Tips on how to get rid of aphids on cucumbers

Annoying Aph > Published September 18, 2017 and updated February 7, 2019

Oh, do I ever hate aphids. These little pesky insects suck the life out of my plants (quite literally!), and wherever they go, they bring plant destruction in their wake. Their presence causes even more disastrous problems to occur to my garden.

But there’s a way to eliminate aphids from your landscape, and by keeping on top of the problem, you can keep them away for years to come. Today, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about these tiny pests, how to treat problems that they cause, and how to get them out of your garden for good!

Listen to this post on the Epic Gardening Podcast

Best Solutions for Aphid Control:

Environmental Control Options:

To Prevent Aphids, Use:

Aphid Overview

Common Name(s) Aphids, plant lice, greenflies, blackflies, whiteflies, rose aphids, potato aphids, bean aphids, cabbage aphids, green peach aphids, wooly aphids, wooly apple aphids, melon aphids, lettuce root aphids, plus many more
Scientific Name(s) Over 4400 species (250 harmful to agriculture/forestry).
Family Aphididae
Origin Worldwide, but prefer temperate zones
Plants Affected Most food crops (excepting garlic and chives), fruit trees, roses and other flowering plants.
Common Remedies Insecticidal soaps, diatomaceous earth, pyrethrin sprays, orange oil sprays, neem oil, flour, beneficial insects, row covers, reflective mulch cloth, companion planting trap plants or repellent plants

So, what are aphids? The Aphididae family of insects is incredibly wide. There’s over 4400 species of aphids, about 250 of which are destructive on most common garden plants. There’s tiny black bugs. There’s tiny green bugs. There’s tiny white bugs. Some are reddish, pinkish, or brown. They suck the plant saps out of your plants’ leaves, and the plants die.

Does this seem intimidating? It shouldn’t be. Aphids all have similar life cycles, and all can be defeated in the same fashion. Whether you’re battling rose aphids, potato aphids or wooly aphids, there is still hope that they can be defeated, as long as you act quickly.

What Do Aphids Look Like?

Most aphids are pear-shaped, with long antennae and long legs. Some varieties, such as the wooly aphid, appear to have a wooly or waxy coating. This is caused by a secretion which they produce. Other varieties lack the secretion. As said above, they come in multiple shades and colors, including black, white, green, red, pink, brown, or even almost-colorless.

Adult aphids are usually wingless, although most aphid species have some winged forms. This allows them to disperse to other areas more easily, especially when the population is high or they need to spread out to find more on which to feed. In some cases, this happens only during the spring or fall, but other species can develop winged forms as necessary to keep the population growing.

Many aphids will cluster on the underside of a leaf to suck the sap from it. They aren’t commonly disturbed, even if the leaf is moved. You can occasionally find leaves with hundreds and hundreds of them clinging to the back.

Life Cycle of Aphids

One of the reasons that aphids are so widespread, especially in areas like California that have moderate temperatures, is because they don’t actually have to mate before having young. Female adult aphids give birth to live female nymphs in a process known as parthogenesis. In fact, in moderate regions, aphids can often live year-round, and the population can continually grow.

Unlike many other insects, aphids don’t normally lay eggs during optimal weather conditions. The female adult will give birth to her nymphs. Those nymphs will then go through four stages of development, shedding their skin as they increase in size. In warm conditions, adulthood can take as little as 7-10 days to full maturity. And as an adult nymph can have as many as 80 young in a week, population growth is incredibly rapid.

A few species of aphids that live in climates with colder winters will produce sexual, winged forms during the late summer and early fall. These aphids will mate and lay their eggs typically on the underside of leaves of perennial plants. The eggs do not hatch until weather conditions are optimal, which means that come spring, another upsurge in the aphid population will rapidly occur.

Needless to say, reducing the population of aphids in your yard is essential, and must be done quickly and consistently enough that they don’t just replenish their numbers.

Common Habitat of Aphids

Aphids tend to live where they eat, and what they eat depends on the species of aphid. They can be found on most fruit and vegetable crops, on some flowering plants like roses or chrysanthemums, on trees, and in some bushes. Often, the wingless aphids remain hidden on the underside of leaves, but it’s very easy to spot a large infestation as they’re clustered together in large quantities.

