Something eating my tomatos! Suspects?

willistonAugust 14, 2011

Well, after waiting all summner, just as my bigest Mortgage lifter was getting nice and ripe something has eaten half of it right on the vine. I'm suspecting a bird as I have seen them hanging out looking for bugs, little worms, etc. I don't think it's a ground based critter like a chipmunk was the tomato was about two feet up from the ground and the damage as on the top of the fruit. No teeth marks...it just looks like it was scooped away. I did see some bit of skin here and there and a few small holes which makes me suspect birds. Nothing else in the garden is touched. (Green beans, cukes, etc)

Anyone here have any ideas and what you did to try and prevent this? They seem to strike just as the fruit turns red. They don't seem to bother the green tomatos at all. My neighbor is having the same problem. Thanks!

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yumtomatoes(10a/FLA)

Cats work. But if you don't want to invest in a cat, owl statues and wind chimes or mobiles that move with the wind can help.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 8:17AM
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rocklandguyZ8,SC

Every year it is something else! If not some sort of disease, it's these vermin... This year, I would say my plants have produced the nicest looking fruit, and as you said just as they turn red, something takes their bites. Catbirds are my worst enemy this year, followed by Chipmunks that I relocate after catching in a haveahart trap. The chipmunks actually climb the plant and eat what they want. I've watched them! Then the field mice, then the Whistle Pigs (woodchucks), then the deer come and eat the ends of all the branches. I'm ready to put that deer netting around the garden, but that would be a big inconvenience to me... Haven't found a solution yet, but I don't stop trying to think of one. Good luck! Paul

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 9:05AM
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jannie(z7 LI NY)

Squirrels eat ALL my peaches, too! And birds get my Cherries. I think they expect to be fed all summer.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 9:24AM
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williston

Thanks for the replies. The killer is since I don't know what is attacking the plants, I don't feel real warm and fuzzy about salvaging and eating the rest of the tomato that isn't damaged. We have been overrun with chipmunks the last 5 or 6 years so it could be them I suppose. I have a low chicken wire fence around the garden that stops the rabbits and woodchucks, but it can't do much to stop "chippie". ARRGHHH!!!!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 9:54AM
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rocklandguyZ8,SC

No, that chicken wire won't stop the woodchucks. I have a four foot chainlink fence around my yard and they climb right over it. When I chase them, I see them do it. They are just as bad as the deer. The WC stand on their hind legs and pull the branches down to get to what they want. They even climb the plant if it is sturdy enough to hold them up.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 11:51AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Generally, the larger the amount eaten, the larger the creature that did it. The exception is hornworms; they leave much more damage than you would think.

The bird damage I see is very messy: lots of tiny pecked holes, looking as if the tomato was stabbed by large sewing or embroidery needles.

To prevent the vast majority of the bird and animal damage, pick the fruit as soon as it breaks color (begins to turn yellow). This will not affect the taste. Unfortunately, hornworms are happy with green fruit. And I've got a low tomato that still hasn't begun to turn yellow that had some bird damage a week or more ago.

You can also put out drinking stations for birds and animals. You can use a large, shallow earthenware saucer (the kind that goes under a large garden pot). [I'm not a bird expert; there may be birds that would prefer a standing birdbath.]

===

I don't think it's a ground based critter like a chipmunk was the tomato was about two feet up from the ground and the damage as on the top of the fruit. No teeth marks...it just looks like it was scooped away. I did see some bit of skin here and there and a few small holes which makes me suspect birds.

the damage as on the top of the fruit Hornworms often approach the fruit from the stem, so damage is usually on the shoulders of the fruit. But if they have a good perch from another angle, you may see hornworm damage elsewhere (the last I saw was at the blossom-end).

