Noticed some little green bugs on your plants? They are probably aphids. Not sure what aphids are and how to get rid of them? Ready to learn more about these pests and how to protect your plants from them? Great! You’ve come to the right place.
Keep their plants pest-free is one of the least favorite tasks that all gardeners need to add to their lists. It’s even more challenging when you don’t know much about the pests on your plants or how to get rid of them. So, learning more about aphids is the first step towards getting these pests off your lovely plants.
Keep reading to learn what aphids are, how to identify them, and, most importantly, how to get rid of them!
What Are Aphids?
Aphids are small pests that can affect a wide range of plants. These pests’ family is pretty large, containing over 4400 different species, out of which 250 are harmful to most common garden plants.
These small, soft-bodied critters attack the plants by sucking the nutrient-rich liquids out of them. More precisely, these bugs use their mouths to suck the fluids that the plants use to distribute nutrients from the leaves and flowers. In cases of severe infestation, aphids can weaken the plants so badly that they can damage their flowers and fruits. So, these little bugs will literally suck the life out of your plants.
The bad news is that aphids can multiply really quickly. That’s why it’s essential to notice the aphids infestation really fast and to get it under control before the pests start reproducing.
Don’t worry! We have some good news as well. It’s pretty easy to get rid of aphids and we’re here to help.
How to Identify Aphids on Your Plants?
Before you take any step to get rid of the aphids, it’s important to make sure that your plant is not suffering from anything else. So, you need to learn how to identify the aphids infestation.
The most challenging part in treating your plants for aphids infestation is identifying these pests. Why? Because aphids are really tiny, making them almost invisible to the naked eye. So, if you aren’t closely inspecting your plants for these pests, the chances are that you may not spot them by simply watering or moving your pots around.
The color of aphids can vary on the species of the pests. Some can be white, black, brown, gray, yellow, light-green, or pink. Most of them have a pear-shaped body and feature long antennae and long legs. Depending on the species, you’ll also notice that the aphids can have a wooly or waxy coating, which is given by the secretion they produce. Other species don’t produce secretion, so you may not notice that wooly or waxy coating.
Another thing to know about adult aphids is that they usually don’t have wings. Yet, some species may feature wings, so they come in a variety of shapes. Aphids use their wings to disperse to other plants more easily, and they do so when the population on the plant they’re currently using as a food source and they need to find more plants to feed on.
Aphids generally cluster on the underside of the leaves to suck the sap from them. So, that’s where you should first look for them if you suspect that your plant has aphids.
Signs of Aphid Infestation
Now you know what aphids look like, you can identify them on your plants. However, as mentioned above, it’s really difficult to spot these pests if you aren’t closely checking your plants for them.
So, how can you tell if your plant has aphids? Well, there are a few signs that can help you identify aphid infestation.
- Yellow or misshapen, curling and undersized leaves. Keep in mind that aphids generally cluster on the underside of your plant’s leaves, making it easier for you to find them. So, remember to check there first!
- Leaves or stems covered with a sticky secretion. If you notice that your plants’ leaves or stems are covered with a sticky substance, it can be a sign that aphids are sucking their sap. When they suck sap from the plants, many species of aphids produce a sugary secretion that can attract other insects as well. For example, the secretion produced by aphids can attract ants, which can produce damage to your plant as well.
- Oddly-looking flowers and fruits. In cases of severe aphids infestation, the flowers and fruits of the plant can be damaged as the pests suck all the nutrient-rich liquid from the plant. If you notice that your plant’s flowers of fruits look abnormal, it can be a sign that there’s an aphid infestation on your plant.
- Galls on your plant’s leaves or roots. Some aphid species can cause the appearance of galls on the plant’s roots or leaves. Galls are abnormal growths that are caused by irritation or plant cell stimulation caused by feeding or egg-laying by pests.
- Poor general condition. Aphids suck all the sap that contains nutrients plants need to survive and thrive. If your plant is in a poor general condition and you can’t find a logical explanation there might be some aphids hiding on the underside of its leaves. In other words, if your plant looks like it’s dying, and you can’t think of a cause related to the way you care for it, double-check it for aphids.
How to Get Rid of Aphids?
Aphid infestation can seem really difficult to conquer, especially if there are hundreds and hundreds of aphids clinging to the back of your plant’s leaves. Yet, while they are a real threat to your plants and shouldn’t be ignored, getting rid of them isn’t that difficult. In fact, there are many different ways in which you can get these pests off your plant.
- Coldwater. In mild cases of aphid infestations, a cool blast can be enough to make the aphids dislodge from the plant. What’s more, these pets are typically unable to find their way back to the same plant.
- By hand. In mild cases of aphid infestations, it is also possible to remove the pests by hand. All you have to do is put on some garden gloves and simply knock them off your plant’s leaves or stems or wherever they may be hiding. If there are only a few affected areas of the plant, for example, only a few leaves, you can simply prune off these parts and throw them away.
- Flour. You can dust your plant with flour as it clogs their digestive system, killing them. Another way to use flour against aphids is to mix it with water and spray it on the leaves or any other area of your plant affected by the pests in the morning. Later, when temperatures increase, the mixture will dry out, encrusting the pests in flour, which will kill them.
- Water and soap. Create a mix of water and a few drops of dish soap and spray it on the leaves of the plant. Keep in mind that this procedure should be repeated every 2-3 days for 2 weeks or more in cases of severe infestations.
- Neem oil. Neem oil contains organic compounds that act as a repellent for aphids and other pests like mealybugs, cabbage worms, ants, or beetles. You can either buy a ready-to-use neem oil spray from the store or create your own spray by mixing the oil with water.
- Essential oils. Essential oils like peppermint, clove, rosemary, and thyme mixed with water can help remove aphids from your plant.
- Natural predators. Lady beetles, green lacewings, and bug-eating birds eat aphids helping you get rid of them off your plant.
- Diatomaceous earth. This organic and non-toxic material is deadly to aphids. Yet, keep in mind that DE is also deadly to pollinators as well. So, do not apply it to your plant during the blooming season.
How to Prevent Aphid Infestation?
You know what they say, “Prevention is better than cure.” So, the best way to protect your plants from aphid infestation is to prevent these pests from attacking your plants in the first place. To prevent aphid infestation, you can:
- Attract beneficial insects. We’ve already mentioned that ladybugs and lacewings are natural predators of aphids. If you attract these beneficial insects to your garden, your plants will be protected from aphids. You can purchase supplemental populations of these beneficial insects online.
- Bug-eating birds. Similar to beneficial insects, bug-eating birds eat aphids, keeping your plants protected from these pests. To attract bug-eating birds such as wrens and chickadees in your garden, you can provide them with houses like small trees and shrubs. These birds typically build their nests in such trees.
- Companion planting. You can protect your plants from aphids by surrounding them with the right other plant species. Some plants such as catnip, garlic, and chives repel aphids. Other plants particularly attract aphids on them, protecting your other plants from these pests. For example, mustard and nasturtium attract aphids on them, protecting the other more valuable plants in your garden.
- Frequent checks. The best way to prevent severe aphid infestations is to check your plants for these pests frequently. If you know that your plants are particularly attractive to aphids, make sure you regularly check their leaves and stems. By doing this you’ll easily notice if these pests call your plants home. If you find even a few of these insects on your plants, make sure to remove them immediately before they reproduce.
Aphids are a real threat to most garden and house plants. They literally suck the life off of plants by feeding on all the nutrients that help them thrive. It’s essential to prevent and protect your lovely plants from these pests.
How do you keep aphids away from your plants? Share your techniques in the comments below!