Although aphids aren't very big (even the largest adults are usually less than a ¼-inch long), they can cause quite a bit of plant damage, particularly if their populations are large.
Deformation, stunting and stippling may all result as aphids suck fluid from leaves and buds. Often, leaves with aphid damage appear curled and discolored.
Aphids also suck sap from stems—with less damaging results. And they leave behind honeydew as they feed, a clear liquid that often produces black mold.
The majority of aphid species are general feeders; however, they're particularly drawn to new growth, and some prefer specific species of plants.
At some point in the year, most gardens attract aphids. Their populations are usually kept in check by natural predators like lacewings and ladybird beetles. However, if aphid damage becomes severe, intervention may be necessary. Contemporary wisdom advocates an environmentally-friendly approach to aphid control, one that eschews harsh poisons. One option? Organic pesticides such as garlic oil spray.
8 Safe Ways to Control Aphids
- Spray strong bursts of plain water to dislodge aphids.
- Grow flowering plants to attract aphid-eating beneficials.
- Release aphid-eating beneficial insects like ladybird beetles, lacewings & parasitic wasps.
- Treat aphid-infested plants with homemade garlic spray.
- Spray plants with insecticidal soap.
- Scrape aphid eggs and nymphs from leaves, seed pods, and stems, and crush them.
- Handpick adult aphids and crush them.
For severe aphid infestations, neem oil may be applied alternately with insecticidal soap.*
*Neem oil is a systemic botanical pesticide that sometimes harms parasites that prey on pests like aphids. If you follow a least-harm policy in your garden, use it sparingly.
When properly combined, garlic cloves, mineral oil, ordinary dishwashing liquid and water create a mild organic pesticide that's effective against aphids. The spray also kills cabbageworms, larval mosquitoes, leafhoppers, squash bugs, whitefly and other garden pests. It can even serve as a mild fungicide and animal repellent.
Reasons to Make Your Own Spray
Because it isn't toxic to humans, homemade organic aphid spray is a good choice for aphid control on vegetable crops, herbs and ornamental plants in and around the home. It's also inexpensive to make—and it can be ready to use in little more than 24 hours.
The Drawbacks of Garlic Oil Spray
The primary environmental drawback of garlic oil spray is that it kills not only aphids, but also other soft-bodied insects, including beneficial ones. Ladybird beetles and other hard-shelled insects, however, are ordinarily unaffected by the spray.
Another drawback? It may cause slight leaf burn.
- 3 oz. garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp. mineral oil
- 1 pint water
- 1/4 oz. dishwashing liquid
- Soak garlic in oil for 24 hours or more.
- Meanwhile, combine dishwashing liquid and water.
- Add soap mixture to garlic mixture, and stir well.
- Strain the mixture and store it in a glass container.
Directions for Use
Add 1-2 Tbsp. of homemade garlic oil concentrate for each pint of water. Then spray affected plants thoroughly.
Because the spray contains oil and soap, it may cause some leaf damage. To ensure that the mixture is not too strong, test it first by spraying a few leaves. Wait 2-3 days for any signs of damage.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: How do you remove a mole problem?
Answer: To reduce your mole problem naturally, try Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a naturally occurring bacteria to control grubs. It's not a quick problem-reducer, but it is safe.
© 2012 Jill Spencer
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on March 20, 2018:
Hi Connie, the only probably with linseed oil is that it might engender mold on the plants, so . . . no, I don't think I would substitute it.
connie Shishkoff on March 20, 2018:
Does linseed oil work as a "mineral" oil in the natural garlic anti aphid spray?
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on January 24, 2013:
Hi Lee! Your poor broccoli! If I were you, I'd take a picture of the damage and email it to your county extension agent or the university that's connected to Florida's extension service. That's what I did just this past summer when I saw a striped brown stink bug & panicked. (The folks at U. of MD assured me it wasn't a brown marmorated one, thank God.)
Sounds like you have some sore of caterpillar or, if the holes are small and look like gunshot spray, perhaps flee beetles, which are fond of Brassicas. In future, you could use floating row covers to prevent the attacks, and products with B. t. work on caterpillars, too, at least on the larvae.
I haven't used any sort of tomato leaf spray. Since we only raise vegetables, fruits and flowers for our personal use, I rarely use anything except bursts of water and my fingers, (I would have scraped off the aphid eggs on the butterfly weed pictured above instead of letting them hatch if I hadn't needed a photo for this hub! : ) )
Hope your agent can give you some answers. All the best!
Lee Raynor from Citra Florida on January 24, 2013:
I'll give this a try if aphids come back. Have you any experience with insecticide made with tomato leaves? I tried it last year with mixed results
My latest problem is something is eating the center leaves on my broccoli. The broccoli is about 4 inches tall and it is only the tender bud in the middle that gets eaten, killing the plant.
Is there a way to figure out what is doing the damage? I have lots of squirrels. rabbits, crows and cut worms but it is only the broccoli being destroyed
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 14, 2012:
Hi grandmapearl! Thanks for sharing the hub. This year we actually had butterfly weed aphids, as you can see the from the top photo. Their eggs are bright orange. I actually allowed them to hatch just to get the pictures! (The butterfly weed has only a little damage, mostly to a few seed pods.) Thanks for reading & commenting. --Jill
Connie Smith from Southern Tier New York State on September 14, 2012:
Thanks for sharing this non-toxic recipe with us! I have had problems with aphids in the past, but not so much this year. Probably because of the lacewings. I have bookmarked this, pinned and shared. Voted up, interesting and useful as well. Great advice and very well written!
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 13, 2012:
@ mecheshier -- Glad you stopped by! Enjoyed your site http://living-green-newsflash.com/ Hope the spray works well for you.
@carol7777-- Don't you wish HubPages format allowed us to create a "print" layout for recipes? Hopefully, that's in the future. Thanks for sharing the hub, Carol!--Jill
carol stanley from Arizona on September 13, 2012:
I marvel sometimes at how simple we can put together natural solutions instead of relying on toxic products from the store. I am going to save this hub ..or probably write down the ingredients... I am voting this valuable hub up and sharing it.
mecheshier on September 12, 2012:
Great Hub. A recipe I will have to try next spring/summer. for we have a lot of aphids where I live. Thank you for sharing. Voted up for useful and awesomely green!
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 12, 2012:
Hi Rachel! Glad to hear from you. I've never used the spray on potato beetles, so I'm not sure, but I don't think it's strong enough to kill them. I've heard that B.t. works on the larvae, although I've never used it either. (We don't get enough beetles to bother with any sort of intervention beyond mulching & handpicking.) If you do give the garlic oil spray a try on beetles, let me know how it does. (: Later, Jill
Rachel Koski Nielsen from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on September 12, 2012:
Great hub, Jill! I'm sure this'll come in handy for me eventually. Do you know if the garlic spray will work on potato beetles, too? I usually douse them with diatomaceous earth, but that can get a little pricey after a while.
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 12, 2012:
Hey OldRoses. This is the first year we've really had an aphid problem, and I wanted to go organic with the solution. The beneficials just couldn't eat fast enough to take care of them. Hope the recipe works for you too! Thanks for commenting. --Jill
Caren White on September 12, 2012:
Great hub! I've heard of neem oil and insecticidal soap, but not garlic. I love that idea. And I always have garlic in the kitchen to cook with. Thanks for adding a new natural organic solution to my repertoire.