Fighting aphids on fruit trees

Aphids, how to get rid of them?

Aphids are fearsome insects that attack leaves and feed on plant sap.

Leaves curl up and become sticky.

Key facts about aphids

Name โ€“ Aphidina
Common name โ€“ aphid
Appears in โ€“ spring, summer, fall

Favorable conditions โ€“ most plants might be attacked, but the weakest plants are the most vulnerable.

Having a garden brimming with insects, especially ladybugs, greatly helps control aphid populations.

Regular treatments against aphids will help you consistently eliminate them and keep them away from your plants and rose trees.

Effective organic aphid treatments

Aphids attack many plants, rose trees and fruit trees in our gardens, and they can do considerable damage.

The following treatments can help fight aphids, and if one particular strategy doesnโ€™t seem to work, you can apply several solutions together. Associating repellent plants and treatments is most effective.


  • Since ladybugs eat aphid larvae, they naturally contribute to controlling aphid populations. This method is increasingly practiced by professionals who manage parks, and it is 100% organic.

Fermented stinging nettle or fern tea

    It is sold now in horticulture stores but can be produced naturally too.

Fermented rhubarb tea

Soapy water

  • Made with Marseille soap or beldi soap dissolved in water and sprayed on the plant, this soap mix makes it hard for aphids to stick to leaves.
    Grate 5 oz (150 grams) of soap and dissolve it in 1 quart (1 liter) water, add and mix in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Spray on plants.

Aphid repellent plants

  • Planting aphid-trapping plants such as nasturtiums or aphid repellents such as French marigolds and above all lavender naturally helps control aphid populations.

Fighting ants

  • Fighting ants is necessary when they have established their nest.
    Ants attract aphids and fuel their spread.
    Here are good techniques to rid your garden of ants.

Aphidoletes larvae

  • These are excellent aphid predators, but they are only active from 60ยฐF (16ยฐC). They are rarely sold in horticulture stores.


  • Products based on this plant can be used in organic farming. This is one of the main ingredients in aphid-control products sold on the market.
    It is very effective and will mercilessly annihilate these parasites.

Flowered lawn

Special flowered lawn mixes are prepared these days, which repel most parasites and specifically aphids when the combination of flowers start to bloom.

  • This flowered lawn mix can be sown in gardens and in the vegetable patch to protect vegetables.

Finally, a basic rule is to reduce use of chemical products as much as possible.

They usually wreck havoc in the local ecosystem, and weaken natural defenses that usually make plants immune to diseases and parasites.

Smart tip about aphids

Most damage occurs during the growth or vegetation phase, specifically in spring and at the beginning of summer. This is when treatments are most needed and effective.

  • All chemical treatments have heavy impacts on our environment, so think of the planet and use organic aphid treatments!
  • Species that are routinely attacked by aphids include of course rose trees, but also whole trees such as lime trees or basswood or spruce and also certain fruit trees like pear trees, peach trees or cherry trees.
  • Watch for leaves turning black as soot, this matches symptoms of sooty mold, which is a direct consequence of an aphid invasion.

Read also:

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Green aphids shared by Joseph Holt under ยฉ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Aphids with ladybug & ant shared by Myriams-Fotos under ยฉ CC0 1.0
Aphids on flower shared by Foto-Rabe under ยฉ CC0 1.0

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What are those little green bugs on your plants? Theyโ€™re probably aphids! Here are our best tips on how to identify and control aphids in the garden.

What Are Aphids?

Aphids seem to find their way into every garden. They are small, soft-bodied insects that can survive in almost any zone. Aphids multiply quickly, so itโ€™s important to get them under control before reproduction starts. Many generations can occur in one season. The good news is that they tend to move rather slowly and aphid control is relatively easy.

Identifying Aphids

Aphids are tiny (adults are under ยผ-inch), and often nearly invisible to the naked eye. Various species can appear white, black, brown, gray, yellow, light green, or even pink! Some may have a waxy or woolly coating. They have pear-shaped bodies with long antennae; the nymphs look similar to adults. Most species have two short tubes (called cornicles) projecting from their hind end.

A close-up view of a rose aphid.

Adults are usually wingless, but most species can develop a winged form when populations become crowded, so that when food quality suffers, the insects can travel to other plants, reproduce, and start a new colony. Aphids usually feed in large groups, although you might occasionally see them singly or in small numbers.

While aphids in general feed on a wide variety of plants, different species of aphids can be specific to certain plants. For example, some species include bean aphids, cabbage aphids, potato aphids, green peach aphids, melon aphids, and woolly apple aphids.

