A very common tomato pest is the aphid, on their own these little beasties look fairly innocuous and harmless, unfortunately they are not stone kickers and when they arrive, seemingly out of thin air, they arrive by the droves.There are also hundreds of different species of aphids. So getting rid of aphids quickly is extremely important and you must be vigilant so that you spot them before they completely envelope your plants.
There are loads of different ways to treat aphids and if applied at the right time they will work pretty effectively. A small but significant problem however is their ability to multiply, without having to mate and their persistence.
They see out the winter as eggs which hatch in the spring to turn into the winged females that go looking for nice juicy sap filled plants where they can lay their eggs. The eggs once laid only take about a week to hatch and the resulting aphids, which have a piercing bite will start to feed off the plant and produce young of their own and so the cycle begins.
Each aphid can produce up to 100 offspring so its not hard to imagine that within a very short time frame you could be faced with dealing with several thousands of these little creatures. When the food supply starts to get exhausted the young then start to appear with wings ready to fly off looking for fresh plants and food but by that time it is likely that their relentless feeding on the sap of your tomato plant will have killed off the plant and any chance of tomato fruit.
The symptoms – leaves start to curl up an turn brown, there will be secretions of honeydew which will tend to foster fungus which often looks sooty and black in colour.
Prevention – use Aphid Traps, they should be placed in position in your garden early in the spring ready for the aphids winter eggs hatching and probably before you have actually planted tomatoes. Aphids are more resilient to the cold than tomatoes are and will happily feed off any plant that will provide sap while they are waiting for the nice tasty tomato plants to arrive.
Treatment – aphids can be killed using a similar method to the ones used for whitefly, Savona is a safe alternative to chemical insecticides and which I have provided a link to above or you can use a mix of 1 part insecticidal soap with 4 parts of water applied using a spray gun, this will generally see them off.
Like whitefly they hide on the underside of leaves so make sure you lift the leaves up and give the underside a good soaking. They also gather near the base of the plant so don’t forget to get right down to spray around the base. The soap mix unfortunately doesn’t last too long so will have to be re-applied quite regularly until you are sure they are completely eradicated.
If the Savona or the soap solution doesn’t work you could try something a little more drastic, use either a deltamethrin treatment or permethrin dust.