How to Identify and Get Rid of Aphids


What are those little green bugs on your plants? They’re probably aphids! 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 feed by sucking the nutrient-rich liquids out of plants. In large numbers, they can weaken plants significantly, harming flowers and fruit. Aphids multiply quickly, so it’s important to get them under control before reproduction starts. Many generations can occur in one season.

The good news is that they tend to move rather slowly and aphid control is relatively easy.


Identifying Aphids

Aphids are tiny (adults are under ¼-inch), and often nearly 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.

A close-up view of a rose aphid.

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.

While aphids in general feed on a wide variety of plants, different species of aphids can be specific to certain plants. For example, some species include bean aphids, cabbage aphids, potato aphids, green peach aphids, melon aphids, and woolly apple aphids.

Some aphids are darker colors, like brown. The potato aphid is a common brown aphid. Photo credit: GrowVeg.com.

What Does Aphid Damage Look Like?

Nymphs and adults feed on plant juices, attacking leaves, stems, buds, flowers, fruit, and/or roots, depending on the species. Most aphids especially like succulent 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 yellowing 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. This “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, and so on.
  • The honeydew can sometimes encourage a fungal growth called sooty mold, causing branches and leaves to appear black.
  • Flowers or fruit can become distorted or deformed due to feeding aphids.
  • Some aphid species cause galls to form on roots or leaves.
  • Aphids may transmit viruses between plants, and also attract other insects that prey on them, such as ladybugs.

Aphids can be various colors, including yellow, and produce a sticky honeydew substance. Photo Credit: John Obermeyer/Purdue University.

Control and Prevention

How to Get Rid of Aphids

  • Try spraying cold water on the leaves; sometimes all aphids need is a cool blast to dislodge them. Typically they are unable to find their way back to the same plant.
  • If you have a large aphid invasion, dust plants with flour. It constipates the pests. 
  • Neem oil, insecticidal soaps, and horticultural oils are effective against aphids. Be sure to follow the application instructions provided on the packaging.
  • 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 dish soap. Soapy water should be reapplied every 2-3 days for 2 weeks.
  • One variation of this soap-water mix includes cayenne pepper: Stir together 1 quart water, 1 tsp liquid dish soap, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Do not dilute before spraying on plants.
  • Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a non-toxic, organic material that will kill aphids. Do not apply DE when plants are in bloom; it is harmful to pollinators, too.

How to Prevent Aphids

  • For fruit or shade trees, spray dormant horticultural oil to kill overwintering aphid eggs.
  • Beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps, will feed on aphids. Supplemental populations of these insects can be ordered online and should help keep the aphid populations controlled from the start.
  • Companion planting can be very helpful to keep aphids away from your plants in the first place. For example:
    • Aphids are repelled by catnip.
    • Aphids are especially attracted to mustard and nasturtium. Plant these near more valuable plants as traps for the aphids. (Check your trap plants regularly to keep aphid populations from jumping to your valued plants.)
    • Nasturtiums spoil the taste of fruit tree sap for aphids and will help keep aphids off of broccoli.
    • Garlic and chives repel aphids when planted near lettuce, peas, and rose bushes

Hosing down your plants is one way to control the aphid population in your garden.

Using Alcohol to Control Aphids

Isopropyl alcohol (also called isopropanol or rubbing alcohol) works fine and is easy to find, but be sure it doesn’t have additives. Ethanol (grain alcohol) seems to work best. Alcohol usually comes in 70 percent strength in stores (or 95 percent strength purchased commercially). To make an insecticidal spray, mix equal parts 70 percent alcohol and water (or, if using 95 percent alcohol, mix 1 part alcohol to 1 ½ parts water). 

You can also add alcohol to a soapy emulsion to make it more effective. For example, in a spray bottle, combine 5 cups water, 2 cups alcohol, and 1 tablespoon liquid soap.

Caution: When applying an alcohol or soap spray, or a combination, always test a small area first, and apply in morning or evening, when the sun is not beating down. Watch the plant for a few days for any adverse reactions before applying more. Plants can be sensitive to alcohol and soap. Also, some soaps have additives that can damage plants—select the purest form.

Check out this video to learn more about how to get rid of aphids. 

Do you have more tips for controlling aphids? Let us know in the comments below!


