Aphids

How to Identify and Get Rid of Aphids

Aphids
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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.

Identification

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.

Aphid
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.

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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.

how-to-identify-aphids.jpeg
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

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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!

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Reader Comments

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bug spray

In the one home made bug spray, you listed 2 parts alchohol to 5 parts water then you switch from parts to 1 Tbsp. dish soap and didn't give an over all measurement. I gave this recip to my dad who place it in a approximately 1 litre. He sprayed it on his plants and they wilted and some died completely. When we rinsed the wilted ones to try to save them the water running off was sudsy, and a white layer on the soil. You might want to change the recipe to give the soap measurement in parts or the whole recipe in measurements.

soap/alcohol spray for aphids

The Editors's picture

Oh, my goodness! We are so sorry to hear about your dad’s plants! We have revised the formula to: 5 cups water, 2 cups alcohol, and 1 tablespoon liquid soap.
Whenever applying an alcohol or soap spray, or a combination, to plants, 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 plants may be sensitive to – try to use the purest form. If still wary about trying – dilute the formula first, watch your plants for a few days, and then work up to full strength gradually if the plants seem to be able to handle it.

Aphids, good recipes, nasturtiums

This summer, for the first time aphids on my viburnum. Yes, the new growth. My neighbor had asked for advice about his bushes then I checked mine. I pruned a lot of the new stems out and used hard spray. I'm going to try the recipes above. I have confidence in them and they won't hurt anyone else. Howis the nasturtium thing supposed to work??? The 2nd year I had them in my old yard they were black with aphids so the leaves weren't very appetizing to eat. Hmmm... the aphids are probably rich in protein! They showed up the next yr. so I don't grow 'em.

nasturtiums and aphids

The Editors's picture

The nasturtium will attract aphids AWAY from other plants. The idea is that you sacrifice the nasturtium—left the aphids collect there, then discard the plant, aphids and all.
 You don’t want to eat the nasturtium flower when the plant is used in this fashion.

We hope this helps!

Ladybugs v Aphids

I have a tree in my yard that is covered in wee aphids, clumped in every wad of new/shriveled leaf growth. I also have ladybug eggs all over the same tree, and quite a few ladybugs running around eating the aphids and mating. My concern is that the ratio of aphid to ladybug is at least quadruple, and even though each ladybug can eat up to 50 aphids a day, my tree and surrounding plants may die well before the ladybugs can ramp up. Should I be patient and wait for the ladybugs to do their thing? If I treat with the above, will it kill off the ladybugs as well?

Tiny lice like bugs on my day lilies. White / yellowish in color

I've never had these before and they are everywhere. Please help before I lose all my flowers. Thank you.

Afids on new stated from seed plants.

I started plants from seed, set them outside to get them hardened only 30 mins 1st day couple hrs 2nd day inside for a day, out couple hrs 4th day, and I find afids all over my kale. How did I get them in that length of time?
KAS

why aphids

The Editors's picture

This is one of the most vexing challenges for all gardeners—there seems to be an aphid type for almost eveyr plant! There is no one reason why aphids appear, indoors or outdoors. Soil with high levels of nitrogen are said to favor aphids; do not add to soil unless nec (do a soil test).

Vegetables are susceptible at seedling stage, so some sources recommend growing plants under (row) covers. Kale, being a cool season crop, is especially vulnerable.

If the plants do not survive…there is probably still time to buy seedlings (you did not say where you are).

Wish we had better news…

Garden Mums and Iris

Ever year they get invaded by whiteflies and aphids. What can I do to stop the invasion? What is best way to get rid of them?

aphid and whitefly controls

The Editors's picture

Try washing the aphids off the plants with a strong spray of water from a hose, and repeat if they reappear. For more controls for aphids, please see article above.

For whiteflies, you might like to go to: http://www.almanac.com/content/whiteflies for suggestions. Some gardeners actually have had success using a hand-held vacuum cleaner to pick up the adult insects; morning is best, when the adults are sluggish. Place the vacuum bag in a plastic bag, seal, then freeze to kill the insects.

Can Spider Kill Aphids?

