Have you encountered tiny insects ravaging your garden recently? Or do you always see damaged plants on your farm?
Then, you might be suffering from an aphid infestation. Now, aphids are known to be very destructive insects, but pretty much easy to control.
If you want to know how to get rid of aphids for good, then this article will show you how to control aphids.
From what these insects are, how to get rid of aphids naturally, to practical methods to avoid a future aphid infestation, this article will show you how to get rid of aphids.
How Do Aphids Look Like?
We said earlier that aphids are very small insects.
However, not every small insect out there is an aphid. Identifying aphids becomes more complicated because they can be very hard to spot with naked eyes even from a close distance. Therefore you need to know what the insects look like to know how to get rid of aphids.
Speaking of looks, aphids are pear-shaped insects with an extra layer of coating and a hard exoskeleton. They also have long antennae. And Sometimes, they might look like small dots on your plant.
Although aphids can come in different sizes, they are usually about ½ -¼ inches long. They tend to appear in a different assortment of colors like white, pink, yellow, or black.
Baby aphids (or nymphs) look exactly like their adult counterparts, although they are much smaller. While nymphs might have wings, adult aphids are generally wingless.
But, in some cases, adults can develop wings to better compete for food. Obviously, the winged ones will be able to reach more plants than their wingless colleagues.
These soft-bodied insects generally feed on any plant, although some aphids prefer certain plants to others. For example, the bean aphid feeds exclusively on beans and will hardly be spotted around fruits.
Types of aphids
Aphids can be grouped into different species based on:
- The part of the plant they attack e.g., root aphids, and
- The specific plant they attack e.g., potato aphids and melon aphids.
There are over 4000 known species of aphids. Two hundred fifty of these species are known to harm plants. However, that calls for no alarm since you can get rid of all the aphids in the same way, irrespective of what they look like.
It is also interesting to know that all aphid groups share some peculiar similarities such as:
They have quick life cycles.
These insects have a short life cycle which is usually several life cycles in a few months. For example, an aphid can birth up to 80 nymphs in a week. Imagine having just 10 of these birth up to 80 baby aphids in a week! See why you should get rid of aphids as soon as possible?
They love warmth.
Aphids are known to love warm temperatures and come out during spring or summer. Even though they love temperate climates, they are still a global problem and can affect plants all year round.
They usually don’t mate.
Adult aphids generally don’t need to mate. Their females can birth young ones through a process called parthenogenesis, eliminating the need for sexual reproduction.
However, in hotter seasons like summer, they mate with male aphids to increase the population.
What attracts aphids?
Aphids feed on soft plants. If you have budding foliage or new growth in your farm or garden, they would love visiting your garden. They don’t like to feed on hard stems or branches, as they are not adapted to hard vegetation.
Aphids also love to feed on shoots, as they are soft. These insects don’t feed alone, and they like to feed in large groups. So, it’s rare to see just an aphid. If you see one, likely, they are more in your garden. Maybe you haven’t discovered them yet.
How do Aphids Damage Plants?
Aphids love new growth because they have microscopic piercing and sucking mouthparts.
Firstly, the mouthparts enter into the plant and create an injury. Then, the aphid sucks out the sap from the young plants. Think of the sap as the blood in our bodies. As they suck away this sap, the plant gets weaker and weaker after each time.
The injuries caused by the aphids’ sucking parts create an opportunity for diseases to get into the plant. Aphids are carriers of viruses, meaning they can inject diseases like mosaic viruses into your plants.
More often than not, plants do not recover from viral diseases and die in the end. So you see, as long as these creatures attack the plant, there’s every probability it gets sick or dies.
What are the Symptoms of an Aphid Attack?
Plants attacked by aphids usually suffer from a particular set of symptoms. If you see two or three of these on your plants, they might be the victim of an aphid attack.
- Observe the underside of the leaves in your garden plants. Are they yellowish instead of green? Are they curled when they should be straight? Yellowish, curly leaves are the first indication of an aphid infestation.