Colonies can also be identified if black, sooty mold begins to appear on plants, as that is a sign of mold growing on the aphid secretion known as honeydew. Honeydew is a sticky, sweet material that can create more problems (such as sooty mold), and which entices ants to come feed on it. Some species of ants actually farm aphids. If you’re finding sooty mold on the leaves of your plants, it’s quite likely that you have a severe aphid infestation!

What Do Aphids Eat?

Aphids bite into the underside of a leaf and feed on the plant’s sap that’s stored in the leaf. While a few aphids on a plant is not enough to cause major concern, large populations draining the sap can cause plants to yellow, wilt, and wither. Since aphids become carriers for any plant diseases that a plant they’ve been consuming has, they can spread disease if they move to another plant. Some varieties of aphid also are carriers for other plant toxins, and when they feed, they will infect plants with those toxins.

Most aphids tend to prefer a singular type of plant. So, for instance, a potato aphid is most likely going to prey on potato plants. Still, there are some varieties of aphid that will feast on multiple plant species. One example is the green peach aphid. Green peach aphids typically stick to stone fruit trees like peaches and plums, but they will also happily eat tomatoes, peppers, spinach, lettuce, carrots, corn, cucurbits like cucumbers, melons, and squash, and flowering plants like roses.

A few species, such as the lettuce root aphid, actually will suck on the roots of the plant rather than the leaves or stems. These are harder to identify as they may be under the soil, but cause similar damage to other aphid species.

How To Get Rid Of Aphids

While they can seem unconquerable, there are some steps you can take to eliminate the aphid threat in your garden. Like most insect infestations, you can start by pinching or pruning off heavily-infested leaves from plants. But what if you need more help, and pinching and pruning isn’t handling it anymore?

Organic Aphid Control

When trying to kill aphids, products like Safer Brand Soap can help significantly. This insecticidal soap kills not only aphids, but earwigs, mites and whiteflies, grasshoppers, mealy bugs, soft scales, and a host of other insects. While the term ‘soap’ may be confusing as it’s not like your normal dish soap, it does a marvelous job of eliminating aphid populations by coating their bodies so that they can’t breathe and suffocate. It’s organic (the active ingredient is potassium salts of fatty acids) and can be used all the way through the plant’s life cycle up to harvest time.

If your problem is very severe, adding some pyrethrins to the mix helps. Safer Brand Home and Garden Spray combines the potassium salts of fatty acids with pyrethrins, making it an effective way to kill aphids as well as a host of other insects. This option is great for people who’re experiencing heavy problems with both aphids and other insects such as mosquitoes, ants and roaches.

A homemade remedy for killing aphids is to mix a quart of water with a teaspoon of dish soap and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Blend it together well and apply it directly to the plants. The cayenne pepper acts as a repellent, and the dish soap will coat the insects and cause them to smother.

Ants & Aphids: Wiping Them Both Out

I keep mentioning that some ant species farm aphids for their honeydew. It happens a lot more often than most people think, and if you are seeing a lot of ants running up and down your plants, check the leaves for aphids that they might be tucking away there!

Orange peel extracts are a popular remedy, as most insects can’t stand orange oils. Orange Guard Spray provides an easy-to-use organic solution made from citrus rinds, and can be used both indoors and outdoors. While aphids aren’t as common indoors, the spray also works on ants, roaches, and fleas, which means that if you’ve got ants farming your aphid colonies, this may be a way to wipe out both pests at the same time.

Another problem if you have ants farming aphids, especially on fruit trees or woody plants, is to use a product like Tanglefoot Tangle-Trap. This is a very sticky solution that will catch ants marching up the stems, branches or trunks of trees and keep them from farming aphids or getting to the fruit. This also can be effective for aphids on roses if they’re ant-farmed colonies, although it won’t prevent the aphids themselves. This doesn’t work as well on softer plants, and it is incredibly sticky stuff, so be careful when using this around children or pets.

Environmental Aphid Control

Often, just getting the aphids off the plants initially is a good way to slow the destruction of your plants. Using a Bug-Blaster or other sprayer and plain water to knock the aphids off the leaves will slow them down or stop them entirely.

Something to consider is that aphids are attracted to plants with soft new growth. Over-watering or over-fertilizing your plants may make them more enticing to an aphid population, and may have other negative connotations for your plants too. While you can’t prevent new growth on young plants (nor do you want to!), maintaining your older plants properly helps you to protect them from aphid attack.

