pests. These include fruit worms, aphids, hornworms and stink bugs, according to Clemson University. Several physical, natural and chemical controls can help keep bugs from ruining your tomato harvest.

Fertilize at the time of initial planting and again when the tomatoes start growing flowers, using a standard 10-10-10 all-purpose garden fertilizer. Also, give them lots of water; the University of Missouri recommends 2 qts. per plant daily until the plants start producing fruit, after which you should supply 4 qts. daily.

Pluck off the bugs and drop them into a bucket of water mixed with dish soap. Alternatively, place the bucket under the tomato plant and shake the plant vigorously to dislodge pests. Manual removal is an ideal control method for limited invasions of larger pests like caterpillars.

Spray your tomato plant with a homemade insecticidal soap. Mix 2 tbsp. of liquid dish soap with 1 qt. of water and use a spray bottle to spray it onto your tomato plant's fruit and foliage. The soap kills insects while the soapy residue deters future pest invasions. according to the Care2 environmental network.

Apply a commercially prepared chemical insecticide specifically labeled for use on vegetable plants when there's a heavy insect invasion. Such products should be applied according to their labeled guidelines, since toxicity varies widely by product.

Plant insect-deterring plants around your tomatoes. This can naturally discourage insect pests from approaching your tomatoes, according to Cornell University. For example, Cornell University recommends planting basil adjacent to tomatoes to repel tomato hornworm bugs, or surrounding your tomato garden with lavender or thyme to keep out slugs.


Things You Will Need

  • Tomato fertilizer
  • Water
  • Bucket
  • Spray bottle
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Vegetable pesticide spray
  • Basil, lavender and thyme plants

About the Author


Joshua Duvauchelle is a certified personal trainer and health journalist, relationships expert and gardening specialist. His articles and advice have appeared in dozens of magazines, including exercise workouts in Shape, relationship guides for Alive and lifestyle tips for Lifehacker. In his spare time, he enjoys yoga and urban patio gardening.