Aphids can be found feeding on outdoor garden plants as well as indoor houseplants. Though tiny they can wreak havoc and cause significant damage to plants.
Nymphs and adults feed on plant juices by attacking leaves, stems, buds, flowers, fruit, and/or roots, depending on the species of plant and aphid. Most aphids especially like succulent or new growth. To identify aphids, be sure to look at the underside of leaves as well as the top of leaves, when underneath a leaf they use it as a form of protection from birds and other predators.
Aphids come in different colors according to the species and can be white, black, brown, gray, yellow, light green, or pink and have a waxy or woolly coating. Aphids usually feed in large groups, however occasionally you might see them singly or in small numbers. 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.
To detect aphid damage, look for:
- Misshapen, curling, stunted, or yellow leaves. Be sure to check the undersides of leaves.
- If the leaves or stems are covered with a sticky substance (honeydew), that is a sign that aphids may be present and laying eggs to produce young.
- The honeydew, a sugary liquid produced by the insects as waste, can attract other insects, such as ants, which gather the substance for food.
- 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.
To get rid of aphids:
- Try spraying cold water on the leaves to dislodge them. to break the life cycle you will need to do this several times, a couple days apart.
- Use 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 or Dawn.
- Another home remedy, 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
- You can also purchase beneficial insects, such as lady beetles and parasitic wasps, which will feed on aphids. These are usually ordered on line.
- Attract beneficial insects to your garden by adding plants that attract them. For example, nasturtiums are a good plant to rid your garden of aphids.