If you live in an area where frogs are common, encourage one to live under your edible plants! Frogs like to eat aphids as well as a number of other pest insects such as squash bugs, cabbage worms, and cabbage loopers.

Beneficial Insects To The Rescue!

One of the most popular ways to eliminate aphids from an environmental standpoint is to make sure their natural predators are widespread in your garden. To do this, you can release ladybugs, and as ladybugs eat aphids quite happily, they’ll gobble down your garden pests. When you do release ladybugs, do so at dusk or in the early evening, as they’ll immediately fly away during the daytime. Spray a fine mist of water onto the plants just before you release, as the moisture may convince them to stick around longer. While they’ll still eventually fly away to develop their own colonies, they should wipe out your aphids before they go.

Other beneficial insects include lacewings and parasitic wasps. A lacewing larva can eat up to 600 aphids before it becomes adult. While parasitic wasps don’t typically consume aphids, they do consume other pest insects that may eat aphids and then populate the garden, and having them in your yard will keep the aphids for the ladybugs and lacewings instead of for pests.

If you do choose to use beneficial insects, you can increase the likelihood that they will stick around by adding flowering plants that they prefer to drink the nectar of when aphids aren’t available. Planting chives, caraway, dill, fennel, marigolds, cosmos, and sweet alyssum in your garden can help keep your ladybug and lacewing population steady, even after the aphids are mostly consumed.

You can also provide housing for your beneficial insects. An insect house can provide shelter for ladybugs, lacewings, and single bees among other types of good bugs. While there’s no guarantees that your beneficial insects will take up permanent residence, it’s a great open invitation, and if they do decide to stay, you’ll have pollinators and natural aphid predators all the time.

Preventing Aphids

Diatomaceous earth is incredibly effective as a repellent. Made of finely-powdered shells from diatoms, food-grade diatomaceous earth will slice up the soft bodies of insects which crawl over it, although it’s completely harmless to humans and pets. It can be sprinkled or dusted over all surfaces of a plant to create a repellent barrier, although it does need to be reapplied after rainy conditions.

Let’s not forget the neem oil. This multipurpose tool coats the exterior of the aphids and causes them to smother and die, plus it has antifungal aspects which help to clear up fungal growths like powdery mildew and black sooty mold. It also helps to cut down the speed of repopulation by acting as a repellent on the leaves and stems of your plants.

An old-fashioned remedy for aphids is to dust plants with flour, as the flour will constipate the aphids and deter them from sticking around. Like diatomaceous earth, this needs to be repeated if it rains.

Companion planting can help discourage aphids from taking up residence. Some plants, such as mustards and nasturtiums, will actually lure aphids to them. This means that you might be able to plant mustard or nasturtium as a trap plant to keep aphids away from your other plants. Similarly, there are plants which repel aphids such as catnip, garlic, and chives. Garlic and chives are especially helpful around roses or other flowering plants that tend to draw aphids, but can be used to good effect around your edible plants as well – especially lettuce.

You can discourage early aphid infestations on your younger plants by growing your plants under row covers. This will keep the aphids away from those tastier young shoots and leaves entirely, but when your plants begin to flower, you’ll need to remove the covers for pollinating purposes.

Silver-colored reflective mulch cloth has been shown to be quite effective in repelling aphid infestation, especially during the warmer months of the year. Summer squash, curcurbits, and other related plants have shown significantly lower levels of aphid infestation, plus increased yields, when a reflective mulch is used.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: My plants have curled leaves after aphids are gone! Help?

A: Unfortunately, even after you’ve figured out how to kill aphids and eliminated the pest, the curled leaves are likely to remain. If this is a plant such as a Swiss chard or other leafy vegetable, there’s not much you can do to restore the shape of the leaves, although you can certainly try to encourage new leaf growth. If it’s on a non-edible leaf, leaving the leaves intact is okay, as they’ll continue to photosynthesize. But for visual purposes, you can trim the most curled leaves off as long as there’s plenty of other leaves left to keep the plant alive.

Q: Do aphids jump?

A: You might be mixing up aphids (which are occasionally called whiteflies) with true whiteflies. True whiteflies are also called “jumping plant lice”, which is even more confusing as aphids are often called “plant lice”. Aphids themselves do not typically jump, although they do crawl (and in limited situations may be able to fly). So no, aphids don’t jump!

