How I’m fighting Leaf Footed Bugs on my tomatoes

I’ll be straight up with you.  This is the first year I’ve had leaf footed bugs on my tomatoes and I am just beginning to learn about them.  What I learned first of all…. they’re evil!

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Adult leaf footed bugs on my heirloom tomatoes

I do remember seeing some of these adult bugs last year, I think they were on the sunflowers, maybe.  But this is definitely the first time I’ve had a tomato infestation.  Usually, my biggest tomato problem is horn worms and blossom end rot.  I’ve had a few horn worms this year, no blossom end rot, and now this.  😦  I did see the unusual nymph bugs in our locust thicket in early spring while I was cutting limbs for a fence row.

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Various stages of leaf footed bugs

Leaf footed bug nymphs are red, so they’re easy to spot.  Looks like another bug altogether, but it’s not.

OK, so how am I handling it?  Well, first of all, I turned to my gardening communities to identify the bugs in the first place.  I’m in a North Texas Vegetable Gardeners group on Facebook as well as a member in the Abundant Permaculture (Justin Rhodes) DIY Abundance group.  The community helped me ID the bugs and then I was able to do more searching.

Since I am in Texas, AgriLife Extension articles are always a good place for me to start.  The article, Finding Leaf-footed Bugs in Your Tomatoes?,  helped confirm their identify, but didn’t really offer me many solutions.

Through other articles read, I discovered that there’s a reason I haven’t seen leaf footed bugs on my tomatoes before!  Apparently, these bugs are native to the western United States, and have slowly been migrating.  The adults overwinter in piles of wood, among other things, and a mild winter will allow them to flourish.  Bingo.  I saw nymphs in the locust thicket, where we have a brush pile waiting to be burned.  We also had a mild winter.

Then I came across an article from the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources department, How to Manage Pests in Gardens & Landscapes: Leaffooted Bug.  This article is very thorough and included six options for managing my problem.

So, obviously, this will be an ongoing thing here on the homestead.  My first step has been picking unripe tomatoes.  Neil Sperry, in his article, Success with Tomatoes, stated that picking as fruit makes the turn from green toward pink will protect against sunscald and bird pecking and will lose no flavor or nutritional value.  I’d like to add, will also give some protection from leaf footed bugs.

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This morning’s garden harvest: green tomatoes that are beginning to turn, one duck egg, zinnias, roses and other wildflowers.

So to summarize,

How I’m fighting Leaf Footed Bugs on my tomatoes, Step One:

Pick the tomatoes early.

Yes, I know, that was a little disappointing.  As I research and learn what else I can do to protect my tomatoes, I’ll update the information here on the blog.  Wish me luck…

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These tomatoes are ripening on the kitchen window shelf. Far right are from yesterday. Left are ready to eat! Mmmmm…

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