You wake up and see your plants in a mess.
The leaves are curled up, turning yellow, and covered with a black sticky mold.
They seemed to be doing well a few days back. So what happened?
You inspect your plants closely and see a ton of tiny insects at the bottom of the leaves. And then you realize your plants have been infested by nasty, life-sucking aphids.
But don’t worry because we’ll look at some of the best ways to get rid of aphids and restore your plants’ health.
What are aphids?
They can look nasty.
Aphids are tiny, pear-shaped insects that come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.
There are about 4400 varieties of these critters and 250 of them can wreak havoc on your plants. Most of them are about 1/4 inch in size and a variety of colors. Green, red, pink, yellow, brown, and black is just some of them.
It’s quite easy to recognize an aphid on your plants. They have long antennae at the front and two short tubes at the back. The tubes help them release a chemical when attacked by predators.
Some aphids love to cling to a particular type of plant. So you may find potato aphids, bean aphids, cabbage aphids, melon aphids, and a ton of other types. Some aphids can attack a variety of plants as well.
It’s good to know that aphids move slow. They won’t scurry around as you try to catch them.
But they can reproduce really fast and you can get a full-blown infestation in a few days. That’s because aphids can reproduce asexually or by mating as needed. The females can lay eggs or produce nymphs that grow into adults.
Most aphids don’t have wings but if their population grows enough some develop wings and fly away to infest other plants.
What damage do aphids cause?
Aphids are like the Dracula of the plant world.
Plants grow bigger and stronger by providing nutrient-rich sap to their stem, leaves, fruits, and flowers. The aphids love to feed on this sap by biting into the leaves, stem, and flowers. Some type of aphids suck the sap out of roots as well.
This means less sap reaches the plant’s foliage causing them to weaken, wither, and eventually die.
The aphids consume the sap and excrete a sugary material known as honeydew. This tends to attract insects like ants that enjoy sugar and they protect the aphids from predators.
The honeydew collecting on the leaves tends to create a dark fungal growth known as sooty mold that blocks the light and air from reaching the leaves. This makes the situation worse causing the leaves to turn yellow and wither away.
When aphids move from one plant to another they can carry the virus from an infected plant to a healthy plant.
Ways to get rid of aphids
1. Sacrifice your plants
You don’t need to sacrifice your favorite plants. What you need to do instead is create a sacrificial garden.
Some plants attract aphids like moths to a flame. You can create a garden of such plants far away from your actual garden.
The aphids will then move to this sacrificial garden and eat away at those plants while leaving your actual garden aphid-free.
Some plants that attract aphids include nasturtium, dahlia, zinnia, hollyhock, and verbena.
2. Grow some rebellious plants
Aphids don’t like some plants.
This includes plants like onions, garlic, catnip, and oregano. The aphids just can’t stand the smell of the compounds these plants release.
So it’s a good idea to grow some of these plants among other plants in your garden to repel the aphids.
3. The enemy of your enemy is your friend
There are some predators that enjoy chomping on aphids.
This includes insects like the ladybug beetle, hoverfly larvae, and the green lacewing.
The easiest thing for you to do is introduce them to your garden and watch them get rid of the aphids. You can either attract these insects to your garden or purchase them from a garden store.
The ladybug beetles and the lacewing eggs could be purchased from a store but you may need to attract the hoverfly to your garden.
Attracting such insects is easy to do if you grow plants like garlic, catnip, clover, mint, dill, fennel, and oregano that they insects tend to enjoy and will stick around in your garden.
There are also certain birds that enjoy eating aphids. All you need to do is to provide them good food and shelter to attract them to your garden.
A shelter can be provided by adding small trees and shrubs to your garden and the aphid infestation should provide the required food.
You could also be a bit proactive, build some birdhouses and feeders that provide the birds some seeds. They will come for the seeds but will also clean up the aphids.
4. Get your hands dirty
But it’s also the easiest and most effective way to get rid of aphids when you have a minor infestation.
Use a pair of gardening gloves and a brush to sweep away the aphids into a bucket of soapy water that kills them. You can only do this for minor infestation and it’s not worth your time if you have a full-blown one.
Another option is to spray your plants with water that will push the aphids off and onto the ground where predators will gobble them up. But this should be done only on fully grown plants as weaker plants will not be able to take the water pressure.
If you find a few branches and leaves are infested with aphids you could prune them with the help of a good bypass pruner. Take those branches and dump them in soapy water or burn them to get rid of the aphids.
5. Spray them to death
If you have a mild infestation you can get rid of the aphids easily with a mixture of soap and water.
Just add a few tablespoons of dish soap and water to a spraying can and spray the water on the leaves and stem infected with aphids.
The soapy water dissolves the waxy coating on the aphids causing them to dehydrate and die.
The only problem is this spray can also affect beneficial insects that prey on these aphids. So make sure to use the spray carefully and only on the infected areas of the plant.
6. When all else fails use this
If you have a big aphid infestation you can consider using an organic insecticide such as neem oil.
The neem oil helps kill off the aphids and acts as a repellent to keep the aphids away. It will also keep away other insects such as cabbage worms, beetles, bugs, ants, and caterpillars.
Neem oil is also a good antifungal agent and will keep away fungus like powdery mildew as well.
You do need to be careful using neem oil because it can also repel away the beneficial insects as well.
7. Use the magic powder from the sea
Diatomaceous earth is a fine powder you can buy that works as an aphid repellent. This is made from the finely powdered shells of diatoms that are found in the sea.
You need to apply the powder on your plants so that when soft-bodies insects crawl on the shells their bodies get cut up. This makes it a good repellent to keep aphids away.
This powder only affects insects and is completely safe for the plants and animals. You do need to apply them after every rainy condition because they tend to get washed away.
Keep your plants free from aphids
No longer do you need to worry about an aphid infestation destroying your plants.
Every day you will wake up to an amazing size of a garden full of beautiful and healthy plants.
Just make sure to use the right ways to keep aphids away from your plants and kill any that have infected them as early as possible.
And you can relax knowing your plants are safe.