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tiny black bugs, blooms falling off

14 years ago

I have searched the web, and can't find anything quite like what I have. First, I noticed a couple of weeks ago black spots on the lower leaves of a couple of my tomato plants (Cherokee Purple). I thought this was a fungal problem and sprayed with copper fungicide, but it has only gotten worse. A few days later, I noticed drooping blossoms. I thought this might be water-related, as we have had weird weather here in N CA lately, and my watering has been eratic, depending on climate (overcast some days, a little light rain one or two days, very hot some days). So, I stuck my finger in soil near every plant -- I have twelve tomatoes in one bed and another 4 in another bed, plus other veggies, flowers, etc., and tried to adjust accordingly. Some plants seemed damp enough, others dry. A few days ago, I noticed the formerly droopy flowers now are falling off at the stem a centimeter or so behind the flower. There is a bump on the stem on the droopy ones, and others have a brown, narrow,dried-up spot on the stem where the bump was and they fall off when touched. Like something has squeezed the stems. Not just behind the flower, but a centimeter or so below it. There is a little green stem still attached to the flowers. So, I inspected more closely and found tiny black bugs under some of the leaves. A few of the bugs are brownish or reddish, but most are black. There are also some white dots which are likely eggs. The bugs have no wings as far as I can tell, and 6 legs. One body section, like a beetle. I didn't find any on or near the flowers, though, only on leaves and a few on the main stems (not flower stems). I sprayed with insecticidal soap (hope this doesn't kill the bees), but would like to know exactly what I am dealing with, or if I am dealing with more than one problem. Oh, some of the leaves with the worst infestations did have brown spots. My other veggies seem healthy, though I do have some yellow edges on the new leaves of my cucumbers. Didn't find any bugs there, though, and blooms seem healthy. All the tomato plants are infected, though one bed is worse than the other. They are all heirloom tomatoes of different varieties. The plants with the largest infestations also have spiders nearby (I have _lots_ of spiders in my garden), but I don't think they are helping much. I tried to avoid them when I sprayed, but couldn't avoid them entirely.

Was insecticidal soap the right thing? Does anyone know what this is? My poor Cherokee Purples are really looking bad -- thin with few leaves, many of those brown or yellow, few blooms.

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