How to Get Rid of Aphids
Aphids are the scourge of every flower and vegetable gardener. World wide, there are 4,400 species of aphid, ranging in color from green to black to red to nearly transparent. One thing almost all aphids have in common are their pear shaped bodies. Another distinguishing aspect of the aphid is the small “cones” that protrude from the tail end of their body called “cornicles”, which aphids use to excrete a defensive fluid. Their exoskeleton is rather soft as insects go. They feed on plants through a tubular mouthpart that contains two “stylets” that puncture the plant then suck the sap and juices from it.
Aphids can infest a garden quickly. Partially due to their size, as they are very small and difficult to see if not being looked for. Also, these little bugs are quite prolific. A single aphid can produce up to 80 live offspring at a time and can continue bearing baby aphids for another 20 to 40 days. An aphid infestation in your garden can have a couple of unwanted effects. First, aphids carry bacteria that can damage or kill the plant its feeding on. Second, there are several species of ants that can be lured into your garden by the aphids. The defensive liquid excreted by aphids is called honeydew and ants love it. Some varieties of ants even keep “herds” of aphids and “milk” them for their honeydew, hence the nickname “ant cows”.
Gardeners must be vigilant, inspecting their gardens frequently to ensure that no aphids have infiltrated the garden. Aphids literally come to your garden on a wind and can travel tens and even hundreds of miles in this manner. This method of migration makes them a constant threat during temperate weather. Extreme hot or cold will kill aphids, but as soon as the weather becomes favorable again, these bugs are not far behind. Aphids tend to hang out under the leaves of plants and out of the direct sun, so this is a good place to look for them. Even after eradicating an aphid infestation, you must continue to be on the alert as they can return again at any time.
The good news is that although they are prolific, mobile and extremely destructive, they are just as easily eliminated. There are a variety of chemical sprays that can be applied to plants to kill aphids and help prevent their return. Some flower and other non-edible plant growers may be ok with this type of insect control, but most gardeners usually prefer a natural and non-toxic means to control pesky insects when available.
One method of removing these little pests is to give them an “aphid bath”. In a garden sprayer, create a mixture of 5 tables spoons of dishwashing soap per 1 gallon of water. When spraying your plants with this mixture, turn your sprayer upright and spray the underside of the plant leaves. The dishwashing soap will remove the wax-like coating on their exoskeleton and will dehydrate them. A better variation of this is a garden hose wand with a soap dispenser attached. This method of dealing with aphids is only a temporary fix. Even if you get every single aphid in your garden, new ones can “blow” into town any time.
Another natural method of ridding your garden of aphids is to introduce a natural predator. This type of insect control has grown in popularity in recent years, as people have become more interested in earth friendly and sustainable living. One of the aphids’ biggest predators is the Ladybug. Both adults and ladybug larvae have a voracious appetite for aphids and will eat them as fast as they find them. There are a number of websites online where you can order live ladybugs.
Or if you’re real thrifty, just go catch a bunch. However you get them, water your garden first, then release the beetles into the center of your garden then step away. Watering the garden not only provides the ladybugs a little drink, but more importantly, it knocked a lot of aphids off the plants, which the ladybugs will spot. Aphids being the ladybugs primary food source, they will hang out and multiply as long as there is food to eat.
Beyond ladybugs, aphids are also food to hoverfly larvae, lacewing larvae and aphid midge larvae. The tiny Wren even has a taste for aphids. In addition to predators, aphids have a highly adverse and fatal reaction to certain fungi as well. One of these is Beauveria bassiana, a natural growing fungus that is currently being used as a biological insecticide for a variety of insects including aphids.
The best advice for gardeners concerning aphids is to be dilligent and act quickly.
About Ron Warner
I have never been satisfied with things as they are. Yes I suffer from the "Grass is Greener Syndrome". I have been a ditch digger and the GM of a mortgage company. I have worked as a fry cook, Branch Manager for a major Stock Brokerage firm, a roofer, a car salesman, an IT Network Admin, a landscaper, a radio DJ and the list goes on. 30 years of exposure to such a variety of professions and vocations has given me a wealth of knowledge and a unique insight of the world around us. My family and I have enjoyed the savings I have experienced by being able to do many things for myself rather than needing to hire someone else to do the job. True, some may refer to me as a job hopper. But how many computer geeks can roof their house? What does a car salesman know about investing? Know any Stock Brokers who can change a water heater? Yeah, I did not think so. Yes, Life has been good so far.