Pea aphid

Credit: ipm.iastate.edu
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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 try to control them before reproduction starts. Many generations can occur in one season. The good news is that they tend to move rather slowly and are relatively easy to control.

Identifying Aphids

Aphids are tiny (about 1/32” to 1/8”), and often 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. 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.

Aphid Damage

Nymphs and adults feed on plant juices, attacking leaves, stems, buds, flowers, fruit, and/or roots, depending on species. Most 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 yellow 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. The honeydew, 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, etc.
  • The honeydew can sometimes develop a fungal growth called sooty mold, causing branches and leaves to appear black.
  • Aphids feeding on flowers or fruit can cause them to become distorted.
  • Some aphid species cause galls to form on roots or leaves.
  • Aphids may transmit viruses to certain plants, and also attract other insects that prey on them.

How to Get Rid of Aphids

  • Try spraying cold water on the leaves, sometimes all aphids need is a cool blast to dislodge them.
  • Use commercially available biological controls or by spraying with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil.
  • You can often get rid of aphids by wiping or spraying the leaves of the plant with a mild solution of water and a few drops of dishwashing detergent such as Ivory.
  • Stir together 1 quart of water, 1 tsp of liquid dish soap and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Do not dilute before spraying on plants.
  • In a spray bottle combine 2 parts rubbing alcohol, 5 parts water, and 1 tablespoon liquid soap.
  • Organic controls include alcohol spray (isopropyl alcohol, straight or diluted), soapy emulsion (can be mixed w/alcohol), horticultural oil (read the directions) and pyrethrum spray. Soapy water/alcohol should be reapplied every 2-3 days for 2 weeks.
  • You can also purchase beneficial insects, such as lady beetles and parasitic wasps, which will feed on aphids. These are usually ordered via mail—check the Internet for labs.
  • Bring beneficial insects to your garden by adding plants that attract them. For example, nasturtiums are a good plant to rid your garden of aphids.
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For the first time last

By Catherine Lloyd on April 19

For the first time last summer our laburnum tree was infested with aphids. Is this likely to happen again this summer?

This tree is relatively

By Almanac Staff on April 22

This tree is relatively pest-free but it is indeed susceptible to aphids. We would visit your local nursury for an organic spray.

Hi, iv just started a garden

By Skylar

Hi, iv just started a garden and im growing sunflowers. Iv noticed the plants leaves were getting eaten and my plants are starting to die.iv tried spraying water on it with the hose and it helped some but only a little. I want to start growing herbs but I dont want the same thing to happen. Iv found two small caterpillars. Is there a spray I can get that kills bugs but is plant-safe? Preferably at home depot.

If you see aphids, try a soap

By Almanac Staff on March 24

If you see aphids, try a soap spray every 4 to 5 days. You can even make your own: water and 2-3% washing up detergent.

However, it sounds as if you have caterpillar damage. Pick them off twice a day with gloves and drop them in a bucket of soapy water. If this doesn't work, ask Home Depot for a BT spray (Bacillus thuringiensis) which is considered a low danger to honeybees and beneficial insects.

Aphid and Mite problem! I

By mark fulop

Aphid and Mite problem!

I just purchased about 1500 lady bugs.
Maybe they helped a little but there are only a few left after a week or two.
They were in a green house where did they go? There is also a mite problem on my strawberries. My set up is a hydro ponic ebb and flow system in my green house in NJ. We are growing about 50 strawberries, dozen tomatoes, A few Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumber, and basil.

What works is looking through each plant and cleaning each leaf with my hands and squeezing the aphids or breaking off the leaves that infest. I am constantly killing them but they are still there. The mites make a web across the leaves of the strawberries.
I clean the web off with a spray bottle and my hands. There still are leaves that have turned brown but they have not killed my plants. I was thinking about calling the lady bug people back and telling them the bugs died too quickly and to send more.

My fear is that they eat the new flowers for strawberries and tomatoes.
Therefore, the plants will never bear fruit because they are working against me.

