Garden Guides, How to Kill Aphids on Vegetable Plants
How to Kill Aphids on Vegetable Plants
- 1 How to Kill Aphids on Vegetable Plants
- 2 Aphids on Cucumber Plants
- 3 Identification
- 4 Mosaic Virus
- 5 Control
- 6 Prevention
- 7 10 Tips to Control Aphids Plus a Flowchart Action Plan
- 8 Cucumber Plant Damage: Tips On Protecting Cucumber Plants In The Garden
- 9 Protecting Cucumbers from Cold
- 10 How to Protect Cucumber Plants from Pests
- 11 7 Ways to Get Rid of Aphids on Vegetable Plants
- 12 Aphids Are Attacking My Vegetable Plants!
- 13 How to Find Aphids
- 14 Killing Aphids
- 15 1. Water Spray
- 16 2. Natural Aphid Predators
- 17 3. Neem Oil
- 18 4. Soap Spray Insecticide
- 19 5. Aphid Traps
- 20 6. Best Pesticide for Aphids
- 21 7. Squishing Aphids
- 22 Early Intervention for Aphid Control
- 23 Questions & Answers
- 24 Related
- 25 Popular
- 26 Comments
21 September, 2017
Aphids may be tiny, but if the little pests are ignored, they will multiply rapidly and will quickly suck the life out of a healthy vegetable plant. Aphids can usually be found in clusters on young leaves and shoots, and are especially partial to peas, cucumbers, beans, melon, potatoes, squash, cabbage and tomatoes. Although it requires vigilance, you can prevent your vegetable harvest from being destroyed by the hungry pests.
Check garden plants for aphids at least twice every week. Aphids are more difficult to control in large numbers because the damaged leaves provide shelter for the aphids.
Blast the aphids with a forceful stream of water from your garden hose. Often this treatment will be enough to knock the pests off the leaves. Repeat as often as necessary.
Introduce predators such as ladybugs or lacewings to your garden. Predators that occur naturally in your garden are best, but predatory insects can also be purchased at garden supply centers.
Prune the plant if the aphids are localized to a few areas. Prune the infested leaves and shoots with garden shears. Fill a bucket with soapy water, and drop the infested leaves and shoots in the water before disposing of them.
Make a homemade aphid spray. Combine two cups of vegetable oil and 4 tsps. of dish soap with three cups of water. Spray the infected vegetables in the cool part of the day, as sunlight can magnify the mixture and scorch the plants.
Resort to insecticides only when nothing else works. If possible, use selective soap and oil-based insecticides, as chemical insecticides will also kill the aphids’ natural predators. Treat only the infested plants. Read the label carefully and follow the instructions.
Place a few onion or garlic plants near infested vegetable plants, as the aroma of the onion and garlic will often keep aphids at bay.
Aphids on Cucumber Plants
Cucumbers belong to the Cucurbits family, along with melons, squash, pumpkins and watermelons.
Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is a tender, warm-season vegetable that thrives when temperatures are between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Cucumbers require substantial space but can be grown in small gardens because they are vining plants and you can train them to grow vertically. These versatile, easy-to-grow vegetables can sometimes acquire disease through aphid infestation, which can cause your cucumbers to become mottled and stunted. Aphids are not difficult to control if you spot them early enough, so monitor your cucumber plants for signs of these tiny insects.
Aphids are tiny insects with long, slender mouth parts used to pierce stems and leaves of plants to suck out the plant’s fluids. Aphids range in size from 1/16 to 1/8 inch long. These insects can be almost any color, including green, black, brown, red or pink. Aphids have two tubes near the end of the abdomen, and slender antennae that protrude from the head. They can be winged or wingless.
Aphids tend to collect along the side of your garden that is most exposed to wind, so check these areas carefully. Also check the undersides of leaves. Indirect evidence of aphids includes the presence of natural enemies such as ladybugs and lacewing flies. Ants feed on the excreted sap generated by aphids, so if you see ants near your cucumber plants it could indicate an aphid infestation.