As you can see, if you don’t attack the aphids when you first find them, they’ll rapidly breed and spread to take over your garden. These simple steps and measures can help you kill aphids when you spot them, and with luck you can keep them out of your yard in the future. Are there any steps I didn’t cover that you’d recommend in the war against aphids? Share them in the comments!

www.epicgardening.com

Aphids on Cucumber Plants

Cucumbers belong to the Cucurbits family, along with melons, squash, pumpkins and watermelons.

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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.

Identification

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.

Mosaic Virus

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.

Prevention

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.

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How To: Get R >

Are your garden plants stunted, shriveled, yellowing, or curling at the leaves, despite your best efforts to keep them alive? Check the undersides of the leaves, and you may find the culprit: large groups of aphids and/or the sticky residue they leave behind after feeding. (Or, on plants with tightly-packed leaves like those of day lilies, aphids may take root at the base of the plant instead.) These quarter-inch-long garden pests have soft pear-shaped bodies in various shades of white, black, yellow, green, brown, or red. The bane of gardeners everywhere, they feed on the plant’s sap and literally suck the life out of leaves, stems, buds, flowers, fruit, and roots.

Aphids reproduce so quickly—we’re talking several generations created in a single season—that by the time you notice the insects on your plants, you’re likely in the midst of a full-blown infestation. Thankfully, though, homeowners can often combat the pests before major damage occurs. Here’s how to get rid of aphids and keep them from returning to wreck your plants in the future.

STEP 1: REMOVAL

If you discover aphids your garden, follow one of these three methods to get rid of them.

Hose them down. If you spot a few aphids on your plants, the minor infestation can be successfully banished with a strong stream of water from the hose. Run water all over the plant, making sure to target the underside of each leaf. Repeat this process every few days until you’ve successfully eliminated all aphids, which could take up to two weeks.

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Spray leaves with DIY insecticidal soap. Waging war with larger numbers of aphids? Make a homemade insecticidal soap, a low-toxicity bug control solution that will desiccate the soft bodies and kill the aphids without doing harm to your plants. Simply mix a few teaspoons of liquid dish soap with one quart of water, then spray or wipe the solution onto the leaves, stems, and buds of the plant. (Don’t forget: These bugs like to hide beneath leaves, so take care to thoroughly coat the underside of the leaves, too.) Repeat the process every two or three days for the next few weeks, until you no longer notice aphids on the plant.

Use a systemic pesticide. If your aphid infestation is substantial and not swayed by insecticidal soap, you may need to kill them with a systemic pesticide. Consider using something that contains Imidacloprid, which will kill aphids when ingested, but won’t harm pollinators like bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. Mix and apply according to the manufacturer’s directions.

STEP 2: PREVENTION

After eradicating aphids from your garden, take measures to prevent the pests from returning. Here are three ways to deter aphids from your plants.

Introduce beneficial bugs. Several species of bugs—like lady beetles, lacewings, and parasitic wasps—happily munch on aphids. If you provide a habitat of flowering ground covers (especially varieties like cosmos and stonecrop that supply nectar throughout the growing season), you’ll draw them to the garden and successfully keep the aphid population in check. Homeowners can also purchase these natural predators via mail-order. If you introduce beneficial bugs to your garden, do not use broad-spectrum pesticide—it will kill them, too!

Apply dormant oil. If aphids have settled on your fruit trees, apply dormant oil (a commercial oil that controls pests during the off-season) in mid- to late-winter to kill any eggs that are overwintering. Mix the dormant oil with water in a garden sprayer, according to the directions on the packaging, and apply to the leaves, stems, branches, and trunk of the tree. Reapply per the manufacturer’s directions.

Choose neighboring plants strategically. Oregano, chive, sage, garlic, leeks, onions, and other plants with strong scents can deter aphids. Plant these in the areas of your garden where aphids have been a problem. In addition, you can grow plants that attract aphids, like calendula and nasturtium, on the opposite side of your property; they may draw aphids away from the affected area. Companion planting is a long-term prevention measure, but it could help your aphid population diminish significantly over several seasons.

www.bobvila.com

Annoying Aph > Published September 18, 2017 and updated February 7, 2019

Oh, do I ever hate aphids. These little pesky insects suck the life out of my plants (quite literally!), and wherever they go, they bring plant destruction in their wake. Their presence causes even more disastrous problems to occur to my garden.

