Tomato Pinworms: How To Control This New Pest For Northern Gardeners

Tomato pinworms (Keiferia lycopersicella) don’t survive the regular freezing winter
August 07, 2017 | 10:53 am / Van Waddill
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Tomato pinworms are tiny caterpillars that cause big trouble in the tomato patch. Learn how to ID this pest and what you can do to keep it in check.

Gardeners in the southern U.S. are probably already familiar with the tomato pinworm. But those of us north of the Mason-Dixon line had better familiarize ourselves with this tiny pest quickly because it’s becoming more common. I had trouble with tomato pinworms in my Pennsylvania garden for the first time last summer, and unfortunately, they’re back again this year.

About Tomato Pinworms

Tomato pinworms (Keiferia lycopersicella) don’t survive the regular freezing winter temperatures we have here in the north, unless we have an unusually warm winter. However, tomato pinworms easily overwinter in greenhouses and go on to emerge in the spring and lay eggs on a new generation of plants. The biggest reason we’re seeing these pests in the north is probably because more tomato transplants are started in the south and then shipped around the country to be sold at various retailers, including many big box stores. As infested plants move from one region to another, so does this pest. Learning to identify the tomato pinworm is key to controlling it. Northern gardeners should also purchase tomato plants only from local growers or grow their own from seed. Because adult tomato pinworms are highly mobile and can move quickly from garden to garden, encourage your neighbors to do the same.

Identifying Tomato Pinworms

As adults, pinworms are very small, night-flying moths that are gray and nondescript. Their wingspan is a mere half-inch, but female moths lay small groups of eggs on tomato leaves. Occasionally they may also lay eggs on eggplants and peppers as well.

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Topics: tomato, gardering

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