While small populations of aphids will not directly damage your cucumbers, aphids transmit several forms of mosaic virus that can destroy the plants. If mosaic virus is present, your cucumbers will be mottled with yellow or light green spots, the leaves will curl, the vines will weaken, and the plants will be stunted. Cucumbers will also be small, misshapen and develop knobs and warts. They will not be edible. Additionally, transmission does not require a large aphid population, so identifying the disease quickly is key to controlling it.
A forceful spray of water will knock off any aphids that are present, but be careful of further damage to vines that may be weakened by mosaic virus. You can also apply neem oil or insecticidal soap to kill the aphids. Spray directly on the aphids, making sure to spray to the undersides of leaves. These methods only remove the aphids present and you may have to repeat them over the course of several days.
Not all insecticides are safe to use on cucumbers or other food plants. Diazinon or carbaryl are safe for cucumber plants, but use care on young plants, which are tender. Remove and destroy diseased plants as soon as mosaic virus appears. After handling diseased plants, wash your hands with detergent and water.
To prevent aphids and the viruses they transmit, make sure you purchase high-quality seeds. Do not plant cucumbers near woods or weedy areas. Practice diligent weed control, as aphids like to overwinter in weeds. If you have a large enough garden, plant a row of corn on the windward side of the cucumbers. Introduce natural enemies of aphids in your garden. Certain species of wasps, ladybugs and lacewings feed on aphids. Never use more nitrogen fertilizer than necessary; high levels of nitrogen fertilizer promote aphid reproduction.
About the Author
Leslie Darling has been a writer since 2003, writing regularly for «Mississippi Magazine» and «South Mississippi Living,» specializing in food and wine, animals and pets, and all things Southern. She is a graduate of the University of New Orleans.
10 Tips to Control Aphids Plus a Flowchart Action Plan
Help! I Have Aphids On My Plants Right Now! What do I do?
Before I gained a better understanding of how aphids work, the first sight of them turned me into a revengeful maniac. I wanted to annihilate every last bugger! Now I’m a bit more relaxed and realize that unless my garden shows extreme signs of distress, aphids can be managed without chemicals or even natural sprays!
How to tell if the pest is an aphid: Aphids are soft-bodied, small-headed insects with a pear shaped body. They suck the life out of all kinds of plants including trees, flowers and edibles. Leaves can turn yellow or brown – or curl up like a giraffe’s tongue! They might resemble other bugs but their signature body parts are the two cornicles on their rear ends (actually the back of the abdomen). The cornicles can be short or long depending on the type of aphid. Honeydew is not excreted from them (that comes out of the aphid’s anus). Cornicles release defensive and signaling substances called pheromones that can be used to alarm other aphids of an attack from a natural enemy.
Whiteflies have white-colored wings and fly away when disturbed. Aphids stick around the leaf or stem when startled. They shed exoskeletons when they grow. You might see these white skins near an aphid colony – they are not adult whiteflies. Mites, mealybugs and scale do not look like aphids.
There’s a ton of information about aphids in university research papers, science publications and garden websites. And lots of wonderful advice on ways to prevent and deter them. But what can you do TODAY to save your plants if they are already infested? What if you don’t want to harm beneficial insects in the process of fighting off the aphids?
Use the handy flowchart below to find out how to get control over an aphid outbreak without harsh chemicals or harmful homemade sprays. You’ll reduce risk to your plants and save the beneficial insects that eat aphids and pollinate your garden.
10 Things You Should Know About Aphids Before You Take Action
(The information here supports and enhances the process in the flowchart.)
- Plants can survive an aphid attack without human intervention. If you see a few aphids on your plants don’t assume your plant is doomed. Healthy crops grown in healthy soil, and watered appropriately, will be able to fight off the damage aphids inflict. There are also secret agents in your garden that may have everything under control – but maybe not as much control as you would like. Lacewings, syrphid flies and lady beetles have babies and those larvae love to nurse on aphids. Adult lady beetles can also gobble up their share. Larvae might consume 20 aphids a day and a grown lady beetle can gobble up more than 50 aphids daily depending on the beetle species.
- Most aphids can’t fly and are terrible climbers. The majority of aphids in a colony do not have wings. These wingless, weak pests stay on one plant their entire life cycle. They don’t move quickly and won’t fly away when disturbed. If they get knocked off a plant they won’t be able to get back on to feed. If you use a strong spray of water and send them to the ground, they will most likely starve to death. A small percentage of the aphid population will grow wings, so they can expand to other hosts, especially when warm weather hits or when there is a shortage of food. The force of the stream of water will damage the winged aphids too.