Shouldn't Spider Be Able To Kill Aphids Since The Aphids Are Bugs Aren't They?

do spiders eat aphids

Catherine Boeckmann's picture

I don’t think spiders eat aphids. They do not pick up insects. They seems to trap insects in their web, wrap them up, and squeeze them to death. Ladybugs like aphids!

aphids

I can tell you that spiders don't kill aphids. I know this because I have so many humongous spiders and I have lots of aphids all over my plants.

I have few tomato plants in

I have few tomato plants in my garden and when the plants are bit shaken very tiny white insects fly out of the lower part of the leaves.
How do I get rid of those ?
What is the normal organic pesticide available in India for the flowering plants ?

Does anyone know if they get

Does anyone know if they get on alocasia "frydek"? I think that's what is on mine but I'm not sure

bio products for aphids

use monoshot and neem a life ,bio products from Gujrat Life Science available in India Contact Mr Rajesh Umatt

I found that the ants were

I found that the ants were actually bringing the aphids to my cucumber plants. My Solution - I grabbed a bottle of cinnamon from my cabinet and shook the bottle aroung the base. In a couple of days - no more ants and no more aphids. It tool about 2 weeks for the cucmbers to regain consiousness and start growing again.

Hi there , I got this

Hi there , I got this hibiscus plant and couple days after I got it I notice the the leafs where turning yellow and falling and it was becoming more and more , I check and there was little white bugs so I knew it must be because of them, I prayed my plant with mixture of soap cayanne garlic and citrus. but it seems to get worse my plant barely has any leafs left .. I worry that its gonna dye . How to I save it

If you have white bugs on

The Editors's picture

If you have white bugs on your hibiscus, those bugs are probably white flies not aphids. White flies love hibiscus plants. Unfortunately, it's a problem. There are a couple of things you could try.
1) Get yellow sticky cards from a garden center and stick them in your plants. The buys will stick to the glue.
2) Get a horticultural oil and spray your plant.
3) Cut back any infected portions.
We hope you can save your plant unless it's too far gone!

Hi, I have a baby apple tree

Hi,

I have a baby apple tree that has ants crawling all over the leaves and branches I haven't noticed any aphids yet but would like to prevent them and get rid of the ants can anyone suggest a good spray that won't harm my tree or the fruit it will eventually produced. I am based in the UK and a novice gardner

Garden safe has a nice Spray

Garden safe has a nice Spray for bugs that does well in organic gardens but what I use is bayer's vegetable and garden spray that works like a charm

when possible, repot the

when possible, repot the plant and throw away the dirt. Larvae liv on top of the dirt and breed. All the above help the plant but can be reinvested from the dirt!

Firstly, I'm dating this post

Firstly, I'm dating this post because I dislike that I have no clue how old the existing conversation in here is.

- June 14th 2015 -

Garden & Zone: Containers on a 2nd floor deck, in zone 5b (Peterborough, Ontario, Canada)

Plants: red & green pepper (in containers), hanging strawberry plant, strawberry mint plant (tastes like strawberry mint, does not produce berries haha), lemongrass, ivy, lobelia, fuschia hybrid, calibrachoa hybrid & green dracena and a bleeding heart plant that I pray is going to survive in a container over winter (my fave plant ever, let's see if apartment life will support bleeding heart 'captivity')!

PROBLEM: green aphids found on my pepper plants this morning, along with what I had THOUGHT are maybe aphid larve (they are long and skinny white worm looking species, MAYBE a millimeter or two in length), but I have found other information that indicates they MIGHT be "aphid midge (Aphidoletes aphidimyza) larvae" which I read actually controls aphids.

So, few things I want to inquire about between my problem and things noted within this thread.

First, does the diatomaceous earth help control the aphids? Or just the ants? Is this just an overall generally good thing to sprinkle at the base of plants to protect from certain infestations of enemy insects? I have some bought in the gardening section (to clear up I'm not using the pool formula :D )a few years back...does age of this product affect efficacy?

Next, I read a suggestion to just hose off the aphids from the plants regularly with cool water (luckily I recently bought a hose and the attachments to use it with my kitchen sink...again, 2nd floor apartment), so that is what I had done this morning. I have a funny feeling that because I am not blessed with life's solutions being the simplest ones, that those little buggers (pardon the bun) will be returning and forcing me to attempt solution #2!

