Description of the Pest
The tomato bug is also known as the tomato suck bug because both nymphs and adults will insert their long mouthparts into the stem to feed. Rings develop around stems at these feeding sites. The rings are thickened corky areas that become yellow to reddish. The stem is weakened and brittle at these rings and can easily break when touched, causing blossom drop, dropping of young fruit, and breakage of vine stems.
Tomato bugs are common in tomato fields throughout the Central Valley and in southern California, but they do not typically cause economic damage to bush-type processing or fresh market tomato plants where fruit are picked only once. They have been observed on occasion in great abundance on commercially grown pole tomatoes, in greenhouse culture, and in backyard gardens. Economic damage has been observed in pole and greenhouse plantings when blossoms drop and vines break at feeding sites when vines are contacted by workers moving past the plants.
Tomato bugs are usually first noticed in mid-summer, and their populations continue to grow into fall, when treatments may become necessary. In general, treatments are not recommended except when high densities occur in pole or greenhouse tomato plantings which are picked multiple times. Although no research has been conducted on control it is believed that most insecticides used to control lygus bugs or stink bugs will also control the tomato bug.