Tomato Moth Infestation in a Garden

Tomato moth larvae (via Wikimedia Commons, CC0 1.0)

Tomato Moth infestations are a common problem faced by gardeners. These moths lay their eggs on the leaves of tomato plants, and their larvae feed on the foliage, stems, and fruit. This feeding can cause significant damage to the plant, reducing yield and compromising plant health.


What is a Tomato Moth

Tomato Moth Adult

  • Wingspan: Moths have a wingspan of about 1-1.5 inches (2.5-3.8 cm).
  • Forewings: The forewings of the tomato moth are light brown in color with dark brown markings. These markings can vary in size and shape, but they typically consist of dots, lines, and other patterns.
  • Hindwings: The hindwings of the tomato moth are pale yellow or white.
  • Antennae: The antennae of the tomato moth are feathery, and they are used to detect scents and other stimuli.
  • Body: The body of the tomato moth is plump and pale yellow to brown in color. The body may be covered in hair or scales, depending on the species of moth.
  • Legs: The legs of the tomato moth are thin and spindly, and they are used for crawling and clinging to surfaces.
  • Size: Tomato moths are small to medium-sized moths, and they typically range from 0.5-1.5 inches (1.3-3.8 cm) in length.

Tomato Moth Larvae

  • Length: Tomato moth larvae (caterpillars) typically grow to be 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) in length.
  • Color: The color of tomato moth larvae can vary depending on their age and species, but they are typically green or brown with stripes or spots.
  • Body Shape: The body of tomato moth larvae is plump and segmented, and they have several pairs of legs running along their body.
  • Head: The head of tomato moth larvae is usually dark and may be slightly larger than the rest of the body.
  • Features: Some species of tomato moth larvae may have spines or tufts of hair along their body, which can make them look furry or spiky.
  • Feeding Behavior: Tomato moth larvae feed by chewing on the leaves, stems, and fruit of tomato plants. They may also spin webs on the plant as they feed, which can help to protect them from predators.

Treating a Tomato Moth Infestation

It may be necessary to use multiple methods to effectively control a tomato moth infestation in a garden. For example, using row covers to prevent the moths from laying eggs and hand picking to remove larvae and adult moths can provide a strong line of defense. Combining these methods with the use of natural predators and insecticides can help to ensure that the infestation is brought under control.

Hand picking

  • Look for larvae, pupae, and adult moths on the plants and remove them by hand.
  • Check both the tops and undersides of the leaves, as well as the stems and fruit.
  • Drop the pests in soapy water to kill them.
  • Repeat this process regularly, especially in the early morning or late evening when the moths are less active.

Use of row covers

  • Cover the plants with row covers to prevent adult moths from laying eggs on the plants.
  • Use a fine mesh to prevent the moths from reaching the plants, but allow light and water to pass through.
  • Secure the row covers to the ground to prevent moths from crawling under the covers.
  • Remove the row covers once the plants start to flower to allow pollination.
  • Store the row covers in a dry place during the winter to prevent damage.

Use of natural predators

  • Encourage natural predators like ladybugs, lacewings, and birds to help control the infestation.
  • Provide a habitat for these predators by planting flowers that provide nectar and pollen.
  • Avoid using insecticides, as they can kill beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings.
  • Consider using predator mites to control moth larvae, as these mites are specifically adapted to feed on moths.

Use of insecticides

  • Choose an insecticide that is labeled for use on tomato moths.
  • Read the label carefully to ensure that the insecticide is safe for use on edible crops.
  • Follow the instructions carefully and apply the insecticide according to the label instructions.
  • Repeat the application as necessary to maintain control of the infestation.
  • Avoid applying insecticides when the plants are in bloom to prevent harm to pollinators like bees.
  • Store the insecticides in a safe place, out of reach of children and pets.