So taking into consideration I have a passing by dog who uses the deck to gain access to the back yard, some robins who have a nest on our deck using it for 2 rounds of offspring every summer, a cat who is indoors but sits at the screened door which my peppers are RIGHT beside the door, here are the solutions I will be looking at.
Firstly, I will be adding a couple containers of nasturtium as my first line of defense, then the options are as follows;

1. mixture of soap and water
2. mixture of soap and water and alcohol
3. mixture of soap and water and cayanne
4. 'organic' pesticide
5. giving up ;) (I won't likely make this choice....I LOVE PEPPERS)

So, my curiosities are this;

if I use the DE, what can I expect it will do for current problem? or what can I expect it will do in general?

did I just spray off aphid larvae or the aphid midge larvae which would have been there to take those aphid down?

will the nasturtium survive the infestation of the aphids? or will I have a flower that looks like it went to war with the aphids and the aphids will win?

do I need to attempt control of the aphids on the nasturtium or just let the flower do it's job attracting the little buggers as if it's the crack dealer and the aphids are the crack heads? (haha...sorry if you don't find that funny...I have a sick sense of humour)

are there other flowers or plants one would suggest placing beside the peppers to help with insect control (be it for aphids or any other common invasive insect that might like my peppers as much as I do)?

with the plants and flowers I have listed that I currently have, are any of them at high risk more than others for the aphid attack (I assume aphids will attack any plant equally...little 'buggers' are not plant prejudice!?!?!) or any other insects infestation?

Remember, I am on a 2nd floor deck in zone 5b (in Ontario) and am determined I am eating peppers that I have harvested myself ;)

First of all, WHERE did you

First of all, WHERE did you get the attachments to hook to your kitchen sink??????? I also live in an apartment and am tired of carrying a bucket!!
Secondly, the best thing for aphids is Epsom salt!!! For a real large pot I use a half cup per pot. Just mix it up a bit with the dirt on top and then water like normal. Within two days all the aphids and white flies were gone. And they have NOT come back!!!!! I used it on my roses, tomatoes, pumpkin plant. Plus all my decorative plants. I also use it on my inside plants!! The Epsom Salt has something in it that the plants need!! ALL my plants are growing like crazy!!!! It seems like my pumpkin plant is growing about two inches a day!!! So remember, 1/2 cup of EPSOM SALT per pot!!!!!

Can I use Epsom salt that has

Can I use Epsom salt that has a lavender scent? I am wondering if the lavendar would hurt the plants at all.

Eating too many peppers

Just a word of caution: I've known two people who eat a lot of peppers and hot spicy food all the time and both died of stomach cancer. I'd never even heard of stomach cancer. One was Asian, the other just really loved peppers in her food. Apparently the beneficial vitamin C derived from the pepper is not greater than the cancer causing factors.

Nope

Eating a lot of peppers does not cause cancer according to a google search on the topic. In fact, it actually fights cancers and has many other health benefits.

Hey all, I have started and

Hey all,
I have started and indoor Hydroponic garden with about three pepper plants, 2 tomato plants, and 2 basil plants. I have had them for about 4 months with out any bugs or any issues. Today while adjusting some of the plants, I have noticed a ton of aphids (on all of them other than the basil). I sprayed them with a combination of 2 parts alcohol and 5 parts water and added garlic as well. Are there any other steps I can take to enure the safety of my plants. Insects are not an option due to the fact this is an indoor set up..

Thank you all.

Hi, Patrick, These are

The Editors's picture

Hi, Patrick, These are probably root aphids (they seem to be the most common in hydroponics). Root aphids spread through water, apparently. Some sources advise putting liquid pyrethrym concentrate into the water/nutrient mix. Pyrethrum is an organic pesticide, sort of. Apparently the production process is not entirely. Depending on the strength of it, Pyrethrum may kills any beneficials you have introduced. Consult a local organic vendor for information.

Hi Patrick! Have you tried an

Hi Patrick! Have you tried an organic insecticidal soap? I use to have an aphid problem on my indoor herbs and Safer Brand's Insect Killing Soap cleared it up. You can usually find it at a nursery or garden store.

Hope it works for you!

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