Do your tomatoes look like this? Do you know what causes it? This was done by the stink/shield bug. We were inundated with the leaf footed stink bug.
There is nothing worse than getting pounds and pounds of tomatoes only to have portions of them sucked dry leaving numerous small scars behind. That is exactly what the stink bug does. They are attacking our sunflowers and tomatoes, so we have decided that if they can suck, so can we.
There are 7000 species of shield bugs (also called stink bugs and chust bugs). They get their name from glands that produce a foul smelling liquid as a defense. They all have piercing mouth parts that suck juices, mostly from plants, but also some species eat other insects. With few natural predators, these bugs can quickly get out of control.
They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some species are quite beautiful, but let’s be honest, when they enter our garden and begin to eat our food, who cares how they look.
We have been trying different natural techniques including neem oil, using this homemade deterrent with and without neem oil added, and just squishing them. Although it somewhat works, it can be time consuming and costly to keep doing these sprays over and over. We have also tried pyrethrin spray (although this is NOT something we want to use on a regular basis but only as a last resort) and just this week I sprayed some kaolin clay to see how well it works. But we have found a fast, cheap, and environmentally friendly solution that quickly KILLS THEM DEAD!
All it takes is a wet/dry shop vac, and some soapy water. We used the Dewalt 2 gallon 1.85-Peak HP cordless shop vac. What is nice about this shop vac is that it can be used with a rechargeable battery and is relatively lightweight which makes it portable. It is also just powerful enough to suck up the bugs but not so powerful that it damages the plants.
So grab your shop vac and go vacuum up those pesky critters then suck up some soapy water from a bucket. BAM! In less than 30 minutes (time will depend on how big of a garden you have and how bad the infestation) we had collected and killed well over 300 stink bugs. You could almost hear the plants breath a collective sigh of relief afterwards.
It’s important to know the life cycle and behavior of these creatures to know when to expect them, and how often you may need to do this. They emerge after the spring thaw, seeking tall weeds. They start attacking crops after it warms up and they have flowered. Here in Southeast Texas it started at the end of May when temperatures were constantly in the 90’s. It also seems, from our observations, that the bugs are less active at dusk (meaning less likely to fly away) and able to be sucked up more readily.
We have gone out nightly for about a week to ensure we have gotten most of them. Each time there are less and less and I can see the plants starting to recover.
The stink bug’s life cycle from egg to adult is about six weeks with two or more generations per year. A female stink bug deposits 20-30 eggs on the undersides of leaves of host plants and will hatch within 1-2 weeks. The juveniles are called nymphs and when they become adults in about 4 weeks they are ready to mate and start the cycle again.
Although, they are attracted to the tomatoes, it seems that they are really drawn to the tall sunflowers as this is where we found most of them. My plan next year is to plant some near the tomatoes to attract them as a decoy. It’s much easier to vacuum them off the sunflowers than the tomato plants.
One can take a multi-prong approach to controlling the stink bug. The hatching of eggs can be controlled by examining the underside of leaves and using duct tape to pick them up. The nymphs are killed by using the THIS natural recipe (NOTE: I prefer to add neem oil to this as well as essential oils) and you can try the kaolin clay as well. Then the adults can be vacuumed up using the wet/dry vac.
Hopefully, we have gotten these pests under control and our tomatoes will return to being blemish free, sweet, and succulent. Now to figure out what to do about the squirrels…
Please Note: This article contains affiliate links. I receive compensation if you make a purchase with this link. This helps us to keep this site up and running and providing you with valuable content.