Gardening is great, but every gardener out there will eventually have to deal with insect pest problems. In fact, aphids are pretty much inevitable, either in the garden or on house plants. If you’re dealing with these pests and need to know how to get rid of aphids, read on!
How to Get Rid of Aphids
Pests are a constant concern amongst gardeners. The main difference between us seems to be a simple matter of which types of pests we must protect against. It would seem, however, that one bugs unites us all in our plight to grown our own fruits and vegetables. The dreaded aphid. They’re miniscule, but what they lack in size they make up for in sheer numbers alone.
Aphids as you may know, are members of the superfamily Aphidoidea. They’re tiny sap-sucking insects that are often referred to as plant lice, greenflies, and blackflies. Their tiny bodies are soft and pear shaped, and these insects are known as “true bugs”.
Interestingly, this is because they possess a proboscis, which functions like a that allows them easy access to the sap they enjoy. I always thought the word “bug” was an overarching term for just about any insect. In fact, it’s very specific in its meaning.
Although they’re often referred to as green and black flies, aphids come in numerous colours. You’ll find them in green, black, grey, brown, and my personal “favourite” (please read soul-sucking horror here) the white wooly aphid.
Getting Rid of These Hideous Beasts
Aphids reproduce at a ridiculously high rate. In warmer climates, females can produce as many as 12 offspring per day. Furthermore, those offspring are ready to produce their own offspring in just one week. So you can see how a plant/whole garden can quickly become overwhelmed.
For this article, I’m going to be focusing on natural remedies. These will cover preventative measures as well as what you can do to treat plants that are already populated. While there are undoubtedly many pesticides that do the trick, I’ve been trying my best to use only natural solutions when dealing with pests in my garden. The main reason for this is that I have a very curious feline whom I want to keep safe from harm.
Diagnosing the Problem
There are lots of different pests that can wreak havoc in your garden. As a result, knowing what exactly is doing the damage is an important first step to fixing the problem. Aphids generally prefer the underside of leaves, so spotting them is sometimes more about identifying symptoms than seeing the aphids themselves.
One tell-tale sign to look for is the unmistakable sticky substance produced by the aphids. This is referred to as “honey dew”. If you find that your plant’s leaves are sticky to the touch, flip the leaf over. There’s a good chance you’ll find aphids.
If the bugs attack the roots of young or new plants, the plant may actually shrivel and die altogether. Hopefully you can get to them before that happens. Similarly, a large enough invasion can cause the leaves to yellow and shrivel as the aphids steal precious sap.
Preventative Measures and Dealing with Invasions
A sudden increase in ant activity on a plant can also signal an aphid infestation. The sticky residue aphids produce is high in sugar, which ants love. In fact, ants will actually go out of their way to protect the aphids in order to protect what they consider an excellent food source.
You may be one of the fortunate few that haven’t been hit by these yet. Alternatively, you might be a newbie gardener and don’t think you need to know how to get rid of aphids yet. Well, putting some preventative measures into place will be crucial to keeping the little guys away.
I’ve also listed some measures that can be taken to fight an invasion if one has already happened. Keep reading for both offensive and defensive measures!
This can take a bit of pre planning but it’s well worth it in the long run. First and foremost, sit down and decide what you’d like to grow. Then, look over a list of companion plants that work well with your chosen species.
The reason I say you need to make a list is that some of the plants that repel aphids could have adverse effects on your veggies. You can still use them—you might just need to change your vegetable beds’ layout. Garlic and chives are suggested as deterrents for aphids, but peas and beans don’t do well with any Alliums (garlic, chives, onions, leeks, etc.).
Catnip is also an excellent companion plant. It not only repels aphids, it also attracts aphid predators such as lacewings and braconid (parasitic) wasps.
Besides attracting lacewings and parasitic wasps, you can plant flowers and plants that will attract ladybugs to feast on the aphids. Ladybugs are attracted to many different plants, including the aforementioned garlic, dill, and geraniums.
Set Plant Traps
You may have heard a lot about nasturtiums being great for repelling aphids, but many articles stop short of the most important point. Nasturtiums don’t actually repel aphids: they act as a trap crop, drawing the critters away from your prized veggies.
You see, these lovely flowers are nearly irresistible to aphids. Plant them strategically by specific plants, or sprinkle them throughout the garden. Mustard is also a used a trap plant, but you’ll need to check these plants regularly if using this method. plants.
Some people suggest picking and disposing of leaves as they get full. If you don’t do this and they get overrun, the aphids will move on to the next available plant. Knowing how to get rid of aphids includes knowing when to monitor plants and take action as needed.
This next idea works well as a preventative and as an aid when an attack is in progress. Take a yellow plastic cup and attach it upside onto a stick. Coat the cup with Vaseline and plant the stick in your garden. The bright yellow cup mimics a nectar flower, and once the aphids land, they’ll get stuck in the Vaseline and die.
Natural Chemical Options
Instead of composting your orange peels, spread some of them around the base of your plants. You can even affix pieces of the peel to sturdier limbs. Orange peels contain a natural chemical called d-Limonene. This chemical eats at aphids’ waxy coating, causing them to suffocate.
You can also sprinkle DE (Diatomaceous Earth) on or around your plants. DE is actually made up of tiny shards of calcified oceanic insects. Since the aphids’ bodies are soft and unprotected by shells, the DE easily cuts them. Just make sure you don’t put DE on flowering plants as it isn’t good for new bloom health.
Aphid larvae are quite hardy and they have the unfortunate habit of over-wintering in the soil. Mulching is a wonderful way to keep weeds at bay while preventing dormant larvae from getting at young plant roots. It also stops the larvae from travelling up into the plants themselves.
This next tip won’t kill the aphids, but it is something you can do to deter them while you put other methods in place. Sprinkling flour onto the plant will constipate the little guys. With any luck, it’ll convince them to go looking for dinner elsewhere.
Aphids’ small bodies are actually fairly easy to dislodge, so sometimes a blast of cold water from the hose is all you need to remove the adults. Once you blast off a large number of them, get a bucket of warm, soapy water and use an old wash cloth to wipe off any lingering eggs. You can also use an old toothbrush for this job as well. Just be careful with your more delicate plants.
In addition to the soap and water, you can also use alcohol to clean off the aphids. Rubbing alcohol works, but ethanol works best. I use a Q-tip to get into tight areas and larger cotton swabs on the bigger areas. Alcohol is also good at dissolving the honeydew the aphids leave behind, which plain water won’t do alone.
How to Get Rid of Aphids with a Vacuum
This last idea is a bit more unconventional, but quite satisfying in its simplicity. A small vacuum like the ones used to clean computer keyboards can be used to suck the little guys off sturdier plants. I’m sure you can imagine how incredibly satisfying it is to go along sucking them up, and then watch them go swirling down the drain later.
These bugs may be gardening nightmares, but knowing how to get rid of aphids can keep your mind at ease. Hopefully with the tips you’ve picked up from this article, you have all the tools you need to send the nasty horde packing.