- Releasing lady beetles near an infestation will probably not do much good. Lady beetles, aka “lady bugs” are definitely your friends in the garden but they are not super heroes, especially the ones they sell at the store. Studies show that the natural predators in a garden have a hard time catching up to the growth of aphids. I once had an educational conversation with the son of a lady beetle farmer. Those tend to disperse upon release, especially if not locally sourced. Still, it’s hard to resist the fun of releasing them. If you’re going to take a chance on store-packaged lady bugs, first water the garden at dusk and then let go of the batch.
- All aphids are capable of carrying plant viruses. It only takes one aphid to make a plant sick with a virus. The virus stunts growth and hinders flower and fruit production. Instead of trying to kill every aphid, a more realistic approach, beyond prevention of course, is to weigh the damage and the risks involved in keeping the plant around. Certain crops like squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, melons, beans, potatoes, lettuce, beets, chard and bok choy are more prone to aphid viruses. This is important to consider since the seed from a plant infected with the virus would not be good to keep or share with others. As the flowchart shows below, a decision needs to be made if one of the mentioned plants shows severe signs of damage. It might be best to destroy the plant.
- Prevention is not always the best medicine. Another important tip to consider is that early spraying of natural or synthetic chemicals to ward off aphid attacks might actually encourage aphid outbreaks because natural predators are killed off right before they’re needed the most.
- There is an “aphid season”. Check to see when aphids are most active in your part of the world. In Pennsylvania for example, the migration and dispersal of aphid populations takes place in June through mid-August. One aphid can produce a hundred more aphids in 4 weeks. They act up when the weather warms up. In colder months they might still be around but taking refuge in perennial bushes or weeds. Once I learned this I looked closer at my shrubs and sure enough I spotted aphids in the shaded, overgrown areas.
- If ants are present, your aphids have survival insurance. Ants and aphids act like a team. The aphids get protection from predators and the ants love to gather the honeydew produced by the aphids. Some ant species rely on aphid “honey” for 50% of their diet. It’s amusing too that ants stimulate or tickle the bellies of aphids to get them to excrete the sweet treat. A few cartoons have been made about ants “milking aphids” and “tending the herd”. The honeydew that is being farmed by the ants might mold on your plant and this is the black sooty fungus you see near aphid colonies. The mold does not do as much damage as the symbiotic relationship between the ants and aphids. Several studies show that ants not only protect the aphids from ladybugs, parasitic wasps and lacewings, but they also make it possible to have bigger and longer lasting colonies with higher reproduction rates.
- Counting aphids could put you to sleep – well maybe it will allow you to get a good night’s sleep. Farms conduct sampling to determine if insecticides are needed to treat aphid infestations. The home gardener can use the same approach to identify the mildest and most effective method of pest control. The University of Minnesota Entomology Department created a worksheet for “speed scouting” for aphids on soybean crops. If a plant has less than 40 aphids it was considered not to be infested. In your garden, you may want to use a similar approach. You can always check again in 3-5 days to see if numbers are increasing. If they are not increasing and your plants are healthy, it’s better to let nature take its course. If you worry too much and insist on doing something, water and milk have been reported to reduce aphid populations by dislodging and suffocating them. See the simple instructions below.
- Natural, organic and homemade deterrents and pesticides can harm beneficial insects. Insecticidal soaps kill soft bodied insects. They are more environmentally friendly than harsher chemicals. These soaps dry out the skin of a pest. However, since the larvae of the lacewing, syrpid fly and lady beetle are soft bodied, and these beneficial insects all feed on aphids during the larval stage, applying insecticidal soaps also poses a threat to our friends in the garden. Pepper spray and the capsaicin in it, is toxic and lethal to honey bees so mixing up a batch of hot pepper juice to apply to a wide area as a preventive measure may not be the best idea. It’s a pesticide that causes membrane damage. In addition, garlic, pepper and onions are used as repellents. Neem oil and horticultural oils are options but also can kill beneficial insects alongside the aphids. On the bright side, these oils won’t kill new insects that fly in after the application. Keep in mind soaps and oils are problematic when the weather heats up because they allow the plant to burn. Wait until the weather cools off or the sun goes down.
