Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that can destroy and weaken plants by using their piercing sucking mouthparts to feed on sap from leaves, stems and fruits. Depending on species and food source, they can be black, red, brown, yellow or green. Commonly, adult aphids are wingless but still some of them can grow wings especially when their population gets high.
Aphids have pear-shaped bodies with long antennae; adult and nymphs aphids look similar. Most of them have two tiny short tubes known as cornicles bulging from their back end.
As they feed on plant sap, they produce large amounts of sugary fluid waste known as “honeydew”. The honeydew produced by these insects can cover the gaps of the affected plant. A fungus known as “sooty mold” can be formed in the honeydew that multiplies on the branches and leaves, making them all black.
During spring, an egg hatches, producing a wingless female aphid and soon give birth to many new wingless female nymphs. A female young nymph grows and increase in size and after a week, they give birth to another more nymphs. This process goes repetitively and will result to a large number of population. As their colony get crowded, some of the female aphids develop wings and fly off to another plants to build another colonies. Male Aphids develop during the late summer and early fall which mate with the female aphids and start laying eggs in the next winter. Generally, most aphids, except for the sexual forms, do not require to mate in order to reproduce. They give live birth to baby aphids, rather than eggs
Adults and nymphs aphids feed on plant sap, attacking mainly the stems, leaves, flowers and even the roots. The damage created by these insects is caused by the clogging of the plant’s leaves with honeydew, the loss of plant’s sap and the presence of fungi and molds on their honeydew.
Below are the indications that aphids are attacking and are slowly creating damage to your plants:
- Leaves start to look deformed, curled, stunted and turns yellow.
- Aphids may have been sipping sap if the leaves or the plant’s stem are shielded with a sticky fluid. This sticky fluid is known as “honeydew” which can attract more insects, contributing more damage to your plant. Commonly, when aphids feed on trees, the sticky fluid they produce can drop onto cars, driveways and outdoor furniture.
- Flowers and fruits of your plant get distorted when aphids start to feed on them.
- Some aphid species cause galls to form on roots or leaves.
- Viruses may be transmitted to other plants by aphids.
- Branches and leaves of your plant will turn into black caused by a fungal growth that is developed in their honeydew.
Different Ways to Get Rid of Aphids
Below are the suggested solutions from wikiHow to mitigate the damage caused by Spider Mites
- Make Organic Aphid Sprays. Create an aphid spray using a mild detergent and water, or make a soapy garden spray. You could also try the more garlic and onion version here. Spray every two to three days over a period of a week – you must spray the aphids directly for this to be effective. You can also use garlic spray as an effective aphid controller.
- Consider using neem oil mixed with water. Or, add neem oil with OHN (garlic + ginger + molasses). Dilute the ingredients in water and spray directly below the leaves (where aphids hide). Spray repeatedly 3 times per week for a plant with serious aphid damage.
- Squash them. Provided you don’t mind quite a bit of patrolling and squishing, you can be very effective at reducing the aphid population by manually squashing them. This is labour intensive and likely you will miss some, but combined with organic sprays, this can be very effective. Wash your hands well with soap after each session, or wear garden gloves.
- Companion plant. Plant your favorite roses or other aphid-attracting plants alongside aphid-discouraging plants. Aphids dislike garlic, chives, onions, mint, and petunias. Aphids love nasturtiums. Roses grown with garlic plants or chives are much less prone to aphid attacks and both have a beautiful flower of their own during flowering season.
- Release ladybirds. Ladybirds (ladybugs) feast on aphids. You can purchase the larvae in packs online or from specialist nurseries. Follow the release instructions carefully – they should be released right near the food (the aphids) and must never be released in an area that has been sprayed with pesticides.
- Blast them with the hose. Depending on how sensitive your plant is and your water usage restrictions, you can blast aphids off the plant with the jet stream of a hose.
- Try flour. Sprinkle flour over the aphids using a sieve or flour sifter. The flour will coat the aphids and they will drop off.
- Dig banana peel into the ground. Cut-up banana peels or use dried banana pieces for this. Dig the cut-up peel or dried pieces 2.5–5 centimeter (2.0 in) / 1–2″ into the ground around the base of every plant that aphids are attracted to. The aphids will soon be gone.