The Q&A Archives: Tomato Pests

Question: My tomatoes have been doing fine until recently I noticed dark spot-like areas on one part of the vine. Looking closer these are actually insects. The color of the body is a lighter brown with black spots. There is definition between head and body. I can not see the legs very well but there seems to be some hair-like structures standing up vertically on the back. There are many spaced closely together and uniformly in about a five inch area. I've never seen anything like this before. My first inclination was to cut it off and dispose of it unless you tell me it's a beneficial insect.

Answer: There are a number of pests that are fond of vegetable plants in general and tomatoes in particular. What you've described sounds like a cucumber beetle or vegetable weevil. Since they are congregated on the vine, look to see if they're feeding on other insects, like aphids, or if they're actually feeding on plant material. Their behavior will indicate whether they're beneficial or destructive. I'm partial to "when in doubt, find out", but I suspect that the insects are not on the list of "good guys" in the garden.

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