Its a hobby but I also wanted to see something out of my efforts. The entire system that I build cost about 3500 dollars. Overall my light bill for two 600 watt grow lights costs about 170 per month. My next step is to look into insecticidal soap.

What is your opinion?

Hi Mark, We suggest that you

By Almanac Staff

Hi Mark,

We suggest that you call the lady bug people back and tell them what happend to see if they have any suggestions.

Insecticidal soap, if used according to directions, will cut back on your pest problems. Also read some of the comments on this page to find out what other readers have tried.

Good luck!


Hi yes I'm curious, I have an

By Samantha pedroza

Hi yes I'm curious, I have an above ground garden in my apartments the floor is cement then I used bricks and wood pallets to make it. I've finally started to yield my chiles and after my first harvest another round of buds came out...and that's when the infestation started. First ants then black tiny little bugs I'm assuming are the aphids. I've done everything but nothing seems to be working I tried an insecticide I tried cold water showers I tried the alcohol water soap solution and nada and it's making my plants growth stunt. Helllppppp

Aphids are common pepper

By Almanac Staff

Aphids are common pepper pests though they usually look like tiny whitish specks, not black. See the picture on this page. Spray a mild solution of soapy water on all sides of the leaves, especially the undersides.  If the infestation is severe, spray with pyrethrum.
Tiny black specks are probably flea beetles. You can dust with wood ashes or spray with a garlic or hot pepper solution. Spraying with pyrethrum will also control flea beetles.

Also try 1% Ceylon Cinnamon

By Cinnamon Vogue

Also try 1% Ceylon Cinnamon Leaf Oil mixed with 99% water, sprayed on the plant with a pump sprayer (Home Depot $9.99). However you should first wash your plants with the hose set at firm pressure to wash away as much of the mold (created as a result of aphid honey dew droppings) and aphids as possible. Then spray the whole plant and a little Cinnamon Oil at the base of the plants to stop the ants that also come to eat the honey dew created by aphids. Ceylon Cinnamon Oil is a powerful mold killer and safe to eat. But dilute, otherwise it will burn the plant leaves.

I was managing aphids until

By kindsister

I was managing aphids until recent heavy rain followed by high heat. I pulled all my infested plants carefully ( kale & tomatoes) , but the aphids are ALL OVER the soil. How to rid them there? I live in Colorado, 6100 ft., zone 5. I would prefer an organic solution. Thank You!

If you plant a row of tobacco

By mary celroy

If you plant a row of tobacco away from your tomatoes you will find that the aphids and other pests will eat the tobacco instead of your tomatoes

Aphids do like kale. knock

By Almanac Staff

Aphids do like kale. knock them off with sprays of water. Organic insecticides that are effective for aphid control in vegetable gardens are insecticidal soap, pyrethrin, and neem oil. Apply in mornings all over every side of leaf.

If you need some good

By tyler dukes

If you need some good insecticidal soap check this store they have a lot of organic solutions for aphids!


Aphid Removal Success! I live

By CK22

Aphid Removal Success!
I live in Colorado and my huge tree gets infested yearly. I be tried everything from organic to (finally) toxic solutions. The tree was too large and dense to stop the infestation. Now I purchase two small bags of ladybugs from my local nursery (maybe 2,000 in each?), sprinkle cola on the area around the base of the tree, and release them at dusk. They stick around until the aphids are gone and then fly away! The neighborhood kids all come out and we read ladybug books before the release. It's an annual event!

The photo is misleading as

By Steven Ripple

The photo is misleading as most aphids you will encounter will not have wings. Also, most aphid species DO discriminate between plant species (well plant Families anyway), and most will NOT go from plant to plant. Most often only the flying stage of the insect will go to another plant. Cabbage aphids for instance WILL NOT infect roses. There are a few species that are indiscriminate too, so you should know your insects.

Thank you for bringing this

By Almanac Staff

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We have revised the text and will look for a photo that shows a more typical adult form.

