Identify, Control & Prevent Tomato Moth: Detailed Guide

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In this guide, I will discuss and share tips to help you identify and control tomato moths in your garden.

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What Is Tomato Moth And How Does It Harms Tomato Plants?

The tomato moth (Lacanobia oleracea), also known as the Bright-line Brown-eye moth is a common pest in greenhouses.

They are warmish light brown with a white line incorporating a ‘W’ and the orange blotch in the kidney mark.

They feed on the fruits and leaves of the tomato plants.

How To Confirm That Tomato Moth Is Troubling Your Tomato Plants?

Tomato moths are active at night. Inspect the tomato plants for damage. You may observe chewing damage on young leaves, stems, and flowers.  You may notice frass, scratching, tunnels, and large holes in both green and ripening fruit.

Also, young plants may be stripped.

Young larvae will make perforations on the undersides of the leaves, and older larvae will attack the complete plant.

Check out this video for more information:

Natural Ways To Control Tomato Moth On Tomato Plants

The natural ways to control tomato moths are sprinkling DE powder, applying neem oil, and Bt spray. These measures are less harmful to the beneficial insects.

1. Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth Powder

Diatomaceous earth powder is made from the sediment of fossilized algae. It is gaining popularity as an insecticide to deter tomato moth.

  • Sprinkle diatomaceous powder– Monitor tomato plants and sprinkle the diatomaceous powder around the base of the infested tomato plants. You may also dust the powder on the leaves.
  • Repeat the application– You may repeat the application as required and after rainfall.

I came across this useful video on using diatomaceous earth powder on controlling pests:

2. Apply Neem Oil

Neem oil contains many phytochemicals that are useful in pest control. It stops the maturation of larvae and interferes with mating behaviour.

  • Prepare neem oil– Mix one teaspoon of neem oil and 1/3 teaspoon of dish soap in a quart of water. Shake well and transfer to a spray bottle.
  • Spray on the affected foliage– Spray the diluted neem oil on the affected foliage. It is preferable to do a patch test before applying it to a larger area. Repeat as required.

This is a useful video on using neem oil for controlling pests:

3. Apply Bt Spray

Bacillus thuringiensis is an aerobic bacterium that produces toxins and is used as an insecticide. The caterpillars that eat the treated parts of the plants will stop feeding and die in a few days. Also, it does not harm the beneficial insects.

  • Prepare Bt Spray– Dilute 1 ml of Bt in a liter of water. Shake well until it is mixed.
  • Spray on the affected foliage-Spray Bt on the affected foliage and the moths. Repeated applications are required due to leaching and photostability.

4. Drench The Soil With Beneficial Nematodes

Beneficial nematodes are naturally occurring, microscopic organisms. They enter the pest and kill them within a few hours to days after infection.

  • Prepare the solution– Purchase the beneficial nematodes. Remove the sachets and dilute them in water according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Apply the nematodes– Nematodes can be applied using a watering can, a sprayer, or a sprinkler system. Take care to distribute them over the soil surface.

Physical Ways To Control Tomato Moth On Tomato Plants

Regular examination and removal of tomato moths can help in controlling them from attacking plants and causing further damage.

Remove The Moths

The most cost-effective method is to remove the moths by hand. The caterpillars are quite large and easy to see. However, it can be time-consuming to remove them by hand.

  • Monitor the plants– Check the tomato plants for eggs and caterpillars on the undersides daily.
  • Remove the moths– You may flick the caterpillars using a paintbrush, pencil, spoon, or using gardening gloves. If you observe egg clusters on the underside of leaves, scrape off eggs. Destroy them in soapy water and do not toss them into the compost pile.

Chemical Ways To Control Tomato Moth On Tomato Plants

The chemicals, including spinosad, can be used to control tomato mots. But, check with the local regulatory authorities for their authorization of use. Also, use these chemicals as a last measure and take care to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

1. Spray Spinosad Solution

Spinosad is a natural insecticide obtained from an actinomycete bacterium species. It kills harmful pests by causing neurological effects.

  • Prepare spinosad solution– Prepare 0.1% of spinosad solution. Dilute 1 ml of spinosad concentrate in a liter of water.
  • Apply on the affected foliage– Spray the diluted solution on the affected foliage as soon as the larvae are discovered. Repeat the application twice for the best results.

How To Prevent Tomato Moth In Tomato Plants?

Prevention is better to control tomato moths. Practice good gardening sanitation techniques to prevent them. Also, place mesh netting around the tomato plants and plant trap crops to deter them from attacking your favorable tomato plants.

1. Practice Sanitation

Monitor your fields and remove the infested plants. Also, till the soil especially if you have had a huge infestation to kill the overwintering pupae.

It is recommended to destroy the infested plants and not throw them into the garbage bin.

2. Place Netting Around Plants

Place fine mesh netting around the tomato plants. This helps in deterring tomato moths from attacking the plants. Ensure that your plant is receiving enough airflow and sunlight.

3. Plant Favorable Crops

Plant crops, including orache, goosefoot, and redshank may attract moth larvae. It prevents the tomato moth from attacking tomato plants. Also, you may plant a weed patch in the garden to deter pest activity.

4. Practice Crop Rotation

Another good garden practice is to rotate tomato crops to a different location every year to keep the pests at bay.

A general recommendation is to plant the same crop in the same area only once every three years to prevent pest attacks.

What Causes Tomato Moth Attacks In Tomato Plants?

The tomato moth prefers humid and nutrient-rich sites. They attack tomato plants grown in greenhouses, farmland, along rivers, or forest clearings.

Also, they are more active in the summer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can pyrethrins be used to control tomato moths?

Yes, pyrethrins can be used to control tomato moths. These are obtained from the flowers of Chrysanthemum and are not toxic to humans. One disadvantage is that they have a broad control spectrum that causes non-selective control. So, there may be a possibility of the reappearance of pests in the plants.

What are the host plants of tomato plants?

One of the major hosts of tomato moths is tomato. Also, they may attack pepper, potato, lettuce, cucumber, onion, cabbage, peas, and cauliflower. They affect the whole leaves, stalks, flowers, and fruits of the plants.


I hope this detailed guide has provided several tips on how to identify, control and prevent tomato moths.

If you find the guide helpful, do share it with your gardening friends!