- Another pointer that aphids are attacking your garden is damaged fruit or flowers. Since these parts are usually soft, these insects feed on such and destroy them in the process.
- Aphids also attract ant to a plant. How do they do this? They produce a sweet, sticky substance called honeydew. As we know, ants are attracted to anything sweet and will cluster around it. As ants cluster, they further damage the plant, which kills it, most times.
- Honeydew can cause another problem for plants: fungus. Honeydew encourages the growth of a fungus called sooty mold. This sooty mold grows rapidly and covers branches and plant stems, making them look like a permanent deposit of soot.
Well, there are several ways to get rid of aphids, both naturally and chemically.
Let’s take a look at how to get rid of aphids naturally.
How do you kill aphids naturally?
If you’re not a fan of chemicals and want to get rid of aphids from your space, then there are a lot of organic methods you can use. The beauty of these methods is that they are almost harmless to both you and your plants. They are:
Using Neem Oil:
Neem oil is a medicinal substance humans use to cure a wide variety of problems like leprosy, intestinal worms, and skin ulcers. It can be used to get rid of caterpillars, beetles, and even fungus in the garden in the garden.
To get rid of aphids with neem oil, you need to get neem oil from an organic store. Mix the neem oil and water in the ratio of 1.5 teaspoons to a gallon of water, to get a perfect aphid repellent.
If you can’t find neem oil, you can opt for a neem oil spray. Both would work the same way. Because neem oil is a strong substance, it can chase away beneficial insects too. Only use it when you have to and in the recommended quantity.
Using a Homemade Insecticidal Soap:
Homemade insecticidal soap is much safer than neem oil because it only harms aphids. This insecticidal soap will damage the aphids’ hard casing, getting into their soft body and eventually killing them.
To make your homemade aphid soap, you’ll need:
- A bucket
- Liquid soap
- Spray bottle or small bottle with a hole at the cap.
- 3-5 liters of water.
Measure 5-7 tablespoons of any liquid soap into your bucket of water. Use your hand to mix it thoroughly then fill up a spray bottle with the soapy solution. You can also pierce the cap of a small bottle and use it as a spray bottle.
Inspect each plant and concentrate the spray on aphid sites or where there is visible damage. You can also target under plant leaves since aphids like to hide their eggs there. Do this repeatedly till all your plants are sprayed with the solution.
Using a Jet of Water:
Since aphids are small insects, they can easily be knocked out of place by a strong water jet.
To do this, position your garden hose on the plants aphids appear on, and apply a jet of water till no more aphids are insight. The water jet has to be strong to be effective.
This method, as easy as it is, has some drawbacks. First of all, it’s not good for shoots or weak plants as the jet can kill them since they are still tender. Secondly, the water jet can’t be used on a large aphid population, as it won’t kill all the aphids. The remaining ones can quickly multiply, leading to another infestation.
Using your hands:
If you’re not too squeamish about aphids, you can handpick them out of your garden. Although this process takes time, it can be a great way to learn about the aphids on your farm.
Just wear garden gloves and gently remove as many aphids and eggs as you can. You can decide to squish them with your hands or feet or toss them into a detergent solution.
You can even add black pepper to this solution to make it even more effective. Aphids don’t move fast like other insects, making them easy to catch.
Using Natural Predators:
Some animals and beneficial insects love feasting on aphids. You can wipe off aphids by introducing beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps to stay on your farm. They’ll feed off aphids and keep them at bay, reducing the aphid population in your garden gradually.
Examples of such aphid’s natural predators are:
It’s no secret that birds love to eat aphids and consume other insects as a food source. Birds like sparrows, bluebirds and the wren would pick up aphids on your crops for a meal.
You can attract them by cultivating shrubs at the edge of your farm. They’ll feel comfortable in these shrubs and make a home for themselves there.
