I am an avid self-taught gardener (I learn as problems arise), bird watcher, and nature lover.
The aphid insect, though small in size, can cause major damage to your flowers and plants. If you do not know what an aphid is or what it looks like, you will quickly learn once this bug starts to consume your plants. I will explain what aphids are, how they can damage your plants, and how you can get rid of them naturally.
What Are Aphids?
Aphids are also known as greenflies or plant lice. Their soft body is pear-shaped, with no visible protective shell. The over 200 different species of aphids come in every shade of the rainbow. The most common color is green, but other shades include red, black, yellow or brown.
Some aphids favor specific types of plants, while the rest are content to eat any young tender shoot, emerging leaf, or twig that your garden may produce.
Another important factor to know about this insect is that they are capable of asexual reproduction, which is the ability to produce offspring without a mate. They can produce over 100 offspring in a matter of a week. Since they have the ability to spawn new offspring throughout the summer, what may be a small problem in the beginning can become a huge problem in a very short time. Thus, it is important to get rid of these destructive pests the moment you see them, or they will flourish and destroy your whole garden.
Common Signs Aphids Are Damaging Your Plants
The aphid's stylet, which is a powerful suction device in their mouth, will puncture the stalks and stems of the plant and suck the juices out of the plant. Some of the common signs that aphids are attacking your plants are:
- Your plants are curled, deformed, and have brown leaves. You will have to look under the curled leaves to find the aphids, because they will hide there.
- Swollen leaves. Only certain species cause this deformity.
- "Sooty mold." This is caused by mold colonies feeding off the "honeydew," which is the waste of the aphid. The sooty mold will be gummy to the touch, and can turn the plant leaves black or charcoal in color.
If not kept in check, aphids can suck the juices out of plants and can even transfer viruses that can distort the growth of plants.
Preventive Measures to Protect Plants
Before I go into the natural methods of getting rid of aphids, there are several things that you can do as preventive measures to protect your plants.
- Inspect your plants frequently, checking the underside of branches and leaves. This should be a weekly inspection, because the wind can carry these tiny beasts to your plants.
- If you purchased a plant, check for aphids before placing it into your garden.
How to Get Rid of Aphids Naturally
Since aphids do not have much of a shell or armor to protect them, you can get rid of or slow this pest down in some natural ways.
- Squish them. This is a very time-consuming method of getting rid of these insects. If you decide to go this route, be sure to wear rubber gloves, or the juice from the bug may irritate your skin.
- Hit the bugs with the hose. Spraying your plants with water will dislodge the critters and they will not return to the same plant. There are hose attachments, like the bug blaster, that you can buy that is used for this specific purpose.
- Get rid of colonies. Colonies of aphids can be snipped off. If you find aphids in groups or colonies, snip off the part of the plant that contain the colonies and kill the bugs. While this will not get rid of all the bugs, it will help to lessen additional breeding.
- Use only slow-release fertilizers. These insects love overly fertilized trees and plants, thus, a slow-release type of fertilizer on your plants will help keep aphids at bay. In addition, it is wise to put a covering over your plants until they are large enough to withstand the aphids and other insects.
- Get rid of ants. Ants will keep aphids alive, because aphids secrete honeydew or sugary sap, which benefits the ant. The mutualistic relationship between ants and aphids is so strong that you may see ants carrying aphids to other less populated plants. If you see ants running up and down the shoots of your plants, it's time to check to see if you have aphids in your garden. Not only will you need to get rid of the aphids, you will need to get rid of the ants.
- Plant flowers. Plant marigolds, mums, asters, dahlias, and zinnias in your garden. Why? These plants will attract insects that will prey on aphids. Their natural predators include ladybugs, parasitic wasps, and lacewings. (Be sure to plant these flowers away from the garden plants you want to protect.)
- Plant onions, garlic and chives. The odor of the plants drives the bugs away.
