How to Get Rid of Aphids
If you grow plants in your yard, greenhouse, as houseplants, or in a flower or vegetable garden, the time will come when getting rid of aphids will become a necessary chore. Nearly every single plant has some species of aphid that feeds off it at times, so virtually no plant is immune to them. Although many species of aphid exists, controlling them is the same for all.
Aphids, Ants, and Honeydew
Aphids can live on plants for quite some time before their damage becomes noticeable. It is often when conditions are right and these insects multiply into dense populations that they begin to cause serious problems, and gardeners then begin thinking about getting rid of aphids. Even though they are very tiny insects, once they begin forming these large masses, it is hard not to spot them, especially on the undersides of leaves and at the areas