What are the small, winged black insects on my tomato plants?
There are little winged black insects on my tomato plants and white fuzzy stuff. I am hoping you can tell me what they are and what I can do. I have looked through your galleries and FAQ and may have missed them.
Viña Lindley, Food Systems & Home Horticulture Professional
Thank you for your insect identification question. It is a little tricky to identify with 100% certainty from the description but our entomologist believes that the black, winged insect is actually a beneficial (a predator), a minute pirate bug (genus Orius: https://bugguide.net/node/view/201619) which prey upon “insect eggs, aphids, thrips, spider mites, and other small insects.” and what he suspects it was finding to eat, and hunting, were aphids. It is possible that the white fluffy things in the pictures are the cast ‘skins’ of the aphids, just like in this strawberry example: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/IPM/images/strawberries/insects/strawberry-aphids/strawberry_aphid2_01_zoom.jpg?rand=108852100
So in this case, your pirate is not pillaging but is doing a service in the garden by eating unwanted aphids. To be 100% certain about the identification, we would need to have you collect specimens and bring them into your nearest extension office or send high resolution photos, if possible.