Bugs That Are Beneficial For Tomato Plants

Our experienced writers spend hours deep researching, considering both scientific and experimental info to bring the insights you can trust.  

Quick Answer: Bugs That Are Beneficial For Tomato Plants

Various bugs are beneficial for tomato plants. They may feed on harmful pests attacking the plants. Some may lay eggs inside the insects and eventually kill them. It includes ladybugs, lacewings, spiders, minute pirate bugs, Trichogramma wasps, paper wasps, spiders, assassin bugs, and much more. You may plant flowering plants with nectarine near tomatoes and minimize the use of insecticides to attract these bugs.

Tomato plants attract many insects and pests. Some of them are harmful, some are helpful.

In this detailed guide, I will discuss various species of beneficial insects and pests of tomato plants.

Keep reading!

Bugs That are Beneficial for Tomato Plants?

Tomatoes are susceptible to many pests and diseases. They may suck the sap from the plant and cause malnutrition.

But, not all bugs are harmful.

Few beneficial insects are available that may feed and destroy the harmful pests. It results in a healthy tomato harvest.

These beneficial bugs fall into three types:

  • Pollinators – It includes bees, butterflies, flies, and moths that may help in pollinating the flowers.
  • Predators – It may feed on harmful pests and eliminate them. It includes ladybugs.
  • Parasitizers – It may lay eggs. The larvae from hatched eggs feed on harmful insects. It includes parasitic wasps.

Next time, don’t panic when you see these helpful allies in your tomato garden.

Here is the list of the beneficial bugs for tomato plants that you may want to be familiar with:

1. Ladybugs

Ladybugs are predator insects that feed on harmful pests attacking tomato plants. You may plant marigolds near tomatoes to attract them. But, it may invade your home during colder temperatures.

A pretty and colorful bug that is beneficial to tomato plants is ladybugs. They are predator insects that feed on several insects found on or near tomato plants.

They prey on aphids, mites, whiteflies, mealybugs, spiders, and ants.

I have observed that mites and aphids may reproduce quickly and form colonies. The ladybugs may prevent these insects from overpopulating an area.

One of the biggest drawbacks of ladybugs is that they may come into our homes looking for warmer temperatures during winter.

A good companion plant for tomatoes is the marigold. One good news is that planting marigolds near tomatoes may attract ladybugs.

You may eliminate the use of insecticide and place shallow plates of water for ladybugs. Also, you may build ladybug houses to provide shelter.

Here are some great tips for preparing a ladybug shelter –

2. Lacewings

Lacewings may prey on aphids attacking tomato plants by dissolving their organs. Only their larvae are avid insect eaters. They thrive in plants with foliage.

Lacewings are small predator insects that help in riding pests off tomato plants.

The larvae of green lacewings are active predators of soft-bodied pests. It preys primarily on aphids but also attacks thrips, whitefly, spider mites, and mealybugs. They release digestive secretions into the captured pests and dissolve their organs.

Most of their adult species do not eat insects but feed on honeydew, pollen, and nectar. They are green with fragile wings and are abundant all year round.

They may be purchased from biological control supply houses and online. Avoid using insecticides on the plants as they may harm lacewings.

They may not stay for a longer time in the garden once you have succeeded in destroying the aphid population.

Check out the amazing world of Lacewings –

3. Minute Pirate Bugs

Minute pirate bugs are tiny predatory insects that may feed on harmful insects affecting tomato plants. They are fierce attackers and drain the victims dry. Growing flowering plants may attract them to your tomato garden.

As the name suggests, minute pirate bugs, also known as flower bugs are tiny predatory insects.

They prey on a wide range of prey, including thrips, aphids, mites, whiteflies, moths, and tiny arthropods that attack tomato plants.

Despite their tiny size, they may move quickly with good predatory instinct. They clasp their wings with front legs and insert their needle-like beaks into prey.

The adult bug is only 2-3 mm long with an oval-shaped flattened body.

They may be recognized by black and white markings along the wing. They have the potential to consume 30 or more spider mites per day.

Beware as they may deliver their bite to the gardener who messes with them.

You may avoid using broad-spectrum pesticides that may harm these tiny bugs.

You may attract these insects to your garden by growing flowering plants and providing preferred habitat.

4. Paper Wasps

Paper wasps benefit tomato plants by getting rid of hornworms. They lay eggs inside the hornworm and destroy them. They may sting humans if messed.

Paper wasps are good pollinators and predators. They are aggressive only when they are protecting their nests. They have long, slender waists and build paper nests using open cells.

They benefit tomato plants by controlling the dreaded tomato hornworm. They deposit the eggs inside the hornworm and destroy them when they hatch.

Planting a lot of pollen and nectar-producing flowers near tomato plants may help in attracting this insect to the garden.

