How to Identify and Get Rid of Aphids
Aphids are pesky bugs that every gardener dreads. These green pests suck the life out of plants and leave a path of devastation in their wake. But what exactly are they doing to destroy gardens? They’re eating sap by sucking it from plant leaves, stems, and roots. Aphids are attracted to young plants and blossoming flowers. As herbivores, they don’t typically damage the plant in small numbers. However, hundreds of aphids can destroy certain species of plants.
Fortunately, there are ways to eliminate them from your garden. But before we dive into that, here’s how to identify aphids properly.
How to Identify Aphids
Aphids are tiny insects ranging from 1/16- to 1/8-inch-long. They have a pear-shaped green body with long legs and antennae. However, other varieties have different shading and coloration, including white, red, brown, black, pink, or colorless. While most adult aphids are wingless, certain aphid species with wings can easily move to a different area when they need to find more plant matter to feed on.
Come springtime, female aphids reproduce asexually and rapidly increase their populations. In fact, you may even find hundreds and hundreds of aphids clustering on the underside of a leaf. The average life cycle of an aphid is extremely short, ranging from one week to one month.
They can be found feasting on most fruit and vegetables, flowering plants like roses or chrysanthemums, trees, and some bushes. Aphids transmit viruses from plant to plant, causing blotchy or curled leaves, yellow spots, stunted growth, wilting, and even death in plants.
These pests produce a sugar-liquid waste known as “honeydew.” Colonies can be identified if this honeydew substance, which looks like black, sooty mold, begins to appear on plants. If you see this, you most likely have an aphid infestation. It’s unusual for aphids to make their way indoors, but if they do, you may find them feeding on your houseplants.
The good news is that aphids won’t bite humans. Other than destroying your plants and trees, they’re harmless pests. However, that doesn’t mean you want them taking over your yard. Here are a few sure-fire ways to get rid of aphids so your garden thrives this summer.
How to Eliminate Aphids From Your Garden
Pinch and Prune
The first step to eliminating aphids is to pinch or prune infested leaves from plants. If you have the time and patience, try to make this a daily practice. If pinching and pruning aren’t cutting it, you’ll need to move on to more effective methods.
Use Natural Predators
Several insects prey on aphids and help control their population. Ladybugs are the most well-known of bugs that eat aphids. There are many species of ladybugs, and both the adults and larvae eat aphids. If you don’t see a lot of ladybugs living in your garden, they’re available for purchase online or in garden supply stores. If you decide to purchase ladybugs to get rid of aphids, make sure to release them at night when they’re most likely to feed on aphids.
Another common aphid predator is lacewings, which are also available for purchase online or in garden supply stores. Both lacewing larvae and adults eat aphids. However, the larvae are considered a more efficient predator. They can be shipped as eggs, larvae, or adults.
In addition to these insects, several other pests feed on aphids, including predatory midges, spiders, ambush bugs, pirate bugs, and big-eyed bugs.
Use a Bug Blaster
Using a Bug Blaster to wipe out the aphids from your plants and their leaves will slow them down or eliminate them entirely. This is a safe, non-toxic method to remove aphids and other garden pests. It sprays a flat 360-degree circle of the water from the center of the nozzle, hitting leaves and stems with full force and knocking out the aphids and their eggs. All you need to do is hook the Bug Blaster up to your garden hose. To use, keep the spray vertical and work the nozzle in and out of the infested portion of the plant in a sweeping motion. For heavy pest infestations, it’s recommended to use every 3-5 days for two weeks.
This is an easy, organic, and effective way to discourage aphids from taking over your garden. Certain plants, such as mustards and nasturtiums, attract aphids, which means your other plants and flowers will be left alone. On the other hand, you can incorporate plants that repel aphids. These plants include chives, catnip, and garlic. They’re particularly helpful if you plant them around your flowering and edible plants, which are feeding grounds for aphids.
Pro tip: Grow your younger plants under row covers to discourage aphid infestations. Make sure to remove the covers when your plants begin to flower.
Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth
As a safe and effective aphid repellent, this finely-powdered substance is made up of shells from diatoms. Although it’s harmless to humans and pets, diatomaceous earth kills insects by slicing up their soft bodies as they crawl over it. Simply sprinkle or dust over your plants to create a barrier. Make sure to reapply if it rains.
In addition to diatomaceous earth, neem oil is an effective, naturally occurring pesticide that coats the exterior of aphids, causing them to smother and die. It also has antifungal properties, which help clear up the black soot mold and mildew aphids leave behind.
You can also get rid of aphids spraying the leaves of the plant with a solution of water and a few drops of dish soap. Soapy water should be reapplied every 2-3 days for two weeks.
Contact an Aphid Exterminator
If your yard is experiencing an aphid infestation, it’s time to call a professional aphid exterminator. They’ll create custom pest control solutions for homes of every size, shape, and location. Plus, most licensed pest control companies typically use powerful, safe, and eco-friendly pest control techniques that wipe out aphid infestations quickly and efficiently.