But there’s a way to eliminate aphids from your landscape, and by keeping on top of the problem, you can keep them away for years to come. Today, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about these tiny pests, how to treat problems that they cause, and how to get them out of your garden for good!

Listen to this post on the Epic Gardening Podcast

Best Solutions for Aphid Control:

Environmental Control Options:

To Prevent Aphids, Use:

Aphid Overview

Common Name(s) Aphids, plant lice, greenflies, blackflies, whiteflies, rose aphids, potato aphids, bean aphids, cabbage aphids, green peach aphids, wooly aphids, wooly apple aphids, melon aphids, lettuce root aphids, plus many more
Scientific Name(s) Over 4400 species (250 harmful to agriculture/forestry).
Family Aphididae
Origin Worldwide, but prefer temperate zones
Plants Affected Most food crops (excepting garlic and chives), fruit trees, roses and other flowering plants.
Common Remedies Insecticidal soaps, diatomaceous earth, pyrethrin sprays, orange oil sprays, neem oil, flour, beneficial insects, row covers, reflective mulch cloth, companion planting trap plants or repellent plants

So, what are aphids? The Aphididae family of insects is incredibly wide. There’s over 4400 species of aphids, about 250 of which are destructive on most common garden plants. There’s tiny black bugs. There’s tiny green bugs. There’s tiny white bugs. Some are reddish, pinkish, or brown. They suck the plant saps out of your plants’ leaves, and the plants die.

Does this seem intimidating? It shouldn’t be. Aphids all have similar life cycles, and all can be defeated in the same fashion. Whether you’re battling rose aphids, potato aphids or wooly aphids, there is still hope that they can be defeated, as long as you act quickly.

What Do Aphids Look Like?

Most aphids are pear-shaped, with long antennae and long legs. Some varieties, such as the wooly aphid, appear to have a wooly or waxy coating. This is caused by a secretion which they produce. Other varieties lack the secretion. As said above, they come in multiple shades and colors, including black, white, green, red, pink, brown, or even almost-colorless.

Adult aphids are usually wingless, although most aphid species have some winged forms. This allows them to disperse to other areas more easily, especially when the population is high or they need to spread out to find more on which to feed. In some cases, this happens only during the spring or fall, but other species can develop winged forms as necessary to keep the population growing.

Many aphids will cluster on the underside of a leaf to suck the sap from it. They aren’t commonly disturbed, even if the leaf is moved. You can occasionally find leaves with hundreds and hundreds of them clinging to the back.

Life Cycle of Aphids

One of the reasons that aphids are so widespread, especially in areas like California that have moderate temperatures, is because they don’t actually have to mate before having young. Female adult aphids give birth to live female nymphs in a process known as parthogenesis. In fact, in moderate regions, aphids can often live year-round, and the population can continually grow.

Unlike many other insects, aphids don’t normally lay eggs during optimal weather conditions. The female adult will give birth to her nymphs. Those nymphs will then go through four stages of development, shedding their skin as they increase in size. In warm conditions, adulthood can take as little as 7-10 days to full maturity. And as an adult nymph can have as many as 80 young in a week, population growth is incredibly rapid.

A few species of aphids that live in climates with colder winters will produce sexual, winged forms during the late summer and early fall. These aphids will mate and lay their eggs typically on the underside of leaves of perennial plants. The eggs do not hatch until weather conditions are optimal, which means that come spring, another upsurge in the aphid population will rapidly occur.

Needless to say, reducing the population of aphids in your yard is essential, and must be done quickly and consistently enough that they don’t just replenish their numbers.

Common Habitat of Aphids

Aphids tend to live where they eat, and what they eat depends on the species of aphid. They can be found on most fruit and vegetable crops, on some flowering plants like roses or chrysanthemums, on trees, and in some bushes. Often, the wingless aphids remain hidden on the underside of leaves, but it’s very easy to spot a large infestation as they’re clustered together in large quantities.

Colonies can also be identified if black, sooty mold begins to appear on plants, as that is a sign of mold growing on the aphid secretion known as honeydew. Honeydew is a sticky, sweet material that can create more problems (such as sooty mold), and which entices ants to come feed on it. Some species of ants actually farm aphids. If you’re finding sooty mold on the leaves of your plants, it’s quite likely that you have a severe aphid infestation!

