Have you ever had a problem with aphids? Ever wanted to know how to get rid of these tiny bugs? It’s better to know how to get rid of aphids before you see them show up, then you’ll be prepared.
I have a beautiful climbing rose my kids bought me for Mother’s Day a couple of years ago and it started growing and blooming like gangbusters this year. Much faster than ever before.
I was so happy with it and I was admiring it day to day. It’s a multicolor rose bush so I always love seeing what color will bloom and then the day came when I saw some signs of the dreaded aphids…. they had found my rose bush and decided to make a home on it.
Despite their minuscule size, aphids are one of the most destructive tiny pests you can encounter in the garden. These (they come in all colors making them hard sometimes to distinguish from other bugs) green, black, red, yellow, and brown bugs feed on a wide range of plants and suck the life out of an otherwise blooming garden.
Today, we’ll be talking about everything you need to know about aphids—from how you can identify them to how you can get rid of these pests. Let’s get started.
What are Aphids
Aphids are sucking tiny insects from the Aphididae family. There are over 4,000 species of aphids found all over the world. Of those, around 250 are considered destructive to both agriculture and forestry. They can be found all over the world but they prefer temperate zones.
They often appear to be pear-shaped with long antennae and legs. They come in various shades and colors including green, red, pink, brown, white, black, and translucent. Some species of aphids also have a wooly or waxy coating caused by a secretion they produce.
Adult aphids are usually wingless. However, if a colony is already established, winged aphids can appear. This allows them to fly and infect new host plants.
These insects tend to cluster on the undersides of leaves where they suck the sap from them. Even if the leaves of your plants are moved, they aren’t easily disturbed.
Often, you’ll see an entire plant covered in ants – that is normally a sure sign that there are aphids on that plant.
Ants eat the honeydew that aphids secrete, so the ants will protect them on old or young plants. Next time you see a large population of ants on one of your outdoor plants, check to see if you have an aphid problem or aphid infestation.
Some of the most common aphid species you can find in the US include:
The species Brevicoryne brassicae appears gray-green and are often found in dense clusters under the plant leaves of cole crops such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and kale. They can also be found feasting on radish plants.
Melon or Cotton Aphids
Aphis gossypii are dark green insects with black cornicles. Their plant hosts include vegetables commonly grown in home gardens. However, they are especially fond of melons.
Also called Aphis nerii, these bright yellow aphids tend to infest milkweeds.
You might also like: Using Flowers As Natural Pest Control In The Garden
Green Peach Aphids
Myzus persicae is the most common aphid in the home garden. It can feed on over 500 host plants but they are often found on potatoes, cherry and plum trees, carnations, poppies, tulips, roses, and violets.
Woolly Apple Aphids
Eriosoma lanigerum is a species of aphids that largely feed on the bark and roots of apple trees. They leave a swollen gall on the stems where they have fed on it.
Macrosiphum rosae is a species of aphid commonly found in rose gardens. They infest rosebushes as their main host in spring and early summer, congregating on the tips of shoots and around new buds.
Aphid Damage in the Garden
Aphids suck on the sticky substance of plant sap for their food source which they get from leaves of your plants, stems, buds, flowers, fruits, and/or roots of a plant. They also tend to prefer new growth and would cluster at the growth end of your heathy plants and attach themselves to soft green stems.
Apart from leaving foliage stunted, misshapen, and curled, aphids also secrete honeydew which can cause sooty mold and fungus. This causes branches and leaves and underside of the leaves to appear black. Plus, flowers and fruits may become distorted or deformed due to aphids’ feeding habits.
Aphids also act as a vector which means they can carry viruses from one host plant to others.
How To Get Rid Of Aphids In The Garden
Spray with Cold Water
While aphids don’t get disturbed by rustling leaves, they can be dislodged from their hiding places with a quick spray of cold water. Be sure to use a strong stream of water.
Mild Dish Soap Spray
You can make an insecticidal soap or natural aphid spray with a mild solution of a quart of water mixed with a few drops of dish soap or dish detergent to eliminate aphids from your plants. Spray it on affected plants every 2 to 3 days for 2 weeks.
Use Neem Oil
This is my go to natural insecticide. When using Neem Oil I only use 100% Cold-Pressed Neem Oil so that I know it’s not a mixture of 10% Neem Oil and 90% who know what else. This will work on a wide variety of plants just be sure to test it first.
I use 1 tablespoon per gallon of water with 1 teaspoon dish soap mixed well in a spray bottle to make this neem oil spray.
Keep the liquid moving while spraying to make sure the oil & water stay mixed (that’s why you use the dish soap to help them mix).
Spray the homemade aphid spray on tops and undersides of the leaves of your infested plant generously and repeat every 7-10 days as needed.
If it rains (even if there is no rain in the forecast – it seems to rain if I apply Neem Oil…) you can reapply after a heavy rain – no need if it’s a light rain.
You might also like: 7 Homemade Bug Sprays For Indoor Plants
Apply Diatomaceous Earth
This non-toxic and organic material is excellent for taking care of aphid infestations.
Diatomaceous earth or DE is made of the naturally occurring fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of algae that forms in freshwater. These remains are ground up into a soft, fine white powder that carry many different uses. It’s chemical free and completely safe to use around children and pets.
Note, however, that it can also kill off pollinators so avoid applying it to plants that are in bloom.
You can protect your precious garden by using plants that repel aphids like catnip, garlic, and chives, too.
The strong scents and strong smell of these plants can keep away pesky aphids by masking your more precious crops. Alternatively, you can also use trap plants such as mustard and nasturtium.
No doubt at some time in your gardening venture you will encounter these garden pests. I remember as a kid my grandmother would have me pick them off her rose bushes… lol.
But now you know how to identify them, the harm they cause, and how to prevent them, as well as treat your infested garden plants.
Have you had any issues with aphids? What did you do to get rid of them? Leave a comment below and let me know – I love that gardening is an experiment and a learning process no matter how long you’ve been at it.