Some aphids are darker colors, like brown. The potato aphid is a common brown aphid. Photo credit:

Aphid Damage

Nymphs and adults feed on plant juices, attacking leaves, stems, buds, flowers, fruit, and/or roots, depending on the species. Most aphids especially like succulent or new growth. Some, such as the green peach aphid, feed on a variety of plants, while others, such as the rosy apple aphid, focus on one or just a few plant hosts.

  • Look for misshapen, curling, stunted, or yellowing leaves. Be sure to check the undersides of leaves; aphids love to hide there.
  • If the leaves or stems are covered with a sticky substance, that is a sign that aphids may have been sipping sap. This โ€œhoneydew,โ€ a sugary liquid produced by the insects as waste, can attract other insects, such as ants, which gather the substance for food. When aphids feed on trees, their honeydew can drop onto cars, outdoor furniture, driveways, and so on.
  • The honeydew can sometimes encourage a fungal growth called sooty mold, causing branches and leaves to appear black.
  • Flowers or fruit can become distorted or deformed due to feeding aphids.
  • Some aphid species cause galls to form on roots or leaves.
  • Aphids may transmit viruses between plants, and also attract other insects that prey on them, such as ladybugs.

Aphids can be various colors, including yellow, and produce a sticky honeydew substance. Photo Credit: John Obermeyer/Purdue University.

Aphids on Plum Tree

I apologize if this is a duplicate, several times over! Almost overnight I discovered an infestation of aphids on a plum tree. The local garden store recommended a spray formulated for fruit trees as a first step. If that doesn’t work, they recommended a systemic insecticide placed at the base of the tree for 12 months of control. The caveat to the systemic recommendation was that the fruit would be poisonous. Adjacent pear and apple trees are not yet affected, but that’s apparently likely. I’m reluctant to spray because of vegetables near the trees. Suggestions?

Comments (25)

A systemic insecticide for a fruit tree? for aphids? Wow!

Aphids aren’t tough, Sweetmagnoliame. Insecticidal soap will kill them. It is my first choice for aphids.

Insecticidal soap is rather expensive and if you’d like to try a lower cost alternative – I’ve used 3 tablespoons of Palmolive Green dish soap for every gallon of water as an aphid spray. It worked very well and didn’t cause damage to the leaves.

With either, spray late in the day. You can rinse the tree the following morning with clean water. You should probably spray the other nearby trees.

Dad’s plum tree gets aphids every year. He has used soap spray with a hose end sprayer. The type of sprayer he has was made for trees.

Here is a link that might be useful: For trees up to 25 ft. tall.

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I’m not sure how well it would work on something like a tree, but soap makes a pretty fair insecticide. There are even some soaps that are sold for that purpose. I think almost any soap will work, though.

If I remember correctly it works by interfering with their ability to breathe.

Here is a link that might be useful: Article on insecticidal soap.

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I need to start checking to see if somebody else gave the same advice I’m planning to give before I hit submit.

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Not necessarily, BPGreen – I’m reassured that others may 2nd my comments and so may the original poster. Further, the link you sent offers appropriate cautions – Phytoxicity, for instance. And, “do not use extra strength, grease-cutting, or anti-bacterial soap.”

Also the recipe: “one teaspoon of liquid soap such as mild Doveร‚ยฎ, Pure Ivory Soapร‚ยฎ, or Dr. Bonnersร‚ยฎ or pure castille soap, per quart of water.” This makes me wonder whether 3 tablespoons is too much. That’s just over double what the author is suggesting.

Here’s what Loyola U says about treating spider mites on hibiscus: “Use Palmolive or Dawn or Sunlight soap at one to two tbs. per gallon to smother the insects on the plants. If you need to use more than 2 tbsp/gal, remember to later rinse off the plant. Spray twice a week until bugs are gone.” I think Sweetmagnoliame would be well advised to rinse the tree before it is hit with strong sunlight.

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In the mean time, you can wash the aphids of with just a strong jet of water. While this won’t keep them away forever, but it’s a pretty good control. Aphids are fragile and break easily. I learned about this way back in the DRS days and it worked good enough for my roses.

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Do you have the kind that make the leaves curl up? I get those on plum and peach.

If you can remember, a spray of dormant oil in the early spring before they flower / leaf out will really help with over all numbers.

I just sprayed mine with insecticidal soap, I mix up a 2 gallons of the stuff and spray all the fruit trees as well as some of the vegetables, the fruit for aphids and the veggies for flea beetles, this time of year.