- Take the Easy Way Out. Don’t fertilize. Nitrogen will encourage plant growth and new shoots – an aphid delicacy! Get out the hose or spray bottle and hold off on creating onion, garlic or hot pepper concoctions. Instead, use water first. Yes, plain old water. Maybe it seems too good to be true but knowing what we know now, it makes sense. Water can be used from a hose or spray bottle with just enough pressure to dislodge the insect, sending it to the ground. Aphids, as stated above, are not strong enough to find their way back. Another option is milk. Leaves coated with a milk spray may be less vulnerable to damage and the transmission of aphid-borne viruses. These recommendations are less about preventing an aphid infestation and more about addressing an existing outbreak. A strong water spray or milk application may be just enough to set your garden back on track.
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Cucumber Plant Damage: Tips On Protecting Cucumber Plants In The Garden
Healthy cucumber plants will provide the gardener with a bountiful harvest of the delicious, crisp fruit, sometimes too bountiful. Unfortunately, there are plenty of insect pests that might get to the cucumbers before you do or transmit diseases, rendering plants unable to produce. It isn’t just insects that cause cucumber plant damage, however. Sudden cold snaps can kill the plants as well, so protecting cucumber plants is of paramount importance. Read on to find out how to protect cucumber plants and about keeping cucumbers protected from predatory insects.
Protecting Cucumbers from Cold
Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) are tender annuals that thrive in warm temperatures of between 65-75 degrees F. (18-23 C.). Even prolonged exposure to temperatures below 55 degrees F. (13 C.) can cause decay, pitting and water soaked areas on fruit. Sudden cold snaps can cause cucumber plant damage on leaves, stems and fruit or even kill the plants. Frost damage is seen as shriveled, dark brown to black foliage.
While global warming has been increasing temperatures around the world, it also makes for unpredictable weather such as sudden cold snaps. So, it’s important to have a plan and take steps to protect cucumber plants and other warm season annuals at the risk of sudden frost, thereby avoiding damage to cucumbers.
First off, grow cucumbers in sheltered areas of the garden. Avoid open, exposed sites or low spots in the garden where cold air will collect. Grow the fruit along fences, boulders or shrubs to provide them with some protection from the cold. If a sudden cold snap is forecast, cover the cucumbers.
The plants can be covered with whatever you have on hand, old bed sheets, plastic, newspaper or other light material. Push some sturdy sticks into the ground around the plants to support the covering and weigh down the corners with stones. You can also use wire (extra wire coat hangers will work) to form a curved arch upon which to lay the covering. Tie the ends of the covering to sticks pushed into the ground. Remember to open the row cover daily to allow condensation to evaporate. Close them again by mid-afternoon to trap heat overnight.
Temperatures inside a row cover will be from 6-20 degrees warmer than outside and soil temps 4-8 degrees warmer down to 3 inches deep.
In lieu of covering the cucumbers with row covers, there are other methods for keeping cucumbers protected from cold. Use a shingle or other broad board stuck into the ground on the windward side of each plant to protect them from cold winds. Place a plastic milk container, bottom cut out, over each plant; large aluminum cans will also work.
How to Protect Cucumber Plants from Pests
There are many insect pests that are more than happy to sample your cucumbers. Some of them even introduce disease into the cucumber patch. Cucumber beetles are guilty of introducing bacterial wilt. They carry the disease in their bodies and it overwinters with them as they hibernate in vegetation left in the garden.
Avoiding damage to cucumbers due to cucumber beetles and the resulting bacterial wilt requires a two part approach. Be sure to clean up detritus, including weeds, in the garden at the end of the growing season to avoid leaving any hidey holes for the beetles to hibernate and overwinter in. Then in the spring after planting, cover the cukes with a light weight floating row cover. Remember to remove the cover after the plants begin to flower so they can be pollinated.
