Controlling Aphids in Your Garden

Good Things Don’t Always Come in Small Packages

Aphids are small vampire-like insects. They have specialized mouths capable of piercing plants and sucking out their vital juices. Aphids are easy to identify; while they may vary in color depending upon species and host plant, they’re pear-shaped and usually wingless. They also have a pair of cornicles or tail pipes sticking out behind them unlike other soft-bodied insects.

The aphid’s uniqueness among insects doesn’t stop there, though. There are very few Counts among these vampires; this is a species of primarily Countesses. Female aphids bear live young without needing to mate that spring. In the fall, female aphids produce a limited generation of males, with whom they mate; after mating, they lay eggs which won’t hatch until the following spring. These spring-hatchlings are exclusively female and the cycle begins again.

Aphids aren’t particular in their choice of victim plants; while they prefer peas, beans, cukes, tomatoes, melons, pumpkins, squash, cabbage and potatoes, they’ll eat almost anything. They’re also great transmitters of crops disease.

A small infestation may not be so bad, but if you’re seeing curled leaves, stunted growth or sooty mold (blackened leaves), you have a problem. What do you do about it? Read on:

  • Send in the vampire hunters! No, not Buffy, sorry. There are many beneficial predatory insects that love a good aphid buffet.
  • Spray your sturdier plants with a strong blast of water to dislodge aphids.
  • Don’t use broad spectrum pesticides; they’ll kill the beneficial insects, too.
  • Avoid over-fertilizing your garden. If you have an aphid infestation, the nitrogen boost from the fertilizer will actually energize aphid reproduction and you’ll soon have a much larger infestation.
  • Weeding limits the number of plants that could feed aphids and gives you the perfect chance to inspect your plants, specifically ornamentals near your veggies.
  • If you can, prune away heavily-infested portions of plants and trash them, along with the infesting aphids.
  • Use horticultural soaps or oils, such as Safer Insect Killing Soap or neem oil, if possible. These are contact products, so you’ll have to reapply as needed. Always make sure you get the leaves’ undersides, as aphids love to hide there.

Keeping watch and following these easy tips, you’ll have a much easier time controlling aphids in your garden.