Ladybugs, also known as lady beetles, can be effective in controlling aphids on your farm. They also use aphids as a food source like birds.
However, with ladybugs, there is a catch. You have to use larvae ladybugs instead of adult ones. This is because adult ladybugs are not as voracious as their younger selves. Larvae ladybugs eat a lot because they grow rapidly, be, they need less f as they mature.
So if you buy ladybugs and expect aphids to go immediately, you would be very disheartened.
To use ladybugs or lady beetles effectively, get enough ladybugs first and ensure you have enough aphids to feed them. As the ladybugs feed and reproduce, they will birth larvae which are the real aphid devourers.
Using Essential Oils
Essential oils are plant-based, volatile compounds. They are usually extracted from plants and have various uses in beauty, health, and cooking. Essential oils are also useful to plants, especially the ones with a strong smell.
You could use peppermint, oregano, or lavender oil on the undersides of leaves to deal with aphids. Different strong essential oils like the ones listed above can be mixed in equal parts to create a strong aphid repellent.
Yes. The flour in your kitchen can be used to kill aphids without adding anything else. When aphids take in flour, they suffer from constipation. Some sources also claim that flour prevents them from producing honeydew since it clogs their system.
To use flour for aphid control, simply dust it across the affected plants. Keep at this exercise until the plants are covered with a light layer of flour. And in every way, avoid dusting flour when your plants are wet. This is usually because wet plants absorb more flour when wet,, and excess flour would block their breathing holes (stomata).
Using Orange Peels
Orange peels have a repugnant fragrance and contain a chemical called limonene that helps you fight pests in your garden.
To use orange peels, spread them around the affected plants. This way, the orange peels will not only eliminate aphids but the ants too. The limonene destroys the outer parts of both insects, making them unable to breathe.
Alternatively, you can gently boil orange peels in a carrier oil like coconut oil. This ‘orange oil’ can chase away aphids and other farm pests all year round. Plus, it’s completely organic.
How to get rid of aphids chemically
Natural methods can take time. If you are dealing with a large aphid infestation or just want to kill them faster, then you should use chemicals. Although chemicals can harm both your plants and beneficial insects, they provide a quick method to deal with these insects.
So, here are some chemical methods for aphid control:
Pesticides, as the name implies, are chemicals specially created to kill pests. Usually, for aphids control, you want to go for a particular kind of pesticide called systemic pesticide.
This kind of pesticide goes into the aphids’ system and kills after ingestion. You should also look for products containing Imidacloprid.
Imidacloprid is harmful to aphids but not pollinators like butterflies, which are useful for your garden.
If you want to opt for a milder chemical treatment, then you should choose horticultural oils. These oils are made of either petroleum or plant derivatives. Popular horticultural oils usually contain paraffin, which is a petroleum product.
Horticultural oils are preferable to systemic pesticides because:
- They are not as dangerous as pesticides to plant health.
- They are cheaper and more attainable than pesticides.
- Horticultural oils do not harm beneficial fauna on your farm. They mainly target pests and damage them.
Note that these oils are still chemicals, and you should treat them as such. Keep horticultural oils far from fire or heat as they are flammable substances. Also, it would be best to avoid these oils if you are getting ready to clear your farm through bush burning
How do you prevent aphids?
It’s good you take preventive measures to eradicate aphid infestations in your garden.
Otherwise, without preventive measures, you could witness another aphid infestation in just a few weeks of getting rid of the previous outbreak, since they grow so fast.
So, here are 3 easy ways you can keep those pesky insects off your farm.
Yes, alcohol can be used to control aphid infestations. However, before you reach into your fridge to get some alcohol, not all types of alcohol can kill aphids. On that note, you have to look for those that can kill aphids without damaging your garden plants.
For alcohol to be effective on aphids, it must have at least 70% concentration. So you see why a bottle of cold beer won’t do the trick? Strong alcohol, like ethanol or rubbing alcohol, can kill aphids almost immediately. Then again, the alcohol must be pure, with no preservatives, colors, or additional substances.
