Are stink bug-damaged tomatoes edible?

Losing plants to insects is intensely frustrating, but never more so than if you lose a valuable crop that you have spent hours nurturing.

Everyone who grows food at home knows that this is just part of the process, but it’s still upsetting, and you might be wondering whether it’s safe to eat something a stink bug has damaged.

On the whole, tomatoes that have been damaged by a stink bug are still edible as long as they have matured properly.

You may want to cut away damaged parts, but there is no danger in eating the fruits that show stink bug damage as long as they have fully developed.

Baby tomatoes that get attacked by a stink bug may not ripen correctly.

This article is going to cover:

  • How do stink bugs damage tomato plants?
  • What parts of the tomato do stink bugs damage?
  • What does damage on tomato fruits look like?
  • Are affected fruits safe to consume?
  • What should you do with fruits you can’t eat?

How Do Stink Bugs Damage Tomato Plants?

Stink bugs do damage to tomato plants when they feed on them. They are voracious feeders, and the accidental introduction of some invasive species has been enormously problematic for both commercial growers and hobbyists growing tomatoes for themselves.

They have a needle-like mouth, and they push these into the tomato fruits and remove the cells to feed on them.

They can take large numbers of cells from a single tomato, which stunts its growth and makes it difficult for it to reach maturity.

The stink bug feeds on the cells it has removed, and then moves on to another part of the plant and carries on feeding.

Stink bugs can do surprising amounts of damage, and if you have them in your greenhouse or near your tomato plants, you will probably find out fairly quickly.

Both adult and juvenile stink bugs feed in this way, and both do significant damage to fruits and plants.

What Parts Of The Tomato Do Stink Bugs Damage?

Stink bugs will attack all parts of a tomato plant except the roots.

They can damage the stems, the leaves, and the fruits. If stink bugs attack a young tomato plant, they will often do considerable harm and stunt its growth.

Usually, a tomato plant will be able to overcome this, but if the damage continues to occur, your plant may never manage to mature.

Of course, stink bugs often attack the tomatoes themselves, and they don’t wait until they are ripe, either.

You may find signs of stink bug damage on baby tomatoes, green tomatoes, and your lovely ripe tomatoes – they are indiscriminate feeders and even a few stink bugs can do a lot of damage to a crop of tomatoes, moving from plant to plant.

If you think stink bugs are damaging your tomatoes, it is a good idea to compare the marks on your plants with pictures of stink bug damage online.

This should tell you if the injuries are consistent with normal stink bug damage, and whether you are correct about the predator harming your plant.

Bear in mind that although damage to the stems of the tomato plant may not look bad, stink bugs can carry viruses, which will spread to the plant when they insert their mouths.

It is important to be aware of stink bugs and minimize their presence where possible.

What Does Damage On Tomato Fruits Look Like?

So, what does the damage actually look like? It depends on the size of the tomato.

If the stink bug attacks a baby tomato, you will probably see that it stops growing, and possibly falls from the vine for no apparent reason. Even if it doesn’t fall, it will not get bigger or ripen; it has suffered from too much damage.

If the stink bug eats a medium tomato, you are likely to see scars in the fruit. Dimples and depressions where the cells have been removed are common.

In big fruits, you will probably not see much damage, and this fruit is fine to eat. Cut out any parts that you are unsure about, and enjoy as usual.

Sometimes, the damage done by feeding stink bugs is called cloudy spots when it occurs in tomato fruit. This is because the tomatoes can develop a cloudy area beneath the skin, due to cell damage.

If you take a knife and peel the skin back in this area, you will see a spongy mass of white tissue where the damage was done.

This can appear differently on different colored tomato fruits. For example, when the fruits are ripe, the spots might appear yellow or gold, and on green fruits, they will be white.

Spots can be small or large, and sometimes have a little black dot in the center.

Are The Fruits Safe To Eat?

The most important thing you need to know when your tomatoes are damaged by stink bugs is whether you can still eat the tomatoes. After all, this is why you are putting time and money into growing the plants.

It depends on whether your fruits are mature or not, but tomato fruits that have been stabbed by a stink bug should still be safe to eat, as long as they have ripened as normal.

You can remove parts that look unappetizing, but the tomatoes should be fine to consume. Stink bugs are not venomous or poisonous and don’t affect the fruit’s safety.

Immature tomatoes will need to be discarded, however. These may not be safe to eat, because they haven’t had time to grow, and they aren’t particularly pleasant, either.

Although the stink bug’s bite should not affect the safety of the fruit, you aren’t likely to enjoy eating the immature tomatoes anyway.

In short, eat the tomatoes that are ready to eat, and throw away any that are refusing to grow or ripen. If in doubt about a fruit, cut away bad parts or compost it and pick a fresh one.

What Should I Do With Fruits That Won’t Grow?

If you notice fruits that aren’t growing, first make sure that this is the case. Your plant may be growing slowly, especially if the weather is bad.

However, if you are certain the tomatoes have stopped growing, it is best to remove them from the plant. This will encourage it to focus its energy elsewhere.

You can safely compost these fruits so that they will add to the tomato plants’ nutrients next year, as nothing the stink bug has done makes this unsafe.

Unlike blight and other tomato issues, nothing will linger in the soil to spoil your next crop.

If you prefer, you can leave these unripe tomatoes on the tomato plants, and they may help to distract stink bugs from the ripe fruits. However, this is a gamble, and it might pull valuable resources away from the fruits you want to grow.


Tomatoes that have been damaged by stink bugs are still perfectly edible, so don’t throw them away.

They may not look as appetizing or perfect, but they are fine, so it’s best not to waste them! However, you should try to locate and remove stink bugs, so your young fruits can grow.

Alright, that’s it for this article, here are a few hand-selected articles that you might also find interesting reads:

11 Plants That Repel Stink Bugs

Are Stink Bugs Poisonous? – Well, It’s Complicated

I’ve seen one stink bug, should I be worried?

Steve Foster

Mad about bugs and wanting to publish as many articles as I can to help educate people about these amazing beautiful creatures! For more info check out my about page

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