With varieties all across the country, aphids are probably the pest you didn’t even know you had. They’re teeny-tiny but can create a great big mess. That’s why it’s important to know how to get rid of aphids.
From DIY sprays and companion plants to essential oils and store-bought solutions, we’ve got the answers you’re looking for. Spoiler Alert: A strong hose could solve the problem.
What are Aphids?
If your plants have a bunch of tiny insects living and feeding on the underside of their leaves, it’s probably either whiteflies or aphids. The first thing you need to do to protect your garden is to identify the problem.
Aphids – also known as plant lice – are soft-bodied insects that are typically wingless. Just a couple of millimeters long, plant lice have small antennae and rely on their strong legs to jump from place to place.
Species of aphids range in color from green and yellow, to red and black. These pests feed on plant sap, sucking all the nutrients out of the foliage.
What’s really worrisome about aphids is their telescopic development. In an uncommon reproductive process, females give birth to live nymphs, some of which are already pregnant. New aphids mature in about a week and are then able to produce as many as 60 offspring.
All of this means that aphid populations grow quickly – as many as hundreds of thousands in just a few weeks. To prevent further damage, you need to get rid of aphids before they reproduce.
Signs of aphids
Wilted leaves, yellowing leaves and foliage dropping prematurely are often signs of aphids. The wilting, yellowing and falling leaves are a result of nutrient loss.
While your plant is likely to survive an infestation, aphids can lead to other issues including honeydew and sooty mold.
How to check for aphids
Check plants frequently, inspecting buds and the underside of leaves for small collections of aphids. A few aphids can quickly become a big problem.
You can remove small accumulations from the plant by hand or pruning. If more than 5% of the plant is inhabited by aphids, you’ll need to act quickly to get the issue under control.
How to Get Rid of Aphids
There are some pretty simple solutions for your aphid problem. You’ll find options at the home supply store, but there are also simpler remedies available right from home.
A natural method to get rid of aphids is not only best for the environment, but It’s actually more effective than most chemical options.
A simple way to manage aphids before they’ve taken over is to just grab the garden hose. A strong spray can knock aphids off the plant. Focus the sprayer on the undersides of leaves, and repeat this daily until it’s been a few days since you’ve seen your last aphid.
Ladybugs feed on aphids / Greyson Orlando / CC BY-SA 3.0
Introducing natural predators is the best way to control an aphid issue. Such insects include lacewings and ladybugs. Planting fennel, dill, mint, and yarrow will attract both of these beneficial insects.
Ladybugs and lacewings are also fond of dandelions, so you could allow those yellow-flowering weeds to grow, instead of fighting the good fight this summer.
Eliminate aphid allies
Ants are inclined to protect aphids, as ants enjoy the sticky substance left behind by aphids. Ridding your yard of ants will help you get rid of aphids. Peppermint and neem oils, which are biodegradable and organic, are safe and effective in eliminating ants.
If aphids are taking to your vegetable plants or other prized greenery, plant some of the aphids’ favorites away from the garden. Plants aphids like include nasturtiums, dahlias, zinnias, and mums. Known as companion planting, this is an eco-friendly way to control garden pests.
Alternatively, you can pair aphid-prone plants with deterrents. Chives, leeks, and marigolds are good options to keep aphids away from the plants they prefer.
A final option is to make your own aphid spray by combining 2 cups alcohol (grain or rubbing), 5 cups water, and 1 tablespoon liquid soap. Mix this all up inside a spray bottle, and you have your own repellent.
This combination is highly effective in killing aphids, but be cautious of possible damage to some plants. Insecticidal soap sprays are a preferred method for low-impact and organic control of many garden pests.
Chemical options to kill aphids
Insecticides are usually top of mind when thinking pest control, but chemicals aren’t likely your best defense against aphids. Since established plants can typically withstand the presence of aphids, and hot temperatures typically kill infestations, the negative effects of insecticides may not be worth the small gains.
If you’re set on using something from the home and garden store, look for malathion, acephate, or permethrin. These can be applied to the foliage of decorative plants, but not anything you intend to eat. It’s important to note that these treatments are more apt to kill natural predators than the aphids.
With the absence of natural predators, aphid infestations likely will grow rapidly.
Note: Don’t apply chemical solutions to plants that are about to or are in bloom, as the chemicals are harmful to important pollinators.
In your quest to control aphids and protect garden plants, remember that young plants are more susceptible to damage. Focus your efforts on new growth, and then more established plants.
As tiny as they are, aphid infestations can cause large problems. But with some pretty simple solutions, you often can get rid of these little buggers and keep them away from your garden.
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