Please note that it is not advisable to use raw alcohol on your plants. You have to dilute it with water. For example,if a ½ liter of alcohol is required to kill off the aphids, then you have to mix ½ liter of water with it too. This is to make it effective without being too strong. Alcohol sprays work best when the sun is not hot.
Aphids are attracted to specific types of plants which can be used to ‘trap’ the aphids by diverting their attention from other plants to protect important crops in your garden. This practice is known as trap cropping and can be used for different garden pests.
Plants like mustard, nasturtium and sunflower can be used as aphid bait. Aphids will flock to these plants and begin to destroy them, leaving other crops on the farm. However, you still have to control the aphid population on your trap plants, or else the aphids will migrate to your valuable crops.
Garden hygiene and routine practices
Cleanliness doesn’t only help your garden look good, it also helps to ward off garden pests. so, always try to perform a general clean-up of your garden or farm at least once a year or once a season.
Be sure to clear any debris like leaves and take away abandoned containers as they can attract all kinds of pests, not just aphids.
What Other Kind of Plants Can I Use to Chase Aphids?
Taking care of aphids is not a one-off thing.
You have to constantly set up measures to keep these insects at bay, especially if you grow soft fruits or flowers.
One way you can keep them at bay is to grow specific kinds of plants. Usually, plants with a strong smell help to drive aphids away so they don’t damage your garden.
Examples of these kinds of plants are mint, onion, garlic and catnip. These plants possess a strong smell that irritates aphids. You can either plant these crops around the edge of your garden or farm, or you can plant them between your regular garden plants. This way, you deal with aphids for a long time.
The aphid control methods in this article will surely help if you have many aphids disturbing your garden plants. But before you go all-in into using any of the recommended aphids control methods, be sure to first run a test. This practice helps to minimize damages to your precious garden plant.
If the chosen method irritates your plants during the test run, then it would be best to switch to another. Moreso, do watch out for possible side effects after applying a particular method.
Now that you pretty much know how to get rid of aphids. Let us mention that some substances like neem oil and pesticides can cause allergies in some people.
So, don’t forget to protect yourself as you control aphids. In fact, as safety measures, it would help to wear protective equipment and always follow the instructions on chemical labels.
Do aphids bite humans?
Aphids cannot bite humans and neither can they bite your pets. This is evident in their piercing and sucking mouthparts which are only modified for piercing through soft plant foliage, not animal skin.
As a matter of fact, aphids don’t chew on plants too. As such, any chewing you see on your plants was definitely caused by another insect or animal, not an aphid.
Can aphids disappear on their own?
Aphids will not disappear on their own, except in winter. Even at that, their eggs will remain dormant, waiting for spring to come alive.
So, instead of waiting for them to disappear, you can use simple methods like the ones listed above to reduce their population.
Can I use green lacewings to control aphids?
If you don’t want to use birds or ladybugs or other beneficial insects for aphid control, then you can use the larvae of green lacewings. You can buy their eggs from a nursery and leave them to hatch on your farm. You might not see results immediately, but they will definitely eat aphids in your garden.
How does dish soap kill aphids?
Dish soap can kill aphids too. They do this by targeting the aphids’ soft bodies. The soap passes through the aphids’ hard coating and goes straight into their inner bodies.
To treat aphids with this method, add some drops of dish soap to water. This will produce a mild solution. Make sure you spray this solution to the aphid site every 3 days for a minimum of 2 weeks to start seeing significant results.
Can I use banana peels to keep aphids away?
Orange peels are not the only fruit peels that can chase away aphids. Banana peels can also help to keep aphids away from your garden.
Chop banana peels into small pieces and bury them 2 inches into the soil. Do this regularly to prevent aphids from coming near your crops, particularly the ones that attract aphids more.
The banana peels can serve as fertilizer. Thus, they release nutrients such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium into the soil they decay.