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satellitehead

strange bugs on my tomatoes

satellitehead
May 30, 2008

I know it doesn't help that I'm not posting pictures, but I'm going to throw this out there and see if anyone bites on what this could be...

For the first time this year, I bought someone else's tomatoes to grow in my yard, because I didn't have time to buy heirloom seeds of my own. Two of the three tomatoes I bought are a striped heirloom variety, either both Tigerella, both Green Zebra, or possibly one of each (they were badly marked). Specifically, these two tomatoes appear to have a lot of bugs on them - not to the point of "infestation", but visible enough that there are 8-10 of these little guys on every third or fourth leaf.

The bugs are beige in color, approximately 1mm in size, perfectly round tortoiseshell body (hard/firm body) with a little head poking out. The legs are teeny tiny, sticking out from the underside of the body at a diagonal. Honestly, if bedbugs came in hardshell form and beige color, these bugs would look a lot like that. They do not appear to have wings at all. They also don't seem to move much (if at all) when disturbed.

The bugs are only hanging out on the top of the leaves, and they don't appear to be doing any physical damage to the plant. They DO NOT look like any aphid I've ever seen. They are also only sticking to this particular variety of heirloom which I purchased, so I'm not certain if the bug is something that came from the nursery, the store, or if this is just a pest common to this variety of heirlooms (or heirlooms in general).

I've love to get to the bottom of this; I can take pictures if it will absolutely help ID the critter, I just haven't had time this week and may not have time until the weekend.

Comments (19)

  • girlgroupgirl

    Do they look a bit like they could be small spiders with harder backs?
    I have some white/beige tiny spider like things that seem to be eating/killing white fly perhaps. Or sucking the whitefly honeydo?
    I killed a few by scraping them off the plant stems, but left the rest on. Just in case they were beneficial. I've not seen them before.

    FL

  • satellitehead

    yes, that sounds exactly right. they look similar to small spiders with harder backs. typing that out makes it sound like a tick, which i guess it kinda looks like they are, only they're very much beige in color.

    i've never seen anything like them before. they easily brush off, and i don't see them move. spraying them with water does nothing. it's almost like they're dead on the leaf.

    and, strangely, they're only on the striped tomato plants i bought locally, the two of them. none are on the 'mortgage lifter' i bought at the same store (at least i didn't see any) and none are on the yellow or cherry tomatoes i grew from seed.

  • girlgroupgirl

    Did you buy your tomatoes at Village Green or Urban Gardner?

    GGG

  • satellitehead

    Yep, sure did. :) And to indirectly answer your question, I don't shop @ UG, I prefer the prior of the two you listed for personal reasons. As much as I loved supporting my UF alumni @ UG, I find VG much more suited to what I want and need with prices that are worth what you get.

    It's strange, because I actually bought four tomato plants actually (thought it was three, but it actually was four), and it's only these two, specifically, that had the bugs. And they're either Tigerella or Zebra, I am not sure which - won't know until they are ripe.

    It appears all of the bugs are actually dead, they weren't moving, so I investigated. It appears that the bottom of the bodies has a split in them - so whatever these things were, all that is left is this shell, very similar to what a cicada does (but out of the bottom).

    Very curious. I don't see any flying insects nearby. I have NFC what these things were. If you figure out, let me know?

  • blazepepper

    I too have these tiny white/or off white spider things all over my tomatoes. I purchased a Green Zebra, a Cherokee Purple, and a yellow pear, all from East Village Ace Harware. GGG, why do you ask where they came from, is there some sort of problem w/ the plants? Do you know what these bugs are and what, if anything should be done to them? Thanks

  • blazepepper

    Satellitehead, I just took a long and better look at my plants, and I agree, they all look dead. I checked the undersides of the leaves and they are spotted w/ the white ones and some darker ones. I did some looking around on the net,,, could they be whiteflies? or aphids? If so, it says best riddance is green lace bugs and lady bugs. But where do you buy lady bugs? I'd like to give it a try. Also, it does seem funny, they are only on my cherokee and zebra, but not on my Bonnies Original I got at HD. Go figure, I have NFC either. Anyone out there know anything esle about this problem, or if it is a problem at all?

  • satellitehead

    it could be that they are only on my green zebra, not 100% sure.

  • blazepepper

    I recently got my first shippment of my arsenal!! I got green lace wing eggs, and placed them in the garden. Now all I need are some praying mantis and the lady bugs to stay around and I'll have a full on assault against the white flies and aphids.

  • satellitehead

    are you experiencing an abundance of white flies? i haven't really seen any in my garden as of yet. i have some ladybugs hanging around, though, which is always nice.

  • blazepepper

    I have a lot of white flies and Brown Aphids on 2 of my tomatoe plants, specifically the green zebra and cherokee purple I bought at East Atlanta Ace Hardware. However there are none on the Bonnie's Original that is right next to it. But like you described earlier, they all seem to be dead?? wierd. but there are a lot of them on the undersides of the leaves.

  • satellitehead

    i will need to check the undersides of the leaves, but i didn't see any on mine at first glance. i did notice that a couple of branches of my green zebra are completely dead for no obvious reason. all of the other ones look fine.

    it's possible the lady bugs and wasps that are ever-present in my garden may have attacked already. i've found that wasps apparently REALLY like arugula. bumblebees really like anise hyssop. ladybugs really like my cukes and tomatoes. it's a bug-fest in my garden with all of the above in bloom.

