What's eating my tomatoes?

Sorry I’ve had all these gardening questions, guys - as soon as I get one fixed (or give up on it) there’s something else waiting in the wings! Peppers are doing much better, but now the tomatoes are coming ripe and…

I’ve had one, it’s had two. I didn’t think to take a picture, but it leaves one hole in the tomato, I guess a bit smaller than a dime. I haven’t seen any suspicious looking bugs, but then again it’s a jungle in there. There’s netting over it to keep the squirrels out, so the birds 1) can’t eat the tomatoes, and 2) can’t eat the bugs either. I’m trying to be organic here, and I don’t mind sacrificing a few of my tomatoes (I’ve got hundreds of green ones), but if it’s more than a few then I definately mind. If I have to give up organic, well, so be it, but I’d rather not.

So far the only ripe ones are the Burbanks, which are okay - nice and meaty, but so-so flavor. I’ll share with the bugs. When my Brandywines ripen, though, things are going to get serious. I’ve never had a Brandywine tomato and I certainly intend to.

So, what am I looking for? Flying thing? Wormy thing? Does it bite?

I have had problems with squirrels and tomatoes before. It’s infuriating, they take one bite and leave a ruined fruit.

I don’t mind sharing a little bounty with a hard-up bunny or squirrel, especially in the recent drought conditions, but if they’re going to just take one bite and leave then that’s just rude.


Slugs! They’re eatin’ my strawberries!
Try some slug traps (pdf) baited with beer.

CMC fnord!

It’s not squirrels or chipmunks - there’s netting because of the squirrels and they’re not getting in.

The holes, by the way, are always on the side away from me. :frowning:

These tomatoes have ended up on the ground, by the way - the plants got way, way out of my control.

Wouldn’t slugs hit the leaves, too? Or green fruit? The only thing touched is the ripe stuff, from what I can tell.

There is also, I note, a hole in one jalapeno, nowhere near the ground. I harvested at least 20 perfectly good ones last week, though.

If you’re sure it isn’t squirrels or birds, then it can only be insects. Look for caterpillars. Many kinds will hide on the underside of the leaves during the day and come out at night. Patrolling your garden with a flashlight at night is definitely something you should try now and then. You’ll be surprised at how many critters take the day off and only work at night.

Hmm, hadn’t even considered going out at night. Are there specific caterpillars I’m looking for? Please tell me they aren’t green! I’ll never find a green one.

(The holes are perfectly round, BTW, with black edges, if I didn’t mention that.)

I thought it couldn’t be mice in my case. Holes half an inch to and ch were showing up on branches a fott or more in the air. I found mouse poop around the base of the plant. They only need a half inch tall space to get in, and they climbed on the branchs. I still think it will be mice getting in. Look at the base of the chewed fruit and the plant for dropping, mice or catapiler. Tomato or tobbaco worns can be an inch in diameter, and 4 to 6 inches long, and they’re green. I haven’t seen on for twenty years though, around here they’re gone. I’t the only worm I can think of that will eat a large tomato, and they eat the unripe ones mostly.

I wouldn’t hurt to set a few mouse traps under the plants to see if yo8u catch something.

How do you find mouse poop in the dirt, by the way?

Went out last night with a flashlight. Tripped and fell and tangled myself in the bean trellis. Woke the neighbors up. Almost had to cut myself loose.

Perhaps the Worms are trying to send you a message?

Tomato hornworm maybe?

It could be anything suggested, and i have nothing to add to that. If you want to salvage at least a few of those miracles, you might try covering some with used-up panty hose or maybe aluminum foil. No, it wouldn’t stop a determined mouse or squirrel, but I have found both to be a good defense against insect-types.

It won’t really solve your problem, but might enable you to salvage some of that orange-red goodness.

Um, just to clarify, I did mean the individual tomatoes, not the entire plant or anything.

Would it be worthwhile to try spraying with soap, like I do for spider mites and all? Would a caterpillar-type creature care about soap?

If it is a caterpillar-type, you could best by spraying with bt. (Bacillus thurengensis…I probably spelled that wrong)

It is non-chemical and harmless to humans, and is DEATH to caterpillars, including most especially the dreaded tomato hornworm.

Tomato hornworms are big, somewhat obvious muthas. If you don’t see big caterpillar droppings on the leaves or the hornworms themselves, then I’m betting it’s slugs.

Check out this site about slugs - see the end of the paragraph entitled “Damage and Scouting”. I put out a little “Deadline” snail bait, but if you’re organically minded, you can do the beer in the saucer thing.

In SC, tomato hornworms are probably just hitting their stride now, but still small, so you would miss them visually. Look for telltale green poop on the leaves. If you don’t have a lot of plants, hand-picking is pretty easy, put them “away” in a container of water, but leave ones that with white protruberances like this , because those are parasitic wasp eggs on the caterpillar, which will soon eat them from the inside out, and you want to encourage that species’ action, and Not kill all with pesticides.

That said, it’s the leaves that hornworms go for. If you are having small bits from the developing tomatoes rot out, it might be a fungal thing. That’s the main reason to stake/cage tomatoes : to give support and air circulation, especially as we hit the humidity in the South, and, to keep slugs and ground critters from munching on the fruit.

Since you have a hole in yer Jalepeno, too, I suspect a fungus. I’m in NC, and this is exactly the time fungal disease starts. Here’s a site with tomato diseases from your area, courtesy of Clemson University, the Ag college of SC. You can probably call them up for advice, as well. They’ll also have knowledge of tomatoes bred to withstand the humid conditions of the South.