A botanist who was our TV

By Grandma j

A botanist who was our TV weatherman, Harry Volkman, in OKC some 50 years ago gave us gardening tips when he did the weather show. He said: "To keep the pests, such as aphids, off your tomato plants all you have to do is break a large branch down close to the ground. DO NOT BREAK IT OFF, just break it and let it hang and stay there. The plant will then emit a chemical that the pests such as aphids do not like and will stay away from your tomato plants."

So have you tried that & has

By kindsister

So have you tried that & has it worked for you?
Maybe the plant no longer smells like food?

My tomato is starting to get

By Anonymus

My tomato is starting to get aphids. I have used some plant bug sprays, but not heavily because a ladybug has laid her eggs on my plant. Is there anything else I could use to get rid of the bugs?

It sounds like you have the

By Almanac Staff

It sounds like you have the best solution already. Ladybugs eat aphids.

That's unfortunate... Your

By Almanac Staff

That's unfortunate... Your treatment of aphids is one of the recommendations, but the wilt is not necessarily a result. The wilt pathogen is seed and soil borne; it might reside in the soil. (There are a couple of kids of wilt, btw). Once a plant "catches" the wilt, it is difficult to recover from it.
You can try to grow tomatoes this year. Rotate them: plant them in another spot or in new soil, if you use a pot. In each case, amend the soil with healthy compost. And buy resistant cultivars; the plant tags will indicate this, or ask the nursery attendant. We hope this helps.

Last year, 2012, my tomatoes

By Janet L

Last year, 2012, my tomatoes suffered a bad infestation of aphids. I washed them many, many, many times gently with the hose. Didn't work...then all the plants had bacterial wilt....couldn't get that stopped and then the high heat! I am wondering if washing them so many times and all the splashing at the bottom caused the wilt. I had cut the leaves off at the bottom up at least 12" but still were infected. Any ideas?? I also am wondering if I should plant tomatoes in that garden again...I don't have many options to rotate. Hope this year is better. Thanks

They were probably in the

By Shamim

They were probably in the tree long befroe you built your tree house. Sounds like you need a strong ant and roach killer. We had a tree house growing up and had to put up with wasp's nest and everything else that crawled and flew. My brother got bit by a spider, and that was the end of out tree house days. The only things you can do is spray the whole place with an ant killer. Good luck.

If you want a butterfly

By Che

If you want a butterfly garedn you'll just have to learn to live with the bugs. Any insecticide that kills or repels another bug will do the same to a butterfly. Why not get a good insect identification book and learn to recognize and appreciate the variety of creatures that are attracted to your butterfly garedn. Was this answer helpful?

Ants farm Aphids like we

By Faith Edgerton

Ants farm Aphids like we raise cows. Get rid of the ants and usually you will also get rid of the aphids.

Cinnamon is a great natural

By Bspringfield

Cinnamon is a great natural ant repellant I sprinkle a little on my inside planets I'm going to try that outside this year I did not know ants were bad for plants ... But that explaines a lot now.

Many know that ants milk


Many know that ants milk aphids. What most don't know is how to get rid of the ants in a safe, non-chemical way. Any known remedies for this?

TANGLEFOOT is a sticky gel

By jack biles

TANGLEFOOT is a sticky gel put around tree trunks to keep ants from getting to the aphids in fruit trees. Works great.

Unless you have fire ants, we

By Almanac Staff

Unless you have fire ants, we would recommend you try to live with ants as they manage pests and do good work. However, if you can not co-exist, you could use beneficial nematodes. Also, borax and sugar (1/2 and 1/2) mixed with water to a thin paste is something that may work. Put it in mall shallow dishes close to where you see the ants (keep it away from pets and small children if possible). The ants will eat the mix, bring it back to the nest and eventually kill the entire colony.
Pour boiling water over the nest, or sprinkle coffee grounds over the hill.

I just dug into red ants in

By Holly_davis

I just dug into red ants in the garden. Do you have any suggestions for getting rid of them?

The best way to prevent

By tommy powell

The best way to prevent aphids is to plantmarigolds every where u can

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