Reader Comments

Leave a Comment


I used water with white Vinegar and wipe down the leaves. Solve my problem

Aphid spray

I use a mix of Peppermint Castille soap and water. The soap is oily and suffocates the aphids

Aphid control

Using a strip of sellotape you can quite easily catch these pests by touching them with the sticky side of the tape. Easy for the tops and underside of leafs. Has worked well on my indoor lemon tree. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to remove them.


I used Dawn dish soap and icy cold water
They died within seconds


I have hops growing in my yard that are destroyed by aphids every year. I've tried the insecticidal soaps nothing seems to work. Is there something I can do in the spring before the plants starts to grow. My black and red currants bushes next to the hops are also affected. Help

Aphid remedy

Brake-Cleaner from Autozone gets rid of them the fastest. But keep in mind, you must consider how important you consider the plant that you find them on. Your welcome!

Aphid control

You can also use local cow urine which is again benificial in controling aphid attack. For this purpose add 1:6 ratio of cow urine to water. Tested and easiest methord in controling aphids.


I tried to discover why aphids when I washed them off of my plants inside or outside I continued to get a worse infestation quite quickly, so I used a piece of scotch tape and picked some aphids of my plant where they were firmly stuck , I put them where I could keep an eye on them over a black background and with a magnifier was astounded to see they lived for up to 3 or 4 days, and worse than that several of the more mature ones spit out more aphids , shocked I was so I no longer blast them of , I prefer just to remove them physically if i can and squish them eliminating the possibility of recreation , I would sure like to know if any one else has discovered this, try it your self, you may be very surprised at the results.

Aphid control

for the soap mixture, what exactly do you mean by "do not dilute before spraying on plants"?

Soap Spray

The Editors's picture

By this, we just mean that it’s not necessary to dilute the solution before using it on your plants! Though it’s always wise to test it on a leaf first and dilute it if any adverse reaction occurs.

Aphid control

I use banana peels. Cut them into long strips and drape them over the center of collards, cabbage etc. Also tie them around the base of plants. My sister ties them below favorite rose blooms to keep them off. IT DOESN'T WORK to blend up the peel (tried it) eat your 'nana's and use the peels in the garden. (Oregon)

aphid control with banana peels

Do the peels need to be fresh and replaced often?

Can anyone identify these eggs?

They're tiny, golden colored, and they are perfectly fitted inside each of the buds on my pansies. I want to either leave them be if they're good or dispose of them if theyre bad. Thanks

Pesky Little Devils

We've got some indoor pepper plants that get plagued by aphids all the time and pretty much nothing seems to work. However, i've also got a computer for which I decided to buy a small USB vacuum cleaner, so I decided to give it a try on my plants.

With a small brush attachment you can clean the leaves and in the corners of branches where aphids like to hide.

It's not a quick fix by anymeans, and it certainly isn't a 5 mintue job, but it definitely helps to see just how many of the little monsters you are getting before you watch them get washed down the drain. No doubt if you have a working insecticide then a little plant-cleaning beforehand can do wonders in destroying an infestation.


For the past 4 years I have been battling aphids on my apple tree. There are black aphids and wooly apple aphids I have been using neem oil and spot treating with rubbing alcohol. I have not been successful controlling them. The tree is covered with moss and ferns (the look is beautiful) while talking to my gardener about this he told me that I need to remove the moss, as the bugs are probably hiding in it. So my question is — should I remove the moss? What is the best method? These bugs are effecting my fruit crop and I would like to get more apples Any suggestions are welcome

Aphid removal

yes, of course remove the moss. It's hurting the tree.

Tiny black aphids on miniature rose house plant

I first noticed these little black pests that are about two millimeters long when my rose leaves began turning yellow and falling of. I treated my rose for fungus at first but that only got rid of the yellow leaves for a week or two. Now, my plant is experiencing stunted growth and some leaves are turning brown at the tips despite a regular watering regimen. I also noticed that these little black aphids are more prevalent. Should I try diatomaceous earth since there are no new blooms?? Are should I stick to the soapy water method??


Aphids are polyphagus, majorly destructive to most of the kingdom Plantae in the tropical and mid equatoral zone in East Africa.

