Here are five ways to banish bothersome aphids—without resorting to pesticides for pest control!
When it comes to growing, well, just about anything, there’s one pest that raises its head time and again—the ever-present aphid!
What Are Aphids?
Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects less than a tenth of an inch long. They come in several colors including white, gray, green and black. Look for aphids on new shoots, on buds, along stems or under leaves. They are usually found in groups. Some may have wings, which is a sign that the colony is about to move on to new plants. Wooly aphids surround themselves in a mass of white, wooly wax on tree branches.
Why Are Aphids Pests?
Aphids feed on plant juices. This weakens the plant, resulting in slow and stunted growth. Leaves may become curled, mottled, or yellow. A heavy infestation may kill the plant. Some aphids also transmit harmful plant diseases.
Natural Aphid Control
1. Squash by hand
Check plants regularly for signs of aphids, and squash any you find by hand. Clusters of aphids at the tips of shoots may be snipped off in their entirety and destroyed. Pinch out the tips of fava beans once the first pods appear to make the plants less enticing to black bean aphids.
2. Blast off
Blast small infestations of aphids off your plants with a jet of water from a hose. Adjust the nozzle or cover the end of the pipe with your finger to force the water out at higher pressure.
3. Spray soapy water
Try spraying infected plants with soapy water. Add a couple of drops of washing up liquid to a spray bottle full of water. Spray the solution all over the plant, including the undersides of leaves. The soapy water will trap and suffocate the aphids.
4. Cover up
Plant diseases such as cucumber mosaic virus can quickly be spread by winged aphids. Cover susceptible plants such as cucumber, spinach and celery with row covers in midsummer, when the risk of this disease is highest.
5. Attract aphid predators
Ladybugs (especially their larvae) have a hearty appetite for aphids. Hoverfly larvae, lacewings and many types of tiny parasitic wasp will also feast on aphids.
You can attract these beneficial insects to your garden by planting flowers and herbs such as poached egg plant, marigolds, calendula, dill, fennel, parsley, thyme and mint close to your vegetables.
Got bugs? We’d love you to take part in The Big Bug Hunt, an international research project which aims to track the spread of all bugs, with the aim of developing a pest early warning system for gardeners. Visit the website and report any bugs you find in your garden.
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