No teeth marks...it just looks like it was scooped away That sounds like hornworm damage: it looks like a very sharp, slightly curved, woodworking chisel was used to remove 1/4" layers of fruit.

some bit of skin here and there That sounds more like a messier eater than a hornworm: a bird or mammal.

a few small holes Depending how small, that might be a bird poking holes in the fruit, or a small mammal.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 12:36PM
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williston

Pretty certain it's not Hornworms. I had a big problem with them last year and remember their "signature" munching pattern as well the brown "organic calling cards" they left all over the place. They actually did most of their damage to the leaves and stems and left the fruit alone for the most part.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 4:00PM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

Slugs will eat big holes in fruit in my garden. I also have voles, which will eat holes in fruit that is low enough for them to reach, they don't climb. I put low fruit up on inverted gallon pots to keep it away from them. This year I am trying sprinkling cayenne pepper around my plants to see if it prevents damage, I know a little on my skin or in my mouth is very painful, so I would think if they got it on their feet and then on their faces it could smart...

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 4:19PM
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Jay5

I HAD a squirrel problem. I also would have deer problems without the 7 foot tall deer net I use.
I think I have some bird problems but it is not rampant, at least not yet. Something always seems to be wanting to eat our hard work.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 9:20PM
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williston

Follow up: Well, the problem got a lot worse since my last post. I am actually losing more than I am picking. 99% sure that it is chipmunks. They have destroyed several of my Mortgage Lifters, Supersteaks and Brandywines and they were all in the 1-2 lb range. I have tried several things including Cayenne pepper on the ground, in their holes and on the plants, but they still continue to attack the tomatos. The sad part is they destroy about a third of the fruit and then leave the rest. It's happening on both green and partially ripe fruit. My neighbor is having the same problem and it the first time in 20 years I have has this problem.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 12:32PM
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Foodtomax(Mid North Coast NSW)

I had terrible trouble last season with my giant tomatoes. Plastic owls stopped the rats but didn't fool the birds. Still trying to work out what to do this year. Cheers

    Bookmark   August 20, 2011 at 5:11PM
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gumby_ct(CT it says Z5)

Where in the world are you located? Many places are not getting any rain.

Have you tried putting out water? They are prob just thirsty, the reason they don't eat the whole thing.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2011 at 8:37PM
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williston

I'm in Mass. We have had plenty of rain this summer in both July and August: I think at least 5" so far this month, and I have a brook running through my property. I think one of the reasons is hunger due to overpopulation. We have had an population explosion of chipmunks over the last 3-4 years and they are everywhere. They have even invaded garages and gnawed through garbage cans to get to the contents. I have tried dumping everything (safe) I can think of down their dozens of holes and have yet to find a repellent that works. Flooding the holes with water doesn't work either. They either clean it out or dig a new hole by the next day.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2011 at 7:51AM
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jhamilto7

I too suddenly am losing the slightly pink and red tomatoes to some critter thar eats the top third or so in a scoop like fashion. We have no outdoor cats at present so we are without defense! Chipmunks sound like a likely suspect.
We will look for help from GW sage advisors!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 2:45PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)
    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 3:45PM
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workingmomx3(6)

I'm in PA and having a similar problem. As soon as the tomatoes start turning, something starts munching. The tomatoes remind me of half-eaten apples. I'm wondering about our mockingbird that lives in the tree nearby. Part of a tomato was spit out on top of the plant (about 4-4.5' high), as if the bird dropped part of the tomato.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 6:11PM
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rocklandguyZ8,SC

Now I saw it with my own eyes! I had just went around and collected any rotted or half eaten toms from all my plants to put in the garbage. I was sitting on the porch when I saw a chipmunk run out from my rasberry plants, stopped under my hostas, then headed for my potted plants that I have around the shed. It jumped up onto the top of the pot, then jumped into the middle of the tomato plant. I quietly went back there to see it, in the middle of the plant, with its front arms around this tomato. Here is what it did to it in about a minutes time. By the time I went into the house to get the jar of peanut butter to put into the three have-a-hart traps, it did a job on another tomato on the other side of my shed. Chip has declared war!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2011 at 7:18PM
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lgteacher(SCal)

Williston, do you have possums or raccoons in your area? They are possible suspects. I caught my dog eating ripe grape tomatoes. She didn't bother the bigger ones, but then she's a mini doxie and can't reach that high.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2011 at 7:36PM
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