- Enlist the use of an old folk remedy. Though this old folk remedy is a little extreme, many swear by it. Shred some banana peels and either bury them around your plants or drape them over your plants. One individual took the banana peels and draped them over her rose bushes. In a day or two the aphids will be gone.
- Use your own homemade insecticide. Some people have made their own insecticide from dish soap and lukewarm water. It will destroy the waxy coating of the aphids' bodies, causing them to die from dehydration. However, with this homemade insecticide you have to spray it directly onto the bugs. Whatever mixture you use, you will need to repeat this every two days. Please note: if your plants are exposed to direct sunlight, the mixture of the insecticide and the sun can cause the plants to burn, especially if you use the oil version.
- Keep toads around your garden. Toads love ants, aphids, grasshoppers, crickets, and flies. I have been able to attract several toads around my rose bushes, and there are several around the garden, I just have to keep an eye on my dog, who loves to make sport of them.
- Wrens love aphids. Place a wren birdhouse in your yard.
- Yellow traps. Place a yellow glass with a couple of drops of dish soap and water. The bugs will be attracted to it, and when they enter the glass filled with soapy water, they will drown.
- Diatomaceous earth. If all else fails, you can try a natural insecticide called “Diatomaceous Earth.” This insecticide is safe for both humans and animals.
These are all the natural methods in which you can use to get rid of aphids or prevent them from overtaking your garden, whether it is a vegetable garden or a flower garden.
Homemade Aphid Insecticide
1. Simple Homemade Aphid Insecticide
Mix two teaspoons dish soap with a bottle of lukewarm water.
2. Homemade Insecticide #2
- 1 cup mineral oil or vegetable oil
- 2 cups water
- 2 teaspoons dish soap (no bleach)
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 I use Diatomaceous Earth as an insecticide?
Answer: There are several ways to apply; one way is the dry method and the other is mixing with water. With the water method mix:
1) 1/4 cup Diatomaceous Earth with 1 gallon of water. When it is dry, it will begin to work.
With the dry method sprinkle:
1) underside of leaves.
2) base of plants, as well as, on the ground around plants.
Note: It is safe for birds and pets. However, it will kill any insect with an exoskeleton, so apply cautiously if you do not want to kill off the helpful insects.
© 2012 vwriter
vwriter (author) from US on March 24, 2012:
I do know that earth worms love coffee grounds. Sometimes you forget the simple things that you do throw away that can be of some use in the garden. Thanks for the input.
Golfgal from McKinney, Texas on March 23, 2012:
The coffee grounds and egg shells are more for fertilization, I bought it so I feel I should use it...free fertilizer that we throw away everyday. My plants flourish and I swear it is the coffee grounds. I think they attract earth worms too that benefits the plants root system and also provides additional fertilization.
vwriter (author) from US on March 22, 2012:
Thanks Golfgal. My neighbor used the banana peels. I'll have to tell her about the coffee grounds and egg shells. Just to save guard my roses, I'm going to try the coffee grounds and egg shells. However, I've got two fat toads that help my bug population.
Golfgal from McKinney, Texas on March 22, 2012:
Loved it!!! I personally like to squish the pesky critters. You did a great job explaining the aphid. I used to spray a lot of insecticide until I learned that it was affecting honey bees and butterflies in the garden. Now i try very hard to use natural sources to defeat pesky critters. i have been using banana peels in the roses for a long time as well as all my coffee grounds and eggs shells and I do not have any aphids on my roses usually. I voted you up and useful.
vwriter (author) from US on March 22, 2012:
I'm glad I could be of assistance. And, you definitely cannot show these insects any mercy or you won't have any plants. I'd advise attacking them with more than one solution.
Jason Menayan from San Francisco on March 22, 2012:
Thank you so much for this informative Hub! Plenty of options to try. Our outdoor plants were decimated by little brownish aphids, so I look forward to trying the methods you've outlined here...without an ounce of mercy!