I am already seeing 2″ grass hoppers. Yikes.

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I have the dreaded black aphids on my cherry tree. I released several hundred lady bugs around the cherry tree, my peach tree, and a couple dozen around my veggie patch last night. Tonight, I saw maybe half a dozen. They had a smorgasbord of aphids! Why did they fly away?

Let me know how the soap thing works out.

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Not to be technical, but I don’t think the soap smothers the aphids, it dissolves their “waxy” covering, causing them to dessicate and die. Never used it but I would expect it to work since an aphid is probably a waxy shell holding in 90% water.

Other things that work well include malathion and many of the other common insecticides for yard & garden, although if you can soap or wash them off, you shouldn’t have the impact on the beneficials that insecticides do and a good crop of lady bug larvae will do an amazing job of cleaning up the aphids.

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Yeah, it’s those “monstrous” looking larva of the cute little lady bug that stays put, Beeone .

Tender aphids can bring most any plant to its knees but it doesn’t take much to blast aphids to Kingdom Come. (Of course, I’d be in trouble too if someone covered me with shampoo and set me outside, in say 20% humidity, to enjoy 8 or 12 hours of naked exposure.

Protect your garden.

Consarn it! I ain’t givin’ up without a fight!

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I have the same problem this year on my plum tree,its loaded with aphids.The leafs are curled up and a mess.The tree is next to some of my veggies to,no fruit on my tree this year came,last year i had so much fruit on it the family really enjoyed them.Help!!

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I have severe aphid problems on both plum and cherry trees as well, and the way it works, the aphids get well established before the predators get going, the end result is stunted growth for the tree that year. Just big, curly, yucky blobs of sap and leaves at each growing tip.

So I’m working on timing an initial spray to keep the aphids in check until the predators get going. I imagine its temp related, but in practice, its a question of looking at the plants as the leaves come out, then spraying them when you first see aphids.

You can use soapy water or something like malathion.

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After reading soulutions on this topic, I pondered for a bit. while looking at my power washer. the light bulb went on. I blasted them off, it did no damage to the tree, or leaves as I put it on a not so harsh spray setting. I’ll check in the morning again to see if any more appear.

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My aphid problem started on my italian plum tree last summer. I’m so disgusted I’m ready to chop it down. I gave it the dormant oil in late March and since that time
I have had to spray malathon three times for aphids already, in 3 months. And I give it a good soaking! Is this normal? My cherry trees and apple tree located near it are just fine (touch wood.) Just this blasted tree. Any other suggestions.

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I have had that same problem, a single plum tree and two cherry trees, and this year, I sprayed just after the trees flowered and the new leaf buds were just starting.

Made all the difference in the world. Now, the predator population is high enough to keep the aphids in check.

I did have to re-spray the plum about a month later in early June, but thats it.

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Another alternative is a product called Pyola. It safe up to the day of harvest and kills insects in every stage of life. Larval and beyond.

Chrysanthemum extract and canola oil. Mix with water and spray.

I’ve used it. It’s very good.

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albert_135 39.17ยฐN 119.76ยฐW 4695ft.

How does one spray the curled bunches of leaves with the black infestation?

The strongest spray does seem to remove them all. Does one spray daily? In the morning or evening? If one sprays with soap will those not removed be hindered from spreading?

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For those curled blobs with the black aphids, the only way I’ve found to deal with it is snip the whole mess off, then when the tree starts up with new growth, start to spray it.

I use a pesticide called ‘Eight” – see label at the link

In the future, read up in this thread to see when to first spray them. Those curly balled up aphids are a serious pest and will stunt the tree growth.

Here is a link that might be useful: .pdf of the label

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I never got around to spraying the trees this spring, and I am paying for it now. The peach tree has the curled up deformed leaves. Even though I can’t see any aphids on them, it sure looks like they have been there. I saw a ladybug on there yesterday, so I guess nature is trying to balance things out, but you’re right, David, it’s definitely going to set the tree back this season. Oh, plus, not a single peach on there.

The leaves on the apple trees look okay, but I know they will have their own set of problems later in the season. Last year, the birds pecked holes in every single apple, and the wasps moved in to finish the job!

I’m starting to think that fruit trees aren’t worth the effort .

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I have over a dozen fruit trees, and last year they all bore fruit. It was sorta over-whelming. But we managed to freeze, can and dehydrate all of it.

