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Uncovering the Secrets of Aphid Control

By Staff Writer
Share to PinterestUncovering the Secrets of Aphid Control
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If you've got a green thumb or are a vegetable gardener, you've undoubtedly run across aphids. These minuscule creepy crawlies often go unnoticed by most passersby because they're only a few millimeters long. But they reproduce more than rabbits, and in large numbers, they can do some serious damage to your favorite plants.

Fortunately, some simple methods exist to get rid of these fascinating garden pests.

01

What are aphids?

Aphids, which are also known as plant louse or Aphidoidea, are tiny soft-bodied insects. Many of these sap suckers have descriptive names like greenflies, blackflies, and white woolly aphids.

Aphids are usually found in large quantities, which makes some species serious pests of flowers, vegetable gardens, fruit crops, and other plants. They transmit viral diseases, cause mold and fungus to grow, deform plants, and ultimately stunt plant growth.

Share to Pinterestaphids - lice pest infestation
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02

Why aphids are pests

Aphids can be a nuisance for gardeners. These insects are tiny but can cause irreparable damage to plants. First, they put added stress on plants by removing their sap. Second, they can cause fungus to grow and leaves to wilt, making the plants look unsightly. Lastly, aphids can transmit diseases, including viruses, to your plants.

As such, getting rid of aphids is essential when you see them all over your precious plants, flowers, and crops.

Share to PinterestClose-up on a rose attacked by aphids
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03

Plants aphids love to eat

Aphids have mouths designed to pierce and suck sap from all along a plant. While they can eat almost any type, they particularly love certain flowers (roses, sunflowers, dahlias), vegetables (tomato buds), and fruits (peaches, cherries, plums, berries, and apples).

In most cases, you won't even notice the aphids in your yard. However, they can cause leaves to curl and become yellow, young shoots to die, and plant growth to slow down. You might see your plants covered in whitish skin sheds that aphids leave behind as they grow.

Share to PinterestA lot of aphids sit on the stem of the rose and suck the juices out. Diseases and problems of roses.
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04

Plants aphids love to eat

Aphids have mouths designed to pierce and suck sap from all along a plant. While they can eat almost any type, they particularly love certain flowers (roses, sunflowers, dahlias), vegetables (tomato buds), and fruits (peaches, cherries, plums, berries, and apples).

In most cases, you won't even notice the aphids in your yard. However, they can cause leaves to curl and become yellow, young shoots to die, and plant growth to slow down. You might see your plants covered in whitish skin sheds that aphids leave behind as they grow.

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05

Getting rid of aphids naturally

The simplest way to get rid of aphids is by knocking them off your plants, which you can do by spraying them with a water hose. Once they fall off, it's nearly impossible for them to find their way back.

If this isn't enough, douse your plants with a mix of water and dishwashing liquid in a spray bottle. The soap suffocates them because it blocks their breathing holes (called spiracles), causing them to die. Remember, aphids multiply fast, so you'll need to repeat these steps several times a week for a couple of weeks.

Share to PinterestClose up view of person using homemade insecticidal insect spray in home garden to protect roses from insects.
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06

Controlling large populations of aphids

Sometimes soap and water just don't cut it, especially if your yard or garden is huge or you have a massive infestation. Avoiding toxic chemicals and using organic materials, such as diatomaceous earth (DE), is always best if you can manage it. Diatomaceous earth is a white, powdery substance made from fossilized algae called diatoms that dehydrates the aphids.

Use caution, as DE can kill native bees and other beneficial pollinators. You can use insecticidal soaps and oils or contact an environmentally friendly pest control company as a last resort.

Share to PinterestWoman spraying environmentally friendly biocide of nettle plant.
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07

Anatomy of an aphid

Aphids are one of the tiniest insects, ranging from 2 to 4 mm long. They are hard to see, but you'll find them in all shapes and colors. Their bodies can be pear, oval, globe, or spindle-shaped.

They come in almost every color under the sun, including brown, black, gray, white, yellow, orange, red, blue-green, and green, and some species are covered with wax that looks like cotton.

Share to PinterestAphids the cereal leaf. It is an aphid in the superfamily Aphidoidea in the order Hemiptera pest of cereals.
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08

Do aphids bite or sting?

Aphids are nothing to worry about in terms of being dangerous to humans or pets. For one, they have specialized piercing-sucking mouthparts designed to sip sap from plants. They're so tiny that their mouth can't pierce your skin as true bugs can. They also lack a stinger.

Species like the Oleander Aphid have a unique defense mechanism that protects them from other bugs. They have cornicles (tubes like exhaust pipes) on the back of their abdomen. When an aphid is attacked, it releases an acidic substance to ward off predators and a pheromone to alert other aphids.

Share to PinterestLady bug as a plant louse predator, biological protection.
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09

The weird way aphids reproduce

Aphids have a complex yet fascinating life cycle. They can reproduce sexually, but sometimes they reproduce asexually or without a mate. When conditions are good, aphids reproduce for several weeks in the spring and summer.

During the warmer months, aphids typically bear live young aphids that are only females. As fall approaches, they start to have male and female aphids that can mate and lay eggs. These fertilized eggs lie dormant until it's time to hatch in the spring.

Share to Pinterestsmall aphid on a green leaf in the open air
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10

Aphid development from baby to adult

Aphids become sexually mature four to ten days after being born. As an adult, a single aphid lives only about one month but can produce billions of baby aphids within a season. That's why when they take over your garden, they can be ridiculously hard to control.

Share to PinterestAphid community on branch - animal behavior.
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11

Fun fact: Aphids and ants are BFFs

Did you know that some people call aphids "ant-cows"? That's because ants and aphids have a special mutualistic relationship called trophobiosis. This means that one insect protects the other in exchange for food.

Aphids produce honeydew that the ants feed on like candy. In return, the ants fight off predators trying to eat the tasty aphids. If you see a bunch of ants on your plants, you'll likely find aphids too. They're like the ultimate best forever friends of the insect world.

Share to PinterestAnts collecting honeydew from aphids
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