- 1. How to Identify Aphids
- 2. The Life Cycle of Aphids
- 3. Typical Habitats of Aphids
- 4. Removal Methods
- 5. Aphid Prevention Tips
Aphids are insect pests that will commonly affect houseplants. If you’re interested in methods to get rid of them, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll explore the best removal methods for these small yet persistent insects. Learning more about aphids could make a significant difference in terms of controlling the insect’s population. Take a look at the following sections in this article that will help you resolve your aphid infestation problems.
1. How to Identify Aphids
The first step when it comes to any type of pest control involves figuring out the exact nature of the pest. Aphids are fairly easy to recognize by their small, pear-shaped bodies featuring different colors. The most common aphids can be light green or yellow but there are also pink, brown, and white species. Nymphs can be quite hard to distinguish from adults.
The tiny size of aphids makes this an easy pest to miss on your plants. You might need a magnification tool to observe them properly. Notice some distinctive characteristics of aphids such as the long antennae and waxy coating on their bodies. Lots of species of aphids can be identified properly by the presence of short tubes found on the insects’ hind end.
Aphids lack wings but in some rare cases they can develop the ability to fly to reach places with greater food quality. It’s usually the case when the population of a particular colony gets too large. These insect pests tend to stick together in large numbers so an extended infestation is easier to observe on your plants. Sometimes, aphids can be spotted feeding singly or in less numerous populations.
Even if you’re not sure about the presence of aphids, inspecting plant damage can usually provide enough telltale signs. Aphids feed on plant sap and this can cause many problems for the plant’s leaves and branches. Check for deformations, curling, stunted growth, or leaves dropping off altogether. Many plant surfaces can show the excrement of the insect which looks like a sticky honeydew. This substance makes the plant vulnerable to sooty mold fungus diseases and can attract other insects like ants.
2. The Life Cycle of Aphids
Understanding the life cycle of an aphid can be useful for elimination and prevention measures. This insect can get easily widespread thanks to the ability to grow its population continuously even when the environmental conditions aren’t ideal. This is an advantage compared to similar insects.
Adult females can give birth to lots of nymphs in a relatively short time, especially in warmer climates. The young insects go through multiple stages of development and rapidly become larger. Full maturity for aphids can be reached in around a week. In that time, a female aphid can birth approximately 80 young so that explains the difficulty in keeping the insect’s population down.
3. Typical Habitats of Aphids
Where are aphids found? There’s no exact answer to this question because there are lots of different species of aphids out there. Some will only feed on specific vegetable crops while others prefer flowering plants. As a general rule, aphids are more attracted to new growth. Some of the most vulnerable plants include broccoli, cabbage, milkweed, citrus trees, and roses.
At the first signs of sooty mold, you should check all the plants in the garden carefully because you will most likely need to deal with a considerable infestation. Make sure you inspect the underside of the leaves because entire colonies of aphids can easily hide there. Flowering plants like lilies will usually host aphid populations at the base of the plant so it’s recommended to check all the parts of the plants.
4. Removal Methods
Now that you have a good understanding of aphids, it’s time to explore the most effective solutions to get rid of them. Controlling these insect pests can often require both organic and chemical removal methods as well as reliable prevention measures. Some gardeners can easily become very frustrated with aphids because out-of-control infestations can be particularly hard to manage.
You will quickly realize that simply pinching and pruning heavily-infested parts of the plant aren’t enough to stop the aphid population. We’ll start listing the best solutions from the mildest to the strongest. Check out the following removal methods to eradicate aphids once and for all:
4.1 Use a Water Hose
Minor infestations will typically not require specialized pest control methods. A powerful stream of water can usually remove them easily. This is a recommended solution if you only have a single houseplant infected or there’s a really small aphid population. Use a powerful garden hose such as this reliable Flexzilla model found on Amazon.
Make sure you spray the entire plant thoroughly with water, especially the underside of the leaves. That’s usually where aphids can hide. One treatment with the water hose won’t be usually enough even for a small infestation. It’s important to keep running water over the plant consistently in the following days until aphids disappear completely.
4.2 Go for a Natural Blend of Essential Oils
Organic pest control methods may not be particularly effective against serious infestations but they’ll be surprisingly reliable in most common cases. Essential oils are recommended against aphids because they have solid repellant properties while providing a pleasant fragrance as a bonus effect. As long as you’re diluting the essential oils in plenty of water, there’s no damage risk for your plants.
A simple DIY mixture of rosemary, peppermint, and clove essential oils can deliver enough potency to handle a typical aphid problem. You can also try a personalized blend with a few drops of various essential oils to spray on the plants. The oils may not actually kill the aphids but the naturally repulsive properties are sure to encourage the insects to avoid your plants.
4.3 Try a DIY Soap and Water Spray
Before trying out stronger chemicals, it’s best to check the effectiveness of some DIY solutions that are easy to make and feature low toxicity. One of the best examples involves the mixing of a small quantity of liquid soap in a container with water. Pure soap works best when it comes to damaging the protective layer of the aphids without affecting the plant because it’s diluted in water.
While it’s not a damaging method for beneficial insects, aphids can be fairly easily eliminated by this DIY spray. It’s a reasonably strong method for typical infestations with this pest. Just remember to be thorough when it comes to spraying the plant. Focus on all sides of the leaves and the buds. It may be required to repeat the homemade spray application multiple times for a complete aphid elimination.