I think the best were the apples – everything I have, with the exception of Pink Lady, are varieties that you can’t find in stores. Just fantastic tastes. I need to figure out a way to store them for months fresh – I know it can be done.

This year, we had a brief warm up, things flowered, then it got cold again, then warm again and many of them flowered, not as prolifically, again. So I’m going to get a small crop this year as well.

No peaches. We only get those once every 5 years. And apricots, well, my tree is 15 years old and I’ve had 15 apricots.

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I have several strawberry trees (arbutus unedo) in San Diego that recently were infested with aphids and the dreaded sooty mold. Being new to gardening, I was looking for an alternative to harsh pesticides. After researching here, I tried a mild pesticidal soap using a hose end sprayer (the kind that automatically mixes the dilution of a mild liquid soap like Palmolive or Ivory at about 3 tablespoons per gallon) as a spray bottle wouldn’t have reached the top of these 15-foot trees.

I was skeptical at first but was very pleased that this actually worked. I applied early in the morning and then rinsed thoroughly in the evening; I have read that spraying during the middle of the day can cause sunburn on the leaves. I felt like I was giving my trees a bubble bath but sure enough, this actually worked and the hose end sprayer made the application very easy.

Reading that eggs will remain and hatch within a week, I did notice a few tiny aphids a week later and re-applied. It sounds like it is important to treat 2-3 times, about 1 week apart, to kill off hatching eggs and avoiding another infestation.

So far so good, the flowers on the tree have returned and new leaves have emerged. I will use this easy and mild treatment every time moving forward.

Ants and Aphids on my Apple Tree

Yeah, yeah, you think I’m a few fries short of a happy meal and this just seals the deal. But I tell ya it’s true. I’ll confess that they don’t ride little miniature horses and yell “HYA! GET ALONG LITTLE DOGGIES!”, but they will pick up an aphid and move it to where they think they will get the best sugar. Then, when the aphid is nice and plump, they suck the sugar out of the aphid’s butt! Mmmmmmmmm . sugary aphid butt .

Want proof? See the movie ANTZ. Take a look at the bar scene where Weaver says to Zee “Don’t you want your aphid beer?” and Zee says “I can’t help it. I have a thing about drinking from the anus of another creature. Call me crazy.”

Okay, so a cartoon movie without any double blind studies isn’t the most persuasive thing. Well, how about THIS!

Ants on my apple tree. And if you look close, you can see them fiddling with the aphids.

The next two pictures are close-ups from this pic.

The two ants right about in the middle are each tending to one aphid.
There are at least five aphids in this picture.
See the aphids? No? The next picture is a close-up.
There are at least eight aphids in this picture.
Here you can see aphids on top of the leaf. Notice how the leaf curls in wherever aphids are present. I can see about eight aphids in this pic.
About twenty aphids?

AHA! Photographic evidence! Well, I couldn’t zoom in enough to see the ants actually sucking sugar out of the aphids. I tried to find some pics through google and struck out. I did see something on the discovery channel once about it. And I remember reading it in a book once! (a bibliography like this is so much easier to write than naming actual sources)

Reader “Aase in Norway” connected me with Charles Chien who actually did take a picture of an ant enjoying sugary aphid butt! Real proof!

(Thanks Charles for giving me permission to post your excellent pic here!)

Those of you from down south will be thinking that I’m a heavy duty tough guy letting those ants crawl on me like that. But these aren’t the fire ants you’re used to. These are black ants. They can bite, but rarely. For these pictures I had dozens of them crawling all over my arms and they never bit me. If they did, I would squeal like a little girl.

For those of you that don’t know what aphids are, they are small, soft bodied insects with a needle like mouth kinda like a mosquito. But instead of sucking the blood from animals, they suck the blood from plants. As I’m sure you know, plants convert sunlight into sugar. They then pump the sugar throughout the plant, including down to the roots. Aphids stick their needle in and extract the sugar as it is on it’s way down to the root.

Getting rid of aphids is easy. For best results I order up some “aphid lion” (lacewing larvae) eggs. I used to get ladybugs, but they tend to fly away before the job is done. Aphid lions don’t have their wings yet. And they’re just starving for aphids.

Since the ants will attack anything that comes near the aphids, I knew I had to get rid of the ants first.

Controlling ants organically. Plan A:

Since DE works only when it is dry, use it only on a dry day with little or no wind. Put it on around 9 or 10 in the morning so that morning dew won’t wet it.

A few times in the past I have sprinkled a little DE on problem ant spots and the ants would then be gone. So naturally, this is what I did here. Sprinkle sprinkle sprinkle. And then I said the magic words “DIE YOU LITTLE BUTT SUCKERS! BWA HA HA HA HA HA.”

