Good Bug, Bad Bug

Is this insect larvae beneficial or harmful to your tomato and pepper plants? Positive identification is the important first step in any Integrated Pest Management Program.

The panhandle’s warm temperatures and adequate moisture levels are not only favorable for growing fresh vegetables, but also favorable to insect populations as well. When it comes to insects living in your vegetable garden, there are both “good” insects and “bad” insects. When pest (“bad”) insect pressures cause significant crop loss to a grower, a decision needs to be made on control measures. IPM can help make those pest management decisions. IPM (Integrated Pest Management) is the smart approach to pest management. With IPM you use various techniques to help control or suppress insect damage to your cash crop. An important component is to set action thresholds for the various insect pests. This is the point at which the insect population has become large enough to cause detrimental damage and control is required. The control could be by using cultural, biological, chemical, and/or mechanical techniques. A cultural control in a nursery setting would be, for example, to space your plants far enough apart so that there is adequate air movement in the plant canopy. Biological control is using living organisms to help maintain pest populations. Mechanical control is something every home gardener has practiced when they hand remove insects from plants. Chemical control is the final option to be used if the pest population has reached beyond the action threshold and no other control method has worked.

The first step in IPM is correct identification. Before we can determine our action we must know who the good guys and the bad guys are. There are several pest and beneficial insects that can be found on tomato and pepper plants. This article can help you get ahead of the insects and the growing season.

First is the Leaffooted bug. This bug is ¾ inch long and brown with a white band across its back. It will feed on both the foliage and the fruit and can cause wilting and death to the plant.

Adult Leaffooted Bug


Nymph Leaffooted Bug

Another bad bug is the Tomato pinworm. The adults are light brown/grayish moths that are about a ¼ inch in length. The newly hatched larvae have brown heads and yellow/gray bodies. The larvae enter the leaves and form mines and also enter the fruit leaving a small pin hole entry. Once in the fruit, they feed beneath the skin and cause blotches.

Adult Tomato Pinworm Moth
Tomato Pinworm
Tomato Pinworm Damage

For our good bugs, let’s take a look at Lady Beetles or Lady Bugs. Many people are familiar with Lady Beetles but not as many are familiar with larvae of this beneficial insect. The larvae tend to be flattened and elongated, dark with bright spots or bands. Some are covered with a waxy secretion that makes it resemble mealybugs. If you see these guys roaming on your vegetables, it is a good thing and they are most likely feeding on mites, whiteflies, scale, mealybugs, aphids, or insect eggs.

Lady Beetle Adult
Lady Beetle Larvae
Lady Beetle Larvae with waxy coating

If you are not sure if you have an insect problem on your farm or landscape call your local extension agent and get help identifying before you decide on an action plan.

For more information on this article contact: Blake Thaxton – (850)623-3868 or, and/or visit the University of Florida’s IPM website.




Posted: March 8, 2013

Category: Agriculture
Tags: Insects, IPM, Panhandle Agriculture, Vegetables

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