Tomato is one of our backyard garden’s most common vegetable and fruit plants. While diseases affect tomato plants the most, some pests also impact this crop. Growing tomatoes for several seasons, I spotted small flies on tomato plants. The most common included fruit flies, leaf miners, and spotted wing drosophila, but they’re more.
You may find them almost all year long, although late summer and fall are when you most likely see them. Could you be wondering why at this time? Because the ripening tomatoes attract small flies.
The tiny flies tend to cause more nuisance than harm. But, the flies can also ruin your fruit under suitable conditions and with increased population. To prevent more severe issues later, notice when they first emerge, the reason behind and then take proper control immediately.
Learn more about that below.
Small Flies on Tomato Plants
Small flies may occasionally visit your farm, but you can still manage the expanding population by taking the proper precautions. But first, look at some common small flies you might have seen in your tomato plants garden.
They’re tiny pests about an inch long and range in color from yellow to brown. They resemble little houseflies and have big red eyes and a rounded silhouette.
Once you notice some on your tomato plants, you should look for a way to eliminate them because they reproduce rapidly. More importantly, they can infect your tomato fruits with diseases.
They’re drawn primarily to ripe tomatoes, specifically the fermentation from split overripe ones. Additionally, they can pinch a hole easily in the soft tomatoes where they lay their eggs. The eggs then hatch into maggots that feed on the tomato pulp in a few days. As they feed, they make the tomato rot.
When they mature, they make a hole and leave the rotted tomato fruit to continue the life cycle in the soil. Here they emerge as adults, and the process begins again.
Leaf miners are tiny, dark-colored flies around 4 mm in length and have a yellow spot on their back. They eat tomato leaves, puncturing the edges with small holes. On the underside of the leaves, the adults deposit their eggs, which develop into larvae.
It inhabits the space between the bottom and top cells and feeds on the plant’s chlorophyll, leaving behind clear lines on the leaves.
The larvae leave the tomato leaves in two to three weeks and burrow into the ground. Then, when fully developed, it comes to the surface.
The tomato plant sheds its severely affected leaves. Consequently, when the leaf miners damage many leaves, the yield is reduced, and the plants become stunted.
Spotted Wing Drosophila
The spotted wing drosophila is also a tiny fruit fly with a yellowish brown appearance and dark-colored stripes on its abdomen. It also has large red eyes, about 2-3mm long.
The male has transparent wings with a dark spot towards the tip of each wing, while the female has no spots on her wings.
They reproduce by the adults inserting their eggs into the tender tomato fruits. The eggs hatch to larvae which consume healthy ripening fruit. Nevertheless, it’s difficult for them to attack healthy tomato fruits. Mainly, they target the damaged fruits.
An affected tomato fruit has sunken brown areas, which sometimes won’t show until you harvest them. Moreover, when the adult is laying eggs, it may transfer bacteria to the infected fruit, developing a sour smell.
On the other hand, the larvae may hatch after tomatoes harvest, and with a heavy infestation, the fruit rots.
How Do I Protect My Tomatoes From Flies?
Using tested biological, cultural, or chemical controls, you can protect your tomatoes from flies. Although it’s challenging to eradicate the flies, you can protect their development before ruining your plants using these controls.
Read the details below.
Using biological control, you can use predators or repellant plants to remove the flies. You can purchase the predators from the stores, then release them in your tomato garden to feed on the flies’ larvae.
The predators include beneficial nematodes, parasitic wasps, and lacewings. The predators are specifically best for removing leaf miners’ larvae in the soil.
Using plants like peppermint, basil, lemongrass, and lavender repels fruit flies from your tomato plants. Also, burn essential oils from the above herbs as their smoke kills flies. Besides that, use cedar chips and camphor as mulch on your tomato plants because they also repel the flies.
Cultural control entails controlling the flies naturally by improving the environment or plants. It’s the most effective method because it’s environmentally friendly and cheaper.
- Keep your plants healthy with enough water, nutrients, good spacing, pruning, and crop rotation to withstand the flies. Healthy plants can stand damage and recover back better and faster than unhealthy plants.
- You can also mulch the plants with a thin layer of gravel or plastic mulch. Mulching keeps away the larvae in the soil, which suffocate and die. It also removes the breeding ground for other pests.
- In addition, it’s essential to keep the areas around plants free from plant debris, garbage, plastic cans, and weeds. They all attract the small flies on tomato plants.