  • kbugs

    I once found a strange bug in my garden...I scooped it up and took it to my local nursery (Walnut Creek on 155), showed him the bug and he told me what it was and how to get rid of it. Maby you can do that?

  • satellitehead

    at a cursory glance, i am finding bugs on the tomatoes in question. none really look like white flies, they look more like assassin bugs or aphids (dunno which, really). i found several dead branches on each plant also, but it's limited to those two plants. i pruned them back to remove the dead branches, the leaves were wilted to nothing, but there was no bend/crack or other visible damage to the stalk/branch. the rest of the branches look fine - unfortunately, two of the branches i removed had the only tomatoes produced so far on them.

    i'm just not having much luck this year, i guess :( first had to pull some of my cukes and beans (had backups, though) and now two of my tomatoes are half dying :\

    BP, keep me posted on what you find out if you don't mind.

  • satellitehead

    I'm posting pictures as a means to share what I'm dealing with, maybe someone has seen it before?

    It looks like both of my green zebras have some kind of wilt; It is not affecting any of the other tomatoes. I don't know what kind of wilt it is, or if maybe it's something other than wilt.

    A few key points:

    * The bed is brand new, nothing ever grown here previously
    * It was filled with ~16cu ft. of Miracle Grow Garden Bed soil; 48" x 48" x 12" (L x W x D)
    * They are not watered daily, soil is moist under the surface, but not saturated
    * There are two other tomato varieties in the same bed, just a foot or two away, with no wilt problems
    * There are no signs of moles or other pests in my yard
    * This location gets at least 6 hours of aternoon sun every day.
    * The tomatoes had an abundance of 1mm-2mm beige spider/beetle bugs on top of the leaves as reported in the first post of this thread

    Here are two photos of the two plants in question:


    I know these aren't the best pictures, they were taken with my Blackberry. Note in the first picture that most of the leaves and branches look amazing - and no bugs - but there are also complete branches just starting to wilt, or fully wilted. The first one looks like it has two small cankers or something on the side, this is how I bought the plant. It was one of the last ones left, and I jumped on it.

    In the second picture, note that some of the branches that are wilted are coming off of a main stalk, and the rest of the main stalk is fine, as are the other branches coming off of it. It's like ... it's completely random.

    I don't see any holes in the branches, although there are a lot of "pimples" on the stems of the plant, more so than the other nearby tomatoes, but I just figured this is normal for this variety? I'm tossing it out there just in case.

    I am going to post these over on the tomato or heirloom forum to see if I can get anyone who has seen something like this. I found a page via Google that talks about green zebra wilt in North Carolina, but it's dated June 2006. Could it be related? http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/chatham/ag/SustAg/tomatowilt06.html

  • satellitehead

    Ouch! Initial response is not good!

    http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/tomato/msg06154553507.html?2

    That would seriously suck if the first tomatoes I ever bought ended up tainting my brand new raised tomato bed, and possibly killed tomatoes I planted at a later date.

    I'm going to sit on this for another week and see if it continues. I might drag this

    GGG, if you're still out there, you'd mentioned you're seeing these bugs on yours as well, are your green zebras also wilting? Have the source of the tomatoes or other buyers mentioned similar things happening? I'd love to get a positive ID on this one, if it's something bad...I want to prevent spread as much as possible.

  • satellitehead

    Whether it was reactive on my part or not, I ripped both tomatoes out of the ground today.

    Wilting was continuing on random branches. All of my other tomatoes (diff't breeds) just a couple feet away were not having problems. I can't help but think that there was something wrong with these tomatoes. I'm going to cut the surrounding soil out and toss it out back where we won't plant any veggies :)

    "Just in case"

  • blazepepper

    Satellitehead, I just want to say that my green zebra from
    east atlanta hardware (if I'm not mistaken, came from the
    holy comforter garden) are thriving and healthy. the only problem I had was white flies and aphids, and I bought praying mantis to eliminate them. Other than the bugs, which already seem to have lessened, the plants and fruit look good. Is this the same source of GZ you used? I sure would like to hear back from GGG to see if she heard of any other issues like yours. after all, I built a brand new raised bed this year as well.

  • satellitehead

    EAV/VH is also where I picked mine up. Seriously - Branches were randomly dying with no trauma whatsoever - I lost at least 10-12 branches in the last week, 10-12 the week before, half a dozen the week before that. they shrivelled to the main stalk, then slowly browned and fell off.

    I have them properly caged and have never seen this before, none of the other tomatoes are having this issue, and they're all caged up the same, in the same beds, all new soil, etc. I saw no insect infestation (white flies, etc) except the weird bugs, which I took photos of.

    It was weird. I have 3 other tomato plants left in my bed, two up on the deck, four growing out of the side of the compost bin :) and two more back behind the house at the edge of our driveway....so I can live without the two GZs and still have plenty of tomatoes. The mortgage lifter should have about a dozen tomatoes ripening this next week.

    Like I said, "just in case", "better safe than sorry", probably reactive on my part, but the GZs are gone.

  • vietzero

    I have them before. Just go cut a lemon and spray on them. Simple.........

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