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Past Articles Library | Organic Pest Control | Aphids


THE APHID  (Aphididae)

Aphids attack many of our favorite garden and houseplants. They range throughout North America and consist of more than 1,350 species.



Adults are fragile, pear-shaped insects, 1/16 to 3/8 inches (0.158-0.952 cm) long, with two short tubes (called Cornicles) projecting backward from the tip of the abdomen. They have long antennae and are variously colored green, pink, black or dusty gray. They can be winged or wingless. Winged forms appear later in the season, when there is crowding in the aphid colony or when there are changes in the host plant. Aphid wings are transparent, longer than the body, and held roof-like over the back.



Eggs overwinter on woody stems or in crevices in bark. They hatch in the spring into "stem" females that give birth continuously to live nymphs. Nymphs mature in 1-2 weeks and start producing offspring. Because of their swift reproductive rate, aphid colonies develop very quickly. When days become shorter in the fall, males and normal females are born; these offspring mate and the females lay eggs, which are the overwintering stage of the insect. In greenhouses, some strains of aphids continue to give birth to nymphs year-round.



Most fruit and vegetable plants, flowers, ornamentals, fruit and shade trees. Some aphid species feed on only one kind of plant; some alternate between two different species of host plants; yet others attack a wide range of plants.



Adults and nymphs pierce the leaf and suck huge amounts of plant sap. Feeding often causes distorted leaves, buds, and flowers; severely infested leaves and flowers may drop. As they feed, aphids excrete a sweet honeydew onto leaves, which supports growth of sooty mold and attracks ants. Some species spread plant viruses as they feed. In fall, late feeding by aphids helps harden off succulent new growth on fruit trees.




Organic Control: Spray Neem oil to control. You can also spray dormant oil to control overwintering eggs on fruit trees. Spray plants frequently with a strong stream of water to knock aphids off the plants; most will be too injured to survive. Release aphid midges, lady beetles, lacewings, or parasitic wasps. Spray insecticidal soap, or make homemade garlic sprays. Chemical Control: Spray with Pyrethrum, Rotenone, Diazinon, Malathion. In Addition: Ants often maintain aphid colonies for their honeydew and in return fight off the aphid's natural predators. Getting rid of the ants often permits natural aphid contols (predators and parasites) to re-establish themselves.


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Rotate Certain Crops

Avoid planting potatoes and tomatoes where they grew last year. They carry the same diseases, so it's best to rotate them.

You'll have much healthier plants, and more successful crops.

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