The one thing to remember about DE in this case is that when the ants are all gone, make sure to rinse away the DE so that the beneficial insects that will be eating the aphids won’t be hurt by the DE.

While I was there, I smashed scads of aphids. They smash super easy. Just touch them and they pop. So I just gently ran my fingers over the leaves. Most of the aphids are on the bottom of the leaves, but a few were on the top. I probably smashed about a third of all the aphids on this little tree. For those of you that don’t have a natural green thumb, by the time you’ve smashed a few aphids this way, your thumb is mighty green. You can now feign horticultural superiority until you wash your hands.

I also smashed all the ants that dared to walk on my hands and arms. I probably smashed about 40 ants this way. Maybe 5% of their population.

I came back the next day to view the results of my handiwork. It was as if I was never there. Scads of ants and aphids. I said to them “YOU MAY HAVE WON THE BATTLE, BUT THE WAR AIN’T OVER YET!” So I shook a bunch of ants off the tree, smashed a bunch of aphids and ants and stormed off to formulate my new scheme.

Controlling ants organically. Plan B:

“BIO-REMOTE DANE! FETCH ME A CHICKEN!” (Being the master of 80 acres means that there could be some hiking involved between two points. Therefore it behooves the lazy to to have henchmen)

A great deal of squaking from the hen house and Bio-Remote Dane returns with a lovely Buff Orpington hen. Dane puts her in the cage along with some food and water.

We explain to the hen what we want her to do. I think she wasn’t paying attention. Later she escaped and returned to the hen house. Coward.

The ants and aphids are probably throwing an underground party. So I smash a bunch of them by hand.

Controlling ants organically. Plan C:

A chick would be 20 times smaller. Does an ant appear 20 times larger to a chick than a full grown chicken? While one of these ants appears ant sized to me, it might appear dog sized to a cricket.

A chick could get through the wires of the fence. So we needed a chicken that was small, but not so small that it could get out of the fence.

This time, Bio-Remote Dane provided an adolescent red star chicken. We put her in the cage, and before we could explain her mission to her, she started gobbling up all the ants.

Now this chicken is a real “team player”! By “team player” I mean that she reads my mind and does all of my work for me.

Bio-Remote Dane checks the feed and water every couple of hours. After eight hours we return the chicken to the coop. I’m not sure if there’s much difference. We try this for two more days and there are still plenty of ants and plenty of aphids. Maybe a little less. But that could also be because I like to smash them. One thing is for sure: The effort to results ratio is lousy. We need a new plan!

Controlling ants organically. Plan D:

So I wander out to the old battleground. It’s worse than ever. After a few minutes my thumb is really green. But somehow, it seems like an empty green.

Why did the DE not work? It worked before. What was different? Did I use the wrong magic words? Have the ants developed some sort of DE resistance technology? Maybe they heard me talking about it before and were prepared .

I snuck back to the garage and got a big scoop of DE. I tiptoe up to the cage and . DE on the leaves! DE on the ground! DE everywhere! Too much DE.

With Plan A I used about a third of a cup of DE and put it only on the leaves. This time I used about a cup and a half and put about half of it on the ground.

The next day I found some ants near the base of the tree still alive. The tree had been watered a few days before and the DE wicked some moisture out of the ground. I added some fresh DE. The day after that I could find only three ants alive and I found only three aphids. I smashed them. Personally.

Our side suffered no losses. And as they say, history is written by the Victor. Victor is a rooster that doesn’t know how to write, so I wrote this.


I wrote this article before learning the word “permaculture”. My opinion on solutions has, I think, evolved. In this case, the real problem is a lack of polyculture. There should be dozens of plants under the apple tree that would make the tree healthier and stronger and would also repel ants and aphids (like catnip). The apple tree should be near lots of trees (non-apple), shrubs and undergrowth. I’ve also learned a great deal more about growing apple trees from seeds, or from their own rootstock, and about pruning techniques (or, rather, non-pruning techniques would be more accurate). To get a lot more details about this sort of thing, follow the link below to the discussion thread for this article.

To learn more about DE and where to get it, read my diatomaceous earth article.

hand made emails from the community

For more info and to discuss this glorious victory visit this thread at

Including some excellent info about what to plant that drives ants and aphids away!

If you like this article, please link to me. Click on one (or many) of the social network links below. Linking to this article from a forum is nice. Or even better, mention this article in a blog!

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