What Do Aphids Eat?

Aphids bite into the underside of a leaf and feed on the plant’s sap that’s stored in the leaf. While a few aphids on a plant is not enough to cause major concern, large populations draining the sap can cause plants to yellow, wilt, and wither. Since aphids become carriers for any plant diseases that a plant they’ve been consuming has, they can spread disease if they move to another plant. Some varieties of aphid also are carriers for other plant toxins, and when they feed, they will infect plants with those toxins.

Most aphids tend to prefer a singular type of plant. So, for instance, a potato aphid is most likely going to prey on potato plants. Still, there are some varieties of aphid that will feast on multiple plant species. One example is the green peach aphid. Green peach aphids typically stick to stone fruit trees like peaches and plums, but they will also happily eat tomatoes, peppers, spinach, lettuce, carrots, corn, cucurbits like cucumbers, melons, and squash, and flowering plants like roses.

A few species, such as the lettuce root aphid, actually will suck on the roots of the plant rather than the leaves or stems. These are harder to identify as they may be under the soil, but cause similar damage to other aphid species.

How To Get Rid Of Aphids

While they can seem unconquerable, there are some steps you can take to eliminate the aphid threat in your garden. Like most insect infestations, you can start by pinching or pruning off heavily-infested leaves from plants. But what if you need more help, and pinching and pruning isn’t handling it anymore?

Organic Aphid Control

When trying to kill aphids, products like Safer Brand Soap can help significantly. This insecticidal soap kills not only aphids, but earwigs, mites and whiteflies, grasshoppers, mealy bugs, soft scales, and a host of other insects. While the term ‘soap’ may be confusing as it’s not like your normal dish soap, it does a marvelous job of eliminating aphid populations by coating their bodies so that they can’t breathe and suffocate. It’s organic (the active ingredient is potassium salts of fatty acids) and can be used all the way through the plant’s life cycle up to harvest time.

If your problem is very severe, adding some pyrethrins to the mix helps. Safer Brand Home and Garden Spray combines the potassium salts of fatty acids with pyrethrins, making it an effective way to kill aphids as well as a host of other insects. This option is great for people who’re experiencing heavy problems with both aphids and other insects such as mosquitoes, ants and roaches.

A homemade remedy for killing aphids is to mix a quart of water with a teaspoon of dish soap and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Blend it together well and apply it directly to the plants. The cayenne pepper acts as a repellent, and the dish soap will coat the insects and cause them to smother.

Ants & Aphids: Wiping Them Both Out

I keep mentioning that some ant species farm aphids for their honeydew. It happens a lot more often than most people think, and if you are seeing a lot of ants running up and down your plants, check the leaves for aphids that they might be tucking away there!

Orange peel extracts are a popular remedy, as most insects can’t stand orange oils. Orange Guard Spray provides an easy-to-use organic solution made from citrus rinds, and can be used both indoors and outdoors. While aphids aren’t as common indoors, the spray also works on ants, roaches, and fleas, which means that if you’ve got ants farming your aphid colonies, this may be a way to wipe out both pests at the same time.

Another problem if you have ants farming aphids, especially on fruit trees or woody plants, is to use a product like Tanglefoot Tangle-Trap. This is a very sticky solution that will catch ants marching up the stems, branches or trunks of trees and keep them from farming aphids or getting to the fruit. This also can be effective for aphids on roses if they’re ant-farmed colonies, although it won’t prevent the aphids themselves. This doesn’t work as well on softer plants, and it is incredibly sticky stuff, so be careful when using this around children or pets.

Environmental Aphid Control

Often, just getting the aphids off the plants initially is a good way to slow the destruction of your plants. Using a Bug-Blaster or other sprayer and plain water to knock the aphids off the leaves will slow them down or stop them entirely.

Something to consider is that aphids are attracted to plants with soft new growth. Over-watering or over-fertilizing your plants may make them more enticing to an aphid population, and may have other negative connotations for your plants too. While you can’t prevent new growth on young plants (nor do you want to!), maintaining your older plants properly helps you to protect them from aphid attack.

If you live in an area where frogs are common, encourage one to live under your edible plants! Frogs like to eat aphids as well as a number of other pest insects such as squash bugs, cabbage worms, and cabbage loopers.

Beneficial Insects To The Rescue!