- Ensure you harvest all ripened tomato fruits to lower breeding areas. Also, clean up fallen tomato fruits.
- Apart from all these, use commercial or make your fly traps as a control method. The traps may include sticky papers or fine netting.
By chemical control, you utilize pesticides to kill the flies on your tomato plants. I least recommend their use as they pose harm to the environment and are also costly. Use pesticides as the last option when other methods have failed.
Some pesticides, on the other hand, may kill other beneficial insects like predators and bees.
Spray them at night and use the less harmful ones like spinosad. Ensure you follow all the instructions and use the precautions required.
Use chemical control like broad-spectrum insecticides for spotted wing drosophila and leaf miners. Spray on your tomato fruits, plants, and soil.
Why is my Tomato Plant Attracting Flies?
Flies are primarily attracted to your tomato plants by ripened and partly fermented tomato fruits. All year long, flies could be present near your tomato plants. They can be annoying and ruin the enjoyment of gardening, especially if they pose a risk to your plants and vegetables.
Keep reading to see other reasons why your tomato plant is attracting flies.
- Suppose there’s rotten food or garbage near your tomato plants. Ensure you clean all the trash from the surrounding environment to your plants.
- Another reason is overwatering. Keep in mind that flies are attracted to moist soil or high humidity conditions as they favor them in laying eggs.
- Plant debris from fallen leaves and uprooted weeds attract flies when they decay. Ensure you clean them up and burn any damaged leaves.
- They like poorly ventilated areas; therefore, ensure you space out your tomato plants well and prune them often.
- Remove any algae on your tomato plants as they attract flies. On the other side, they cause stunted growth while fungi cause diseases like early bright and septoria leaf spots on plants.
What are the Little Bugs on My Tomato Plants?
Tomato plants’ most common little bugs include aphids, gnats, white flies, and flea beetles. Like other fruit-bearing plants, tomato plants are also susceptible to little bugs. However, keeping your plants healthy you can make your plants less susceptible to these little bugs.
It’s a prevalent little bug that feeds on tomato sap draining the leaves its necessary fluid. Their pear-shaped bodies vary in color from brown, black, and green. You find them on the stems, underside of leaves, and buds of a tomato plant.
If few, you can spray water on them in the early mornings to wash them away.
Alternatively, you may keep them away by planting aphid-repellant plants like mint, cilantro, onions, and garlic. Finally, spray the tomato plants using plain dish soap water to kill aphids and deter the development of new ones.
Gnats are annoying little bugs resembling mosquitoes and have a black, brown, or yellow color. They’re attracted mainly by a moist environment around your tomatoes where the adults lay their eggs. The larvae eat organic matter and decaying plants.
To get rid of gnats, try letting the moist soil dry out to discourage gnats from breeding. You can also install yellow sticker traps to catch the adult gnats.
Whiteflies are tiny soft-bodied insects with white wings and yellow bodies. They live on the leaf underside and feed by sucking out the sap, which slows the plant growth.
They further cause the leaves to turn yellow and eventually fall. It’s essential to control whitefly infestations quickly to prevent the spread of diseases. Spraying crucial oils on them suffocates them to death. Also, use natural predators like ladybugs and Encarsia Formosa to reduce population.
These little bugs look like small beetles and have a black or brown color. When disturbed, they can jump like fleas.
Tomatoes, more than other plants, are incredibly vulnerable to flea beetles. They feed on tomato leaves, leaving wounds on them. Through these wounds, diseases can enter the plant, causing more damage.
The flea beetles are repelled away by dusting your tomato plants with plain talcum powder.
Is there a fruit fly season?
Yes, you find most fruit flies in the season with more ripening fruits; moreover, they can survive in most weather conditions. You’ll notice an increase in numbers during late summer into autumn as the fruits ripen, ready for harvest.
It’s important to know why the fruit flies came around the first time you spotted them. This helps you when implementing the necessary control measures. The most common causes are ripe and overripe fruits and wet soil. If you act fast, you can prevent severe infestation.
Small flies are bothersome insects, and you find them when growing tomatoes. Initially, you may consider them harmless and only a nuisance rather than a problem. However, it’s crucial to note the first time you notice small flies on tomato plants.
Discover the underlying cause of why they’re present on your plants and adopt control actions as discussed above. By taking preventive measures, you can enjoy a high yield of healthy tomatoes, which is an excellent reward for your hard work.
Don’t hesitate to keep your plants healthy and protect them from small flies; it saves you time, money, and losses.