Aphids will also get at cucumbers, actually aphids seem to get at everything. They reproduce rapidly and colonies of them are difficult to control. At the first sign of aphids, treat the plant with an insecticidal soap. Other ideas to combat aphids are planting in an aluminum foil covered bed, and filling yellow pans with water, which will entice the aphids and drown them. Encourage beneficial insects that prey on aphids by planting flowers nearby that attract them. Aphids and leafhoppers also introduce mosaic virus into the garden.
Leafhoppers suck the juice form the leaves and stems of cucumbers. Here again is a situation where the use of row covers can mitigate infestation. Also, spray with insecticidal soap.
Leaf miner larvae tunnel through leaves. Use floating row covers and destroy any infected leaves. Cutworms are another hazard to cucumbers. They chew on stems, roots and leaves. Cutworms live under the surface of the soil so protect the plants by placing a 3-inch paper collar around the stem of the plant or use saved canned food containers with the top and bottom cut out. Also, keep the garden free from weeds and sprinkle wood ash around the base of the plants.
Spider mites also love cucumbers. Spray them with water or insecticidal soap or rotenone. Encourage beneficial predators, such as ladybugs and lacewings. Whiteflies can also be found congregating on the underside of the cucumber leaves. Again, beneficial insects should be encouraged. Also, remove infested leaves.
Other types of insects enjoy munching on cucumbers. Where they can be seen, hand pick them and dump them in a bucket of soapy water. Snails and slugs will snack on cucumbers, especially young plants. Hand pick them as above or if that’s too disgusting for you, bait some traps. Pour some beer into a low bowl and place a few around the plants. The slugs will be enticed by the beer and crawl in and drown. Diatomaceous earth sprinkled around the plants will thwart these pests as well.
7 Ways to Get Rid of Aphids on Vegetable Plants
Holle is a retired English and creative writing teacher. She is a professional freelance writer and contributes to Horseman Magazine.
Aphids Are Attacking My Vegetable Plants!
I’ve been growing vegetables for several decades, in the ground and in containers. Even so, this year is the first time I’ve ever experienced aphids on my plants.
When I first saw them, I thought they were whiteflies, which I had trouble with last year. Upon closer inspection, however, I figured out the little critters were aphids. I first discovered them on one of my bell pepper plants, which prompted me to closely inspect my entire container garden. I found infestations on a few other plants, so I set out to win the battle with the aphids.
7 Methods for Getting Rid of Aphids
- Water Spray
- Natural Predators
- Neem Oil
- Soap Spray Insecticide
- Aphid Traps
How to Find Aphids
Aphids are tiny pear-shaped insects. They can be black, gray, brown, pink, red, or green. In my case, all the aphids I’ve seen have been very pale green—almost white.
They prefer young, tender leaves, where you might find them on the underside of the leaves, happily sucking vital sap from your plants. Another sign to look for is “honeydew.” It’s a sweet, sticky substance secreted by aphids, and ants love it.
As I already mentioned, aphids usually prefer feeding on tender new leaves, but I’ve found them on every plant part, from new buds to old, leathery leaves at the bottom of the plant.
From my experience, aphids prefer some plants to others. For example, they love my eggplants and pepper plants, but they haven’t touched my other vegetable plants.
Aphids have soft bodies, so they’re very easy to kill, individually. They’re not, however, easy to stop as an invading horde. What they lack in physical durability is made up for with sheer numbers, due to their bizarre methods of reproduction.
Female aphids can reproduce with or without a male. They can bear live young or lay eggs. Aphids born alive are born pregnant. Furthermore, some aphids will develop wings and fly to a new host plant and start a new colony.
An average aphid lives for about a month, and a single female might produce more than forty generations in just one summer! Unfortunately, as a species, they’re very successful.
1. Water Spray
Some gardeners simply knock off the insects from a plant by using a strong jet of water from a hose. I’ve used this method, and it seemed to work pretty well—for the moment. I worried, however, that some of the bugs would find their way back to my plants, so I don’t totally trust this method. If you decide to spray away the pests, be careful the jet of water isn’t forceful enough to damage your leaves. Also, be sure to spray the entire leaf—top and bottom surface.