Also, avoid using pesticides in your garden as they may harm the wasps.

One factor to consider is that it may cause anaphylactic shock in allergic people. Also, their stings may be harmful and so be cautious with these bugs in your garden.

5. Spiders

Spiders benefit tomato plants by preying on grasshoppers, whiteflies, and aphids. It may improve the overall garden health. Be careful of poisonous spiders.

Spiders do not damage tomato plants.

In contrast, they offer a huge benefit to tomato plants and protect them from many pests, including grasshoppers, whiteflies, and aphids.

Despite its benefits, they may become a nuisance when their growth becomes excessive. You may remove the hiding spots of spiders.

It is advisable to trim the tomato plants to remove the hidden spot.

Take care as some spiders, including female Western black widow, yellow sac, and recluse spiders, carry dangerous venom. They may be harmful to tomato plants. 

6. Big-eyed Bugs

Big-eyed bugs feed on numerous pests of tomato plants, including whiteflies, aphids, mites, and thrips. It has characteristic big protruding eyes. It is advisable to remove them from the garden after combating the harmful pests.

A small-sized insect (about 1/6 inches) that is beneficial is a big-eyed bug.

They prey upon numerous insects and pests of tomato plants. It includes aphids, whiteflies, mealybugs, and thrips.

They are oval with translucent wings, flattened, broad heads, and bulging eyes, a characteristic feature of this bug.

They have needle-like mouthparts that may kill the victim by injecting enzymes and sucking its juices.

One drawback is that they may start sucking the saps of fruits if they have no pests to dine with. You may remove them immediately after destroying bugs from the tomato garden.

They are not known to bite people.

7. Predatory Stink Bugs

Predatory stink bugs feed on various tomato-related pests during all stages of their growth. They suck juices out of prey. Use pheromone attractant to bring the bugs to your garden.

Another predatory insect that is often used as a biological control for crops is stink bugs. They release an odor when disturbed or crushed.

They feed on a wide range of tomato-related pests and Colorado potato beetles. They will continue preying during all of their life stages.

They suck the body fluids from prey using their sharp beak.

Few species are available to purchase online but may fly away. World Tomato Society suggests looking for pheromone attractants that will lead these insects to your garden.

8. Trichogramma Wasp

Trichogramma wasps are tiny beneficial insects that may feed on tomato hornworms and other pests. You may grow plants with tiny flowers near tomatoes to attract these bugs to the garden.

Trichogramma wasps are parasites that primarily attack the moth and worm eggs. It may be particularly useful in your war against the dreaded tomato hornworms and other pests that trouble tomato plants.

They are tiny insects with short antennae and raspberry-colored eyes. They measure only about 0.3mm in length and may not be visible to a casual observer.

You may reduce pesticide usage to keep these useful pests in your garden. You may also provide very small flowers as a nectar source.

9. Assassin Bugs

Assassin bugs are predator insects that use their characteristic curved beak to suck the fluids from the prey. They feed on tomato hornworms and protect tomato plants.

Assassin bugs have oval bodies with long legs, narrow heads, and curved beaks with a similar appearance to stink bugs.

They use their three-segmented beak to inject paralyzing venom into their victims and suck the body fluids from the prey. They may prey on tomato hornworms, one of the common pests feeding on tomatoes.

Some members of this family may suck blood from humans and transmit diseases. Beware when you find them in your garden.

Here is a super interesting video Assassin bug vs Hornworm –

10. Predatory Mites

Another useful bug that seeks and destroys the pest mites attacking tomato plants is a predatory mite. They may feed on the eggs and immature stages of insects, including thrips, spider mites, and whiteflies. Their characteristic features are long legs and quick movement.

Tomato plants may be infested by tiny insects that suck plant juices and kill them.

These pests are called mites. On the other hand, predatory mites are minute bugs that feed on eggs, larvae, and adult mites.

They may prey on spider mites, thrips, and other small insects. They are characterized by long legs and faster movements. 

In the absence of prey, they revert to eating pollen and nectar. They have a similar life cycle as pest insects. They are available commercially.

One advantage is that they do not devour beneficial insects.

They may be purchased online. However, they should be released at the first sign of pest mites as it may take some time to establish.

High humidity and sugar water may enhance the activity of predatory mites.

You may check this link for predatory mites hunting spider mites:

11. Ground Beetles

Ground beetles secrete bad-smelling chemicals that are harmful to predators. It may benefit tomato plants by feeding on larger pests, including hornworms or cutworms.

Another predatory bug that may be useful to tomato plants is ground beetles.

They are available in a broad range of sizes, including 0.7 to 66mm. They have characteristic long legs and powerful mandibles that help them to be fierce predators.

They are active at night and so may be difficult to observe. They act very fast and may secrete foul-smelling defensive chemicals. 

