By Vanessa Richins
“I have started getting very small white bugs on my tomato plants. What are they? Will they hurt the plant? How do I get rid of them?”
Hi Colnel. Can you tell us more about these bugs. What do they look like? Do they have wings? Since you don’t mention any damage in your question, can I assume the plants are currently healthy?
One problem insect could be a stalk borer. These are white (or purple larvae that like to burrow into stems of tomatoes. You would start seeing stems dying even though the leaves on it are still fine. As Bachman’s advises, “Check for borer holes. You may save the plant by slitting the stem lengthwise and killing the borer.”
If they’re flying around, you could have a case of whiteflies. Look on the underside of the leaves to see if there are any tiny white eggs. New leaves will look stunted, and older leaves will start to wilt and turn yellow.
If it’s whiteflies, you can use an insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. You always want to test it out on the plant first to make sure it won’t have a bad reaction, like burning the leaves.
You may also get lucky and have lots of predatory wasps in the area. These lay their eggs inside the developing whiteflies, effectively killing them.
You could also have a form of aphid, psyllid, leaf hopper, or mealybug.
This also could be a harmless insect where you don’t need to worry. You can send us a picture if you have one, and in the meantime, watch your plants carefully to see what is happening. You can also call your local Extension office, which should know about problem insects in your area. Good luck!