Are you an avid gardener who wants to stay away from pests? Is your garden under an aphid infestation? Do you want to keep your garden safe from these sap-sucking bugs? If yes, then you’re in the right place.
We’re here to tell you everything you need to know about aphids. From different types of aphids to their lifecycle, you’ll find all the required information here. Keep on reading to find out more!
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On this page: What are Aphids | How to Identify Aphids | Types of Aphids | Life Cycle of Aphids | How to Get Rid of Aphids Naturally | How to Prevent Aphids
What are Aphids?
Also known by the names ‘plant louse’ or ‘green fly’, aphids are a group of sap-sucking, soft-bodied insects. Aphids are as small as a pinhead, and most species of this insect have cornicles on the abdomen. In insects, cornicles emit pheromones or defensive secretions.
Aphids are considered to be one of the most damaging plant pests, as they may stunt the plant’s growth, produce plant galls, cause deformation in the organs of the plant, and transmit plant viruses.
How to Identify Aphids?
Adult aphids are less than ¼ inches, making them invisible to the naked eye. These appear in many different colors including white, black, brown, gray, yellow, light green, and pink. The coating on top of aphids can be either waxy or woolly.
Their bodies can be described as pear-shaped with long antennas. Young aphids are called nymphs and they look quite similar to adult aphids. Most species of aphids have two short tubes called cornicles attached to their abdomens.
Aphids, as adults, don’t have wings, but most species of aphids develop wings when facing over-population. As the quality of food decreases, these winged aphids can fly to another plant to reproduce and start a new colony.
Aphids are found in a large group, but you can spot an individual aphid from time to time. They feed on plants. Different species of aphids can have different preferences for plants.
Aphids can cause severe damage to the plant. Aphid damage looks like::
- Yellowing and circling in leaves (aphids love to hide in the undersides of the leaves)
- A sticky substance on the leaves and stems of plants called honeydew might start to appear
- Honeydew causes sooty mold, which is a fungal disease that develops on plants
- Deformed fruit
- Galls on roots and leaves
Types of Aphids
There are over 4000 different species of aphids, around 250 of which attack crops and plants as pests. The following are some of the most prominent species of aphids:
It is yellow-green and has dark-colored legs. It produces honeydew, which is a sugary-liquid waste. Due to this, sooty mold develops.
It is gray-green and has a waxy covering. You can find them in cabbages, cauliflowers, Brussel sprouts, and radishes. They form clusters on the underside of the plants.
Corn Root Aphid
This type depends on the cornfield ant. The ants store aphid eggs during winters and as the spring arrives, they carry the newly hatched aphids to wet roots. This way these aphids can transfer to the corn roots and can influence corn’s growth by causing wilting.
This damaging pest targets wheat, oats, and other grains. It forms yellow patches on the plants and ends up destroying the whole field. Adult green bugs in pale green color have a white stripe on their backs.
It’s yellow-green and has three dark green lines along the back.
Life Cycle of Aphids
The life cycle of aphids starts with wingless females. These females are called stem mothers and they reproduce throughout summers through parthenogenesis. In parthenogenesis, an embryo spontaneously develops from an unfertilized egg cell.
Eventually, the plant containing the stem mother and the child becomes too overcrowded. At this point, some of the offspring start to become adults with a pair of large and membranous wings. As newly winged adults, these insects can now fly anywhere, so they go to new plants.
As summer’s end comes closer, female and male aphids are produced. They mate and the females lay eggs. These eggs are capable of surviving winter due to the overwintering egg stage. However, in colder climates, this stage might not be necessary at all.
The natural enemies of aphids are insects such as ladybird beetles, aphid lions, and lacewings. These predators control the aphids. Products like horticultural soaps, insecticidal soaps, and insecticides artificially control aphids.
How to Get Rid of Aphids Naturally?
The following are some ways to get rid of aphids naturally:
Using a strong stream of water coming from a garden hose, spray off the aphids. This method works best if the infestation has just begun. However, if your plants are of the delicate sort, this might not be the way to go.
Remove by Hand
Knock the aphids off the plants, put on your garden gloves, pick them up, and put them in a bucket of soap water. You can also cut off the affected areas to avoid further spread.
Soap and Water
Add a few tablespoons of liquid soap to water and spray it on the affected parts of the plants. Make sure to soak the underside of the leaves.
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Neem oil is a great way to say goodbye to pests and insects. However, it will also cause beneficial insects to leave. So only apply neem oil where necessary.
Put 4-5 drops of peppermint, rosemary, thyme, and clove, in water. Using a spray bottle, target the affected areas.
Many animals are predators of aphids which will reduce their population. These include:
- Lady Beetles
- Green Lacewings
How to Prevent Aphids?
Prevention should be every gardener’s first choice. There are many ways to avoid aphids. The following are some of them.
- Spray dormant horticultural oil to kill over-wintering aphid eggs.
- Attract beneficial insects that are predators of aphids.
- Companion planting will help aphids refrain from housing on certain plants. Planting catnip is a good option as they repel aphids. Similarly, plant mustard and nasturtium near your important plants as they’ll attract all the pests.
- Garlic and chives repel aphids. Plant them near crops like lettuce and peas.
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