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How to Kill Mealy Mites on Tomatoes

By Joshua Duvauchelle ; Updated September 21, 2017

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Scissors or pruning sheaers
  • Mealybug insecticide
  • Insecticidal soaps

Tip

  • Mealybugs are typically introduced from new plants brought into your garden from another garden or a nursery or store. To prevent mealybug infestations, don't introduce plants without first inspecting them carefully. Treat any problems before planting.

Warning

  • 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.

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.