Massive aphids on kale, broccoli, and rutabaga

I was unexpectedly away several weeks this summer, and upon return my kale and broccoli and even rutabaga (planted near the kale) have massive globs of gray aphids at base of leaf stems and lots of gray things on the leaves. I thought it was eggs of the cabbage worm, but have seen only a few worms and worm droppings. Now I believe it is aphids. I have pulled out all plants - should I burn them? Or just put out in woods far from my garden? Also I see tons of them in the soil around where the plants were. Will they overwinter? If so, what can I do now? Dust with diatomaceous earth?

aphid control

The Editors's picture

For small plantings, you can try hosing the aphids off plants ever so often. Insecticidal soap can also help. Diatomaceous earth (food-grade, not pool grade) also is an option: for more information about this method, check this page: https://www.almanac.com/blog/gardening/garden-journal/what-diatomaceous-earth You can also encourage beneficial insects by planting nectar-rich plants nearby, such as alyssum. As to how to dispose of aphid-infested plant debris, you can toss it in the trash, or bury it deep in a compost pile. Aphids overwinter as eggs, often laid on trees or shrubs.

Aphids on eucalyptus trees our trees are covered with them.

They are everywhere these trees are huge, how do we get rid of them.

Large-area spray

It's going to be challenging to get rid of them in your case. Make sure you have aphids first. Once you verify they're aphids, try getting a hose attachment that you can add a treatment to, such as 2 tsp dawn soap + 1 cup isopropyl alcohol + 3 cups water (increase amounts in those proportions.) If you're in drought or water shortage, you can also try running misting tubes (usually meant for watering at ground level) up the trees and, again, use that mixture -- you might be better able to cover a larger area that will stick to the trees by misting them. Anything you can do to coat the trees and make them uninhabitable to aphids will help. Fortunately, we live in a creative time of ingenuity. You might even be able to find some sort of misting contraption (like they have for mosquitoes) that emits something that aphids don't like, and hang that in your trees. You'd be surprised what you can find if only you look around. After that, see if you can get some ladybugs - release them at sundown in your trees, right on top of the aphids if you can. Ladybugs are safe and good bugs, but don't put them on your trees before spraying or dusting them.


I need help getting rid of a pest on my miniature rose house plant. I'm not sure if they are aphids. They look like miniature flies. They are more brown/black and fly around like crazy. I don't really see any bugs on the leaves. Are these still aphids and how should I get rid of them?

Fungus Gnats

The Editors's picture

It sounds like you could be dealing with fungus gnats! Check out our pest page for tips on getting rid of them: www.almanac.com/pest/fungus-gnats

mosaic virus from aphids

2 summers in a row now we have had aphids attack our garden, taking out the zucchini and squash first. Then travels to the tomatoes and lastly it will get the cucumbers. We believe it is from aphids and need to find a way to control them better. We mainly have used 7 dust. It helps to a little but needs to be applied a lot and gets expensive. We are purchasing better seeds as well and know that the soil is good as other parts of the garden grow extremely well.

aphids in big tree

We have a very big tree right next to our house. It is full of Aphids. We cannot sit outside because everything is sticky and honeydew falls on us. Last year we bought a 1000 ladybugs and released them into the tree. But the problem still persists. What can we do?
Thank you.

Is your tree stressed? I

Is your tree stressed? I have resolved this issue with a tree that i take care of by watering it extensively. A tulip tree in the middle of a textured concrete patio had a raised garden bed built around it. Always had an aphid problem. On year 3 of taking care of it i added soaker hoses around the base and run them as often as i can in the summer. The tree was never satisfying its thirst and was treated bad. So aphids were plenty. Perhaps your tree has a stressor to it inviting aphids.

Be careful with your aphid-repelling companion planting choices

The suggestion "Garlic and chives repel aphids when planted near lettuce, peas, and rose bushes" is a bit counterproductive when it come to peas.
If you want to keep aphids away from your peas, I'd suggest another method than planting garlic or chives nearby.
While it might work well for roses and lettuce, peas do NOT like to be near anything in the allium family (onions, garlic, chives) and neither does well when planted near the other. Beans are also unhappy near alliums. (I learned this the hard way.)

Aphid are gone!

I can see the aphid's damage to the leaves, but do not find the aphids. Should I treat for aphids? Thank you for any help.

Disappearing Aphids

The Editors's picture

If you’ve searched the whole plant and see no actual aphids, then they have likely moved on already or have been eaten by a predator. It’s unlikely that they’ll return, but keep an eye on the plant anyway, just in case.



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