If you don’t want to waste time mixing DIY sprays, consider this organic insecticidal soap available on Amazon that offers a pre-mixed formulation with fast-acting abilities against aphids and other common insect pests such as mealybugs. It’s also more convenient to apply because you don’t need to worry about finding a spray bottle.
4.4 Dust Plants with Diatomaceous Powder
Diatomaceous powder is a type of sedimentary rock that has multiple benefits in terms of pest control. This natural product contains silica and can also have beneficial effects when consumed like a food supplement. For that reason, you can find lots of food-grade diatomaceous powders on the market. Use this product to lightly dust plants and destroy the protective layer of wax of aphids which effectively dehydrates them to death.
Check out the DiatomaceousEarth DE10 on Amazon that’s safe for lots of applications, including aphid control on plants. Compared to other removal methods, the diatomaceous powder is a bit harder to apply unless you make use of a specialized tool. We recommend this duster created for applying diatomaceous powder. It makes it a breeze to lightly spread the product on plants affected by aphids. Periodic re-applications can be required to get the most benefits of the powder.
4.5 Consider Neem Oil
A strong repellent for lots of pesky houseplant pests, neem oil is a solid organic solution to get rid of an aphid infestation. Just make sure you’re careful to use it correctly because strong doses can also repel beneficial insects (if they’re present). Neem oil is available commercially either in a pure form that requires dilution in water or a more convenient spray form that’s ready to apply to protect plants from aphids and other pests.
Instead of reaching for potentially harmful insecticides, it’s worth trying out neem oil first to deal with a heavy aphid infestation. This product is able to eliminate the insects in all their developmental stages so it’s usually more effective than other organic removal methods. Another beneficial aspect is the ability of neem oil to prevent fungal diseases.
4.6 Use Commercial Insecticides
When you’re facing a particularly challenging aphid infestation, typical methods won’t be enough to stop it. Although it’s not recommended for everyone, you can use a commercial insecticide as a last resort to destroy a serious invasion of aphids. There are many powerful pesticides out there and many of them can be harmful to certain plants. Make sure you choose an insecticide with a specific formulation that’s proven to eradicate aphids and avoid excessively damaging products.
We recommend an insecticide with Imidacloprid as an active ingredient such as this spray from Bayer, available on Amazon. It’s specialized for efficient insect control for various types of plants. This is a low-risk insecticide that kills aphids and other pests while also reducing fungal disease risk. As opposed to more toxic commercial products, this Imidacloprid-based insecticide isn’t harmful to beneficial insects or hummingbirds. Just pay close attention to the directions on the package for getting the desired results.
5. Aphid Prevention Tips
Aphids can be quite resilient and many different species of plants are susceptible to an infestation. For these reasons, it’s essential to incorporate some reliable prevention methods in your regular plant maintenance routine if you want to avoid future aphid problems. There are lots of good gardening practices you can try to ensure that aphids won’t find it easy to start a colony on your plants. This also means that you won’t have to resort to potentially harmful chemicals if you manage to keep aphids under control through prevention.
5.1 Employ Natural Predators
By introducing beneficial insects in your garden, you can ensure that any potential aphid infestation can be reliably stopped in its tracks. Bugs such as lacewings and ladybugs are natural predators for aphids. This means that you can just let them work for you if you manage to provide a proper habitat for these beneficial insects.
While there are various methods to make your garden more attractive for aphid predators, there’s also the possibility to directly purchase the beneficial bugs. Ladybugs are a good pest control option if you favor a natural solution. It’s not very easy to maintain a large enough population of ladybugs because only the larvae feed primarily on aphids but it’s worth releasing them in your garden to control aphids. Take a look at this pack of live ladybugs from Amazon.
Another good option when it comes to natural aphid predators, green lacewing larvae are very effective for gardeners who prefer natural pest control solutions. Check out this pack of slow-release eggs of lacewings that should hatch into effective killers of aphids. As with other online orders of beneficial insects, there’s a risk of problems such as eggs not hatching or bugs being dead on arrival. Consider using only trusted brands or visiting a local nursery to find the best live bugs for your particular pest issues.
5.2 Grow Helpful Plants
Some gardeners avoid keeping plants such as onions and garlic next to flowering plants due to their powerful smells but these aromatic plants can be very helpful as deterrents for aphids. The protective effect provided by the pungent odors can be extended to other plants in the garden so you can easily prevent an invasion of aphids. You don’t necessarily have to grow plants like garlic as oregano, sage, chive, and others will also work well to repel pests such as aphids.
Alternatively, some plants can be grown specifically to attract aphids and protect other plant life in your garden. Some examples include nasturtium and mustard which can be helpful to have for prevention reasons. Any potential infestation will be less likely to affect vulnerable plants as you take the focus of the pests towards those other plants. Companion planting is highly recommended for controlling various pest infestations, not just aphids.
5.3 Watch Out for Ant Colonies
If you have an ant colony close to your garden, that can be a risk factor for an aphid infestation. Ants can often focus on the natural predators of aphids, which results in encouraging the pest even more. Ants might even offer protection for aphids to feed on their secretions so it’s safe to say that getting rid of ant colonies can help to deal with the aphid infestation as well.
5.4 Use Dormant Oil
Aphids can also affect fruit trees and it can be particularly hard to get rid of them because the insects lay eggs that survive over the winter period. The best preventative solution is to apply dormant oil, such as this product from Bonide on Amazon. It’s ideal to handle off-season pests and avoid future infestations that can damage fruit trees.