They may feed on hornworms or cutworms attacking tomatoes. They may also discourage other predators like birds.

They prefer moist and cool areas. Most of them cannot fly as their wings are fused. One drawback is that they may enter buildings through cracks and small openings.

But they are short-lived indoors as they cannot reproduce there.

Braconid wasps are parasitoids that live on hornworms and eventually kill them. You may observe their characteristic white cocoons on the hornworms. They protect tomato plants from pests.

12. Braconid Wasps

Braconid wasps are small with narrow waists, long antennae, and ant-like heads. They look black at a distance but may have orange or red abdomens.

Also, their wings look banded or spotted.

They lay eggs on tomato hornworms and other garden pests. Their larvae start feeding inside the living hosts and ultimately kill them when they mature into adults. It thereby protects the tomato plants from these soft-bodied caterpillars. 

They often go unnoticed in the tomato garden. Once,  I spotted lots of small, white cocoons on the hornworms, and my fellow gardener pointed them as braconid wasps. 

So, if you see a bright green hornworm carrying a lot of white-colored insect eggs, do not worry, as these wasps will take care of pests feeding on tomatoes.

Like other kinds of wasps, you may plant flowering plants with nectarine to attract braconid wasps. Also, they do not sting.

13. Praying Mantis

The praying mantis gets its name from prominent front legs that bends in the praying position. It may turn its head around to look for prey. It feeds on aphids and soft-bodied insects that may harm tomatoes.

It has prominent front legs that are bent and held together, resembling a prayer position. They have triangular heads with elongated necks.

The praying mantis is one of the predator insects that may devour pest insects, their eggs, and mites.

One of the unique features of praying mantis is that they may turn their heads 180oC to scan their surroundings.

They are green or brown and get camouflaged between plants.

They have a big appetite and start preying on aphids and soft-bodied insects with lightning speed. It may thus protect tomatoes from troubling intruders.

FAQ’s

Are spider mites and spiders beneficial for tomato plants?

Spider mites share the web-spinning abilities of the spiders. Their webs are fine and may spread over leaves and stems. Like a spider, they are not beneficial to tomato plants. If you suspect spider mites, remove them immediately before it attacks the plants.

Can you name a few tomato pests that will destroy your tomato plants?

Some pests that destroy tomato plants are aphids, cutworms, flea beetles, root-knot nematodes, blister beetles, hornworms, snails, slugs, two-spotted spider mites, fruit worms, and silver leaf whitefly. They may destroy at all stages of growth.

Summary

I hope this article has helped you be informed about different beneficial bugs for tomato plants.

You may try releasing these insects in your garden and have a bountiful tomato harvest.

If you have any other insects in mind which can help tomato plants, do comment!

Do share this article with your friends and family to help them out!


References

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/lacewings
https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef148
http://treefruit.wsu.edu/crop-protection/opm/lacewings/
https://extension.umd.edu/resource/minute-pirate-bug-beneficial-generalist-insect-predator
https://extension.umd.edu/resource/minute-pirate-bugs
https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=40718
https://entomology.ces.ncsu.edu/biological-control-information-center/beneficial-predators/big-eyed-bug/
https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/beneficial/bigeyed_bugs.htm
https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/trichogramma
https://www.britannica.com/animal/assassin-bug
https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/predatory-mites
https://www.britannica.com/animal/tiger-beetle
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/facts/praying-mantis
https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/control-methods/tomato-pests
https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsbl.2007.0373
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5557424/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8751118/
https://academic.oup.com/ee/article-abstract/48/2/426/5315701
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15538369/
https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-030-90881-2
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32230322/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6435312/
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-54719-5
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33019687/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31857623/
https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4020-9695-2_24
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15012329/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6684524/
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-05705-x
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5370444/
https://www.science.gov/topicpages/p/praying+mantis+mantis.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coccinellidae
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrysopidae
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthocoridae
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper_wasp
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geocoris
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentatomidae
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trichogramma
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reduviidae
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytoseiulus
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braconidae
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ground_beetle
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mantis
https://www.britannica.com/animal/ladybug
https://www.britannica.com/animal/lacewing
https://www.britannica.com/animal/paper-wasp
https://www.britannica.com/animal/insect
https://www.britannica.com/animal/spider-arachnid
https://www.britannica.com/animal/stinkbug
https://www.britannica.com/animal/trichogrammatid
https://www.britannica.com/animal/assassin-bug#:~:text=related%20content%20%E2%86%92-,Characteristics%20of%20assassin%20bugs,groove%20between%20the%20front%20legs.
https://www.britannica.com/animal/mite
https://www.britannica.com/animal/ground-beetle
https://www.britannica.com/animal/braconid
https://www.britannica.com/animal/Mantis-religiosa