Green vegetable bugs

Karen is new to organic gardening and is wants to know what to do about the green vegetable bugs that are attacking her tomatoes.

The green vegetable bug is a sap-sucking pest. They use weeds as hosts and attack vegetable plants that are stressed in some way. Of the chemical sprays required to kill these bugs, one will poison any birds that eat the bugs, and the other is deadly to bees and other beneficial insects. It can also metabolise in humans to a more toxic chemical, and is currently under review.
Chooks show no interest in eating these bugs. The best way to get rid of these organically is to put some methylated spirits into a soup tin or similar container. Put on gloves to protect your hands from any smelly juice they excrete and use a stick to knock them into the tin. Then get rid of weeds and plants that have finished bearing to prevent these pests continuing to breed.
To prevent further attacks (and this is the most important part of the treatment) have a look at why your tomato plants are stressed, and correct the problem. Some gardeners find it difficult to understand that pest and disease attack are only symptoms of unsuitable conditions for a particular species, but it is true. I noticed yesterday, that similar bugs are attacking some silver beet plants we have. We decided after picking the first of this silver beet that we did not like this variety as much as ‘Fordhook’ and decided to just feed the plants to the chooks, a plant or two at a time. Consequently, the silver beet did not receive the same attention as the other vegetables and, before long, these bugs moved in. The bugs are not attacking other vegetables that are receiving normal care.
When pests attack plants, the answer is always in the soil. It may be too dry or poorly drained. If water is in short supply in your area, hill up your tomatoes about 5 cm at a time. They will produce more roots along the stem and allow them to access water more efficiently. Tomato plants need a deep watering (under mulch) several times a week in dry weather, rather than a light daily watering.
Or, the plants may be short of the nutrients they require to produce pest-deterring pheromones. If you have skimped on fertiliser, after a thorough watering, give each plant a light feed of complete poultry-based fertiliser and a drink of seaweed extract tea.
Or, the soil may be too acid or alkaline for the plants and the nutrients they require can be locked out and unavailable to the plants. This can be difficult to determine without testing, except that, with tomatoes symptoms of phosphorus deficiency (purple colouring under leaves and slow growth) are a clue that soil is too acid or alkaline if you have applied adequate complete fertiliser. If soil is too alkaline, put some well-rotted horse or cow manure under the mulch around the plants. If soil is too acid, water in some dolomite or lime around the base of each plant. See Changing soil pH.

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3 Responses to Green vegetable bugs

  1. Chris Hooper says:

    This is the first time I’ve read that these bugs are because of distressed plants. I’ve had them in plague proportion in my garden…..It’s dry here and have improved soil (but not everywhere) so it holds water better. Leave plants to flower to attract beneficial insects so don’t want to pull out things when “finished”……have to plod on…

  2. Clare says:

    My garden has been under attack from these destructive creatures for a few months. However, it has taken me some time to identify and learn that they were the cause of some plants suddenly expiring. The one thing I would like to mention about ‘Bugs’ is that they look very different when smaller and immature than the adult they will become. When I first discovered the nymphs of the Green Vegetable Bug I tried to identify which ‘Lady Bug’ it was! All the while thinking it was probably of the harmless variety because most Lady Bugs do no harm. So without any urgency from me to accurately identify these wreckers and spoilers, they had free run to multiply. Now, when I see a cluster of them sucking the life out of one of my plants I reach down and squeeze the life out of them. I have not noticed any unpleasant buggy odour, perhaps it is because these glands are not well developed in the nymphs. Like aphids, they are easy to extinguish in this manner. However, take care to apply just the right amount of pressure to kill them but not harm tender new growth, which they tend to prefer. The nymphs are black with green spots and, at two or three stages of their development, they are the size of Lady Bugs. NB Crusader Bugs are also tricky to identify as nymphs. They have two vertical spots on their back.
    The Brisbane Insects website is great for identifying bugs, Clare, including ladybirds, whose larvae don’t look anything like a bug – more like tiny crocodiles or spitfire caterpillars. Green vegetable bugs and Ladybird and larva

  3. Geoff Boyes says:

    Try using degergent (a small amount, mixed with water) in a spray bottle -kills them every time and their nymphs. Easy……… You can use dishwasing detergent or anything similar that dissolves in water.
    Using dishwashing detergent can damage plants, especially in hot weather. The best thing to use is a horticultural soap, such as Natrasoap, which is potassium based. – Lyn

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