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Aphids are an incredibly common pest. They multiply quickly and can cause significant damage to your plants, so it’s important to try and catch them early!
SYMPTOMS & IDENTIFICATION
Aphids are very small, so they can be hard to detect. They are soft-bodied, in colors ranging from green, black, gray, yellow - sometimes even pink. They are pear-shaped, with long antennae and usually wingless.
These pests can attack all parts of a plant. Some warning signs are:
Leaves become misshapen, curled or yellowing
Leaves or stem become covered with a sticky sap - this is called honeydew
Treatment: Thankfully, aphid control is relatively easy. Here are a few different tips for how to get rid of them:
1. Squash the aphids with your fingers
This is effective as long as the infestation isn’t too large!
2. Spray the aphids with a jet of cold water
This will dislodge the aphids and help control numbers
Note that this may not be the best option for small or delicate plants
3. Spray with soapy water / Neem oil spray
Spray your plants thoroughly every 2-3 days for 2 weeks
Soap helps to break down the protective outer layer surrounding aphids, without being harmful to other beneficial insects
Neem oil acts as a repellant for bugs, and also for some types of fungi
4. If you have a lot of aphids, dust the plant with flour
This is a gentle method for getting rid of aphids without harming your plants
Aphids ingest the flour, which then clogs up their digestive system, causing them to die
You can mix it with water to make a spray which will coat the plant, or apply the flour directly. Use a shaker or sifter to apply it more easily
5. You can also use alternative pest control for Aphids
Aphids respond well to a number of different methods, including natural predators such as lacewings and ladybugs
As a last resort, you may consider using a chemical insecticide
CAN I AVOID THIS IN THE FUTURE?
Examine all new plants before you bring them home and keep them in quarantine for the first couple of weeks. Continue checking all your plants regularly to catch any infestation early.
QUESTIONS ABOUT APHIDS
HOW BIG ARE THEY? Aphids are tiny - almost invisible to the naked eye at around 1/8-inch (under 2mm).
CAN THEY FLY? Sometimes. Some aphids do develop wings when they reach maturity and are able to fly, however, the majority of aphids do not have wings.
WHAT DO THEY EAT? These insects feed on plant sap, and are usually concentrated on new growth, buds, fruit and soft stems. This can cause the plant to become weak and can also lead to the spread of plant viruses.
IS APHID HONEYDEW HARMFUL TO MY PLANTS? Although the honeydew itself is not harmful, it attracts ants which feed on the honeydew. These, in turn, protect the aphids from their natural predators, so it is important to eliminate the ants first if you’re planning to use this method of pest control. Honeydew can also lead to the production of sooty mold which covers the leaves. This blocks the light and results in reduced photosynthesis.
ARE SOME PLANTS MORE AT RISK THAN OTHERS? Yes. In particular, aphids really love roses, so make sure to regularly check the leaves, stems and buds on your rosebushes.