2. Natural Aphid Predators
Another way to handle aphids is to introduce beneficial insects into your garden that naturally prey on aphids. These include ladybugs, lacewings, parasitic wasps, and crab spiders. Some bird species also feed on aphids. The problem is getting these predators into your garden. Yes, you can purchase ladybugs, but how do you convince them to stay where you want them?
3. Neem Oil
I tried very hard to avoid chemical pesticides in my container garden, so I turned to neem oil. I have to say the neem oil I used had no effect on the aphids. I found out later that I should be using only cold-pressed neem oil, which I wasn’t using. If you decide to use neem oil in your battle against aphids, be sure to use the cold-pressed type.
4. Soap Spray Insecticide
You can easily make your own insecticide using liquid dish detergent. Although Castille soap is supposedly the best, just about any brand will work. Mix together one teaspoon dish detergent, 4 teaspoons vegetable oil, and two cups of water. Place mixture into a spray bottle and agitate until well combined. Spray plants all over. Do this in the morning or evening, not in the hot part of the day. By the way, if you add a teaspoon of garlic oil, this spray will probably be even more effective.
5. Aphid Traps
Aphids, like several other garden pests, are attracted to the color yellow. I suppose this is because most blooms found on vegetable plants are yellow. You can use this preference to your advantage by creating yellow traps for aphids.
There are a couple of different types of aphid traps you can use to slow down the bug population: sticky traps and cup traps.
You can purchase ready-to-use yellow sticky traps, or you can make your own by spreading petroleum jelly on yellow posterboard. Place the sticky traps around your garden, near susceptible plants.
The other type of aphid trap is a yellow plastic cup. Simply fill the cup about three-fourths full of water and add a drop of dishwashing liquid. The dishsoap breaks the surface tension of thew water, causing any visiting aphids to drown.
6. Best Pesticide for Aphids
I don’t like using chemical pesticides in my garden, but it got to the point where I had to, unless I wanted to hand over my vegetable plants to the aphids. First, I used liquid Sevin, but it had little to no effect on the bugs. Next, I used a 3-in-1 spray, which didn’t help, either. Finally, I used Malathion—once. This pesticide definitely helped, but even it didn’t completely eradicate all the aphids. It did, however, greatly reduce the numbers, allowing me to keep the sapsuckers in check with the next method.
7. Squishing Aphids
The pesticide made it so the number of aphids on my vegetable plants was manageable. Every morning, while it’s still relatively cool outdoors, I examine my affected plants by hand.
I suffer from spinal stenosis, so I have to do almost all my gardening while sitting. I just pull my outdoor chair up to a plant and examine every leaf and every bud carefully. When I spy an aphid, I rub it off, killing it in the process. If you use this method, remember not to rub hard enough to damage the leaves. If you’re squeamish, you might want to wear gloves during this process.
This method of aphid-killing has worked very well for me. This morning, for example, I found only two aphids! You might find this strange, but I find this endeavor to be relaxing.
Early Intervention for Aphid Control
Because aphids multiply so rapidly, you have to get ahead of the game, before the bugs become too numerous. As you water your plants and harvest your vegetables, do a cursory inspection on the new leaves. If you see aphids or evidence of aphids, take the time to check the entire plants and destroy any aphids you find.
Getting rid of aphids is extremely important. Not only do they suck the life from your plants, they also carry viruses and can infect your plants with sooty mold. I’m not sure there’s any one method that will work to completely eradicate all the aphids in your garden, so I suggest using a combination approach, employing several different strategies. The most important thing is to be vigilant. Don’t let the aphid population become overwhelming before taking action.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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10 months ago from USA
I once had an aphid infestation on my rose bushes. First it was just one plant and then all of a sudden it became all of them. I just couldn’t get ahead of the little bugs. Finally I cut down all of the rose bushes and then managed from there. But I just love your idea of the yellow cups. I’m going to try it in my garden this year.
10 months ago from Olympia, WA
Yes to all of it! This is the first time in a long time we haven’t had aphids. We must be doing something right. 🙂
10 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.
Fantastic. Read and did it. Thank you.
I just love all these chemical free solutions! We get aphids on our roses every year until the lady bugs hatch. I’ve had some success with the soapy water method but I’m definitely saving this article so I can try some new techniques next year! Thank you!
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