Aphids can definitely mean trouble for garden, even though they are small and rather innocent looking upon first glance. These tiny pests are pear shaped and about 1/16 to ⅜ of an inch long. Aphids have long antennae, and some have wings. They can be a variety of colors, such as green, pink, yellow, black or gray. The nymphs look very similar to the adults, but they are small and wingless. If you notice aphids in your garden, act quickly.
What Makes Aphids a Nuisance?
The problem with aphids is that they feed on most ornamentals, flowers, shade trees, vegetable and fruit plants, sucking away the juices from the stems and leaves. When the sap is sucked away, it weakens the plant, which causes its own set of problems. Additionally, aphids spread disease from plant to plant, and they reproduce very quickly. A few generations of aphids can cause a lot of damage in your garden.
So, exactly how fast do aphids reproduce? Well, let’s just say they give new meaning to the jokes we hear about rabbits. Females can reproduce without mating and give birth continuously.The nymphs mature in 1 to 2 weeks and begin producing offspring themselves. As the cooler weather approaches, both male and female aphids are born, and they mate, laying eggs in the bark of trees. The eggs overwinter and hatch in the springtime. In mild climates, aphids can reproduce all year long.
What Type of Damage Do Aphids Leave Behind?
Adult and nymph aphids suck juices from the leaves and stems of plants, and the first signs are distorted leaves, buds, branches and flowers. Infested leaves and flowers will fall off, and patches of mold will grow on the plants. This is because aphids leave behind a sweet, sticky residue when they feed, and this allows mold to grow. When the mold starts to form, it makes the plant look ugly, and it blocks light from getting into the leaves. Since aphids also spread viruses, plants can become infected with other types of infestations as well.
I See Aphids in my Garden. What Do I Do?
As long as you have a small infestation, say, aphids limited to a particular plant, wipe them off with your hands or a soft cloth. Check back, and make sure they are gone. You can also blast them with the water hose. If you notice that they come back, spray them again until they are eradicated. Although aphids are annoying pests, getting rid of them is not nearly as invasive as with other types of pests.
Of course, not all aphid infestations will be eradicated by the garden hose. If the problem is more severe on your trees, you may need to call an ISA Certified Arborist who is also a licensed pest control applicator. He or she will first identity and diagnose the problem, then make recommendations for treatments. If your garden seems prone to aphids, consider introducing predator insects like ladybugs into your garden that use aphids as their prey.
Why Do I Notice More Ants?
When your garden has an aphid problem, you might notice a bigger ant problem, too. Ants are attracted to the sweet stuff excreted from the aphids, but don’t worry about them. Ants are an important part of our ecosystem, and they won’t harm your garden. So, instead of focusing your energy on getting rid of ants, focus on the real problem: the aphids.
Although aphids are stubborn pests, a close watch over your garden will identify them quickly, allowing you to get rid of them with a soft cloth, garden hose or other methods. For severe infestations, contact a professional arborist who will have access to stronger insecticidal products.