Aphids are a tiny little bug with a big bite! They are pretty easy to spot at first, but their babies are typically hidden from view. It is imperative you do what you can to keep them away from your garden.
Aphids are soft bodied yellow, black, brown or red even pink insects that are oval shaped with discernible wings and antennae with waxy or wooly coatings. Typically only winged when they are forced to fly to another plant to find food, thus evolve, though they will all have two short cords from their back end called cornices.
Usually found in large groups, but occasionally veer off alone. Many aphids feed on a wide variety of plants but the rosy apple aphid for example only tolerates a few hosts. They use their piercing mouths to feed on sap of plants and are typically in colonies on the underside of stems or leaves. A heavy infestation will cause leaves to turn yellow or wilt. They produce honeydew, which is a sweet liquid that you can often find dried on cars. Sooty mold can grow from this, which turns plants black.
Many times, aphids are not noticed until this happens which is why it is important to do thorough plant inspections daily. Even using a microscope can help you if your eyesight is bad, which will be helpful later on also when deciding when to harvest. The honeydew also attract other insects like ants, which will purposely colonize the aphids in little farms so that they can continue to thrive off their byproduct. In this situation, it is also necessary to lure away the ants or trap them, which is pretty easy to do with a low profile dish of honey that the ants crawl up into and get stuck.
Immature aphids are called nymphs and feed on leftover sap from the adult aphids. Before aphids find a new host, they usually deposit plenty of their young beforehand. They will mature in 7 to 10 days, most will be females that deposit 40-60 offspring. This process results in a tremendous population explosion, and less than a dozen aphid colonizers can produce hundreds to thousands of aphids in a few weeks. When the plant is over stressed and over populated, the aphids will sprout wings to find a new home.
Here are several products that you can use to control aphids:
- Fatty acid salts or insecticide soaps work to disrupt insect cell membranes. They are required to be in direct contact with the buds yet leave no residue.With soap, coverage is very important and it may require follow up attention. Murphy’s oil soap is all natural and thick, suffocating and killing bugs on contact, even Japanese Beetles.
- Save your bath water and use it around your plants. That soap also will deter bugs. Do not use on plants directly.
- Spread self rising flour all over your plant. When bugs munch on them, the flour will rise in their belly, causing them to explode and leave you with a natural fertilizer.
- Nervous system insecticides like Malathion, Durbstan and Orthene are used on many shade trees and ornament plants for aphid control.
- Spinosad can be used with organic grows.
- Sevin is not effective against many aphids and should only be used if specifically recommended. It also can reduce the number of beneficial insects that eat aphids. This is toxic to humans and ingesting overtime will cause poisoning. Continuous inhalation causes Black Lung Disease, which is usually found in coal miners. This will cause hardening of the air sacks in your lungs from inflammation. This cal also cause lung cancer, heart failure, respiratory failure and more. Pregnant women must avoid at all cost to avoid risk of fetal abnormalities such as in the cardio, pulmonary and nervous systems, spontaneous abortion, ADD and more. Pregnancies falling between he months of May and September have higher chances of fetal distress, as Sevin is used most commonly now.
- Lady bugs and lacewings eat large amounts of aphids, but usually are not enough to fend against the quickly multiplying bugs. You have to keep these flying bugs attracted to your grow area to keep them there, which you can do with specific traps or by planting clover, mint, dill, fennel, catnip, yarrow , nasturtiums or oregano.
- Take a different approach by planting pest attracting plants away from your garden so that they swarm over to them instead, away from your garden. I would keep your good bugs around just in case they decide to leave. Plant zinnias, dahlias, cosmos or asters.
- Some birds even eat aphids that you can attract to your garden. Provide food and housing space for birds like small trees and twiggy shrubs that provide nesting grounds like hydrangeas, abelia, boxwoods, arborvitae and privet. Include some seeds too;they come for the seeds and stay for the bugs.
- To keep away aphids and some other insects blend garlic finely chopped n a blender with 2 cups of water and strain out pulp then spray a fine mist on the plants on top and bottom. You can also do this with jalapeño or cherry peppers, which will even scare away mammalian pests. Remember do never let your products puddle on top of leaves; keep it light and misty across the plant. With solutions that have chemicals in them, puddling will cause leaf burn.
- At first, you can physically remove the aphids or spray them off with water, made easier with a bug blaster, a specialized hose that puts a lot of pressure on the bugs to gtfo.
- Neem oil will scare away positive bugs that you want to keep around, but is just as effective as SM-90, though smells like hell .
- In equal parts, mix thyme, peppermint, clove, and rosemary oil, which will kill bugs and larvae and can be used all year as an effective bug repellent that also smells bomb.
- It may be necessary to bait ants away, which will purposely colonize and keep aphids safe so they can continue thriving on honeydew. Use small containers of honey or something similar that they will crawl into and get stuck
- Keep your area free of dead plant residue; don’t use it as fertilizer. It attracts pests.
- Epson salt has magnesium which promotes plant growth, then mixed with a pinch of cayenne pepper and water. Bugs will hate the taste of your plant if they can make it past the smell.