Stop Tomato Bugs From Sucking Your Crops Dry

Stop Tomato Bugs From Sucking Your Crops Dry

Pest Specs

The tomato bug (Cyrtopeltis modesta) is a plant bug in the family Miridae in the order Hemiptera. Lygus bugs and other plant bugs also belong to the same family.

Tomato bug

Photo by Whitney Cranshaw

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Identification

The origin of C. modesta (Engytatus modestus) is unclear as some authors refer to it as an American species while others claim it is a new species of Cyrtopeltis from Hawaii. Tomato bug is reported from Europe, South America, and North America and its related species from other parts of the world.

The tomato bug also is known as the tomato suck bug because both nymphs and adults actively feed by inserting their piercing mouthparts in plant tissues and sucking the plant juices. Yellowish-red rings develop around stems at these feeding sites. The rings are thickened corky areas that become yellow to reddish. The stem is weakened and brittle at these rings and break easily when touched, causing blossom drop, dropping of developing fruit, and breakage of vine stems. Feeding activity also can damage fruit directly.

While tomato bugs may damage tomato, they also are predaceous on small, soft-bodied insects such as whiteflies, aphids, and the eggs of various lepidopteran species and may provide a measure of biocontrol in some situations.

The tomato bug adult is a slender plant bug, about ¼ inch (6 millimeters) long, with long legs and a pale green, sometimes red-tinged body. The pronotum (shield-like plate on the thorax) is narrow. Eyes are small. Wings are membranous, pale green, or translucent.

They are seen occasionally on commercial staked tomatoes, in greenhouse culture, and in backyard gardens. However, they are usually not a problem on large farms where pesticides are applied to manage major tomato pests. They can be a problem in home gardens and small farms where pesticide treatments are applied infrequently.

Survival And Spread

Tomato bugs are usually first noticed in mid-season, when treatments may become necessary, and their populations continue to grow as the crop matures. Eggs are inserted into stems, inside petioles, or the terminal shoots. Nymphs resemble adults, but are smaller without wings or with developing wing pads. There are four to five nymphal instars. Presence of nymphs indicates they started from eggs laid on the crop.

Management Methods

In general, treatments are not recommended except when high population densities occur in staked or greenhouse tomato plantings, which are picked multiple times.

There is little information available on natural enemies, pesticide treatments, or other management options specific to tomato bugs. Pesticides that are usually effective against stink bugs in tomatoes can be effective against tomato bugs. An at-plant application of a neonicotinoid insecticide will typically provide adequate control early in the crop cycle.

Biorational products like neem and insect pathogenic fungi such as Beauveria bassiana may also be effective against tomato bugs. These could be good alternatives to chemical pesticides for organic farmers.

Consult UF/IFAS recommendations on currently labeled insecticides for stink bug control in Florida vegetables.