The stink bugs like to hide in dense foliage where they lay their eggs on the underside of leaves and on the stems of plants. Once the eggs hatch, they will reach maturity in 4-5 weeks and this is when they begin to feed on your tomatoes. They stick their snouts under the skin of the tomato and release an enzyme that will liquefy that area. The stink bug will then drink the liquefied portion of the tomato. You will notice discolored spots where the bugs have been feeding. In order to control these critters, you will want to make sure the area around your tomatoes are weeded to keep down their population. A spray of Kaolin, sold as Surround Wp, can be applied to the plants. Once the application drys, it will leave an all natural and non toxic coating which acts as a barrier against the bug's snout. You can always do the ole tried and true control by squishing them by hand too!
|Stink bugs on a tomato|
If the stink bug wasn't bad enough, the tomato hornworm can be even more destructive to our tomato plants. The caterpillars are mean eating machines. They will devour your plants leaves, stems and fruit. I found one in my garden that had decimated one side of my entire plant and that was just one of them! They are very good at hiding since their green body blends in with the plants. If you notice bare bone stems and half eaten fruit, then you will want to look over the plant very closely since you probably have an uninvited visitor. You can remove them by hand and that should be sufficient. However, if you have several crawling around then you want to take more drastic measures. A green pesticide is the botanical Bt (Bacillus Thuringiensis), which is a bacterium that acts as a stomach poison. It will not harmful to other plants or animals. Also, as a preventative measure, you want to make sure you till your garden before and after your plantings. It will kill a lot of the pests hiding in the ground. If you like dill, then go ahead and plant them with the tomatoes as a deterrent too.
Happy gardening! We will see you again on Friday, when we have our recipe of the week. It's also the Fourth of July for us here in the States, so be careful and be safe!