Lo, the aphid—the bane of all gardeners. Closely inspecting the colorful “plant louse” will reveal that both winged and non-winged female adults appear to be engaged in a delightful dance. While siphoning plant sap from tender, new plant tissue, they are producing copious amounts of honeydew.
Honeydew is a favorite food for many insects. Some species of ants tend particular species of aphids like cows. The ants will guard their sticky food supply against both parasitic wasps and common aphid predators.
A single female aphid may give birth to 100 offspring in her lifetime, and can produce up to 20 generations per year. Winged females and males may appear in the fall to produce eggs. Aided by wind, winged aphids are capable of flying over 70 miles!
Attempt to touch these “happy dancers” and they may pull their stylet mouthparts out of the stem or leaf and fall to the ground, only to climb up and return to a feeding site after you leave. Fortunately, there are many predators that seek out these tasty morsels for food, as well as parasites that need them for the survival of their own species.
If when looking at a group of adult and young aphids you see some individuals appear tan and globular, rather than pear-like in shape, and they’re green, red, purple or yellow—these “mummies” have parasitic wasp larvae completing their life cycles within. Eventually, the mummies will have tiny circular holes that are the evidence of an emerging adult female wasp. The newly emerged females will begin inserting eggs into non-parasitized aphids to produce more female wasps, and so on and so forth. More tan-colored mummies equal fewer and fewer aphids in the garden.
Ladybird beetle adults and larvae, syrphid fly larvae, assassin bug adults and larvae, and green lacewing larvae are top tier aphid predators. There are also two species of parasitic fungi that, under favorable conditions, attack certain aphid species. Even a few small birds like humming birds, titmice, chickadees and warblers enjoy aphid sweet treats.
Sustainable Removal Methods
However, if direct action is needed for an aphid infestation removal or reduction, you can:
This process will help get rid of aphids. But whatever you do, please avoid using any synthetic insecticides!
Another two-pronged approach to aphid control—which also provides useful plant growth modification—is the use of a liquid seaweed crème product that suffocates the aphids (by clogging their air intake structures) while reducing plant growth elongation. Less plant energy spent on producing lengthy stems and petioles will result in better plant conformity for both flowers and shrubs. Fruit and nut trees, berries, and fruit-like vegetables will all realize an increase in quality, shelf-life, and yield.
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