One of the most popular ways to eliminate aphids from an environmental standpoint is to make sure their natural predators are widespread in your garden. To do this, you can release ladybugs, and as ladybugs eat aphids quite happily, they’ll gobble down your garden pests. When you do release ladybugs, do so at dusk or in the early evening, as they’ll immediately fly away during the daytime. Spray a fine mist of water onto the plants just before you release, as the moisture may convince them to stick around longer. While they’ll still eventually fly away to develop their own colonies, they should wipe out your aphids before they go.

Other beneficial insects include lacewings and parasitic wasps. A lacewing larva can eat up to 600 aphids before it becomes adult. While parasitic wasps don’t typically consume aphids, they do consume other pest insects that may eat aphids and then populate the garden, and having them in your yard will keep the aphids for the ladybugs and lacewings instead of for pests.

If you do choose to use beneficial insects, you can increase the likelihood that they will stick around by adding flowering plants that they prefer to drink the nectar of when aphids aren’t available. Planting chives, caraway, dill, fennel, marigolds, cosmos, and sweet alyssum in your garden can help keep your ladybug and lacewing population steady, even after the aphids are mostly consumed.

You can also provide housing for your beneficial insects. An insect house can provide shelter for ladybugs, lacewings, and single bees among other types of good bugs. While there’s no guarantees that your beneficial insects will take up permanent residence, it’s a great open invitation, and if they do decide to stay, you’ll have pollinators and natural aphid predators all the time.

Preventing Aphids

Diatomaceous earth is incredibly effective as a repellent. Made of finely-powdered shells from diatoms, food-grade diatomaceous earth will slice up the soft bodies of insects which crawl over it, although it’s completely harmless to humans and pets. It can be sprinkled or dusted over all surfaces of a plant to create a repellent barrier, although it does need to be reapplied after rainy conditions.

Let’s not forget the neem oil. This multipurpose tool coats the exterior of the aphids and causes them to smother and die, plus it has antifungal aspects which help to clear up fungal growths like powdery mildew and black sooty mold. It also helps to cut down the speed of repopulation by acting as a repellent on the leaves and stems of your plants.

An old-fashioned remedy for aphids is to dust plants with flour, as the flour will constipate the aphids and deter them from sticking around. Like diatomaceous earth, this needs to be repeated if it rains.

Companion planting can help discourage aphids from taking up residence. Some plants, such as mustards and nasturtiums, will actually lure aphids to them. This means that you might be able to plant mustard or nasturtium as a trap plant to keep aphids away from your other plants. Similarly, there are plants which repel aphids such as catnip, garlic, and chives. Garlic and chives are especially helpful around roses or other flowering plants that tend to draw aphids, but can be used to good effect around your edible plants as well – especially lettuce.

You can discourage early aphid infestations on your younger plants by growing your plants under row covers. This will keep the aphids away from those tastier young shoots and leaves entirely, but when your plants begin to flower, you’ll need to remove the covers for pollinating purposes.

Silver-colored reflective mulch cloth has been shown to be quite effective in repelling aphid infestation, especially during the warmer months of the year. Summer squash, curcurbits, and other related plants have shown significantly lower levels of aphid infestation, plus increased yields, when a reflective mulch is used.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: My plants have curled leaves after aphids are gone! Help?

A: Unfortunately, even after you’ve figured out how to kill aphids and eliminated the pest, the curled leaves are likely to remain. If this is a plant such as a Swiss chard or other leafy vegetable, there’s not much you can do to restore the shape of the leaves, although you can certainly try to encourage new leaf growth. If it’s on a non-edible leaf, leaving the leaves intact is okay, as they’ll continue to photosynthesize. But for visual purposes, you can trim the most curled leaves off as long as there’s plenty of other leaves left to keep the plant alive.

Q: Do aphids jump?

A: You might be mixing up aphids (which are occasionally called whiteflies) with true whiteflies. True whiteflies are also called “jumping plant lice”, which is even more confusing as aphids are often called “plant lice”. Aphids themselves do not typically jump, although they do crawl (and in limited situations may be able to fly). So no, aphids don’t jump!

As you can see, if you don’t attack the aphids when you first find them, they’ll rapidly breed and spread to take over your garden. These simple steps and measures can help you kill aphids when you spot them, and with luck you can keep them out of your yard in the future. Are there any steps I didn’t cover that you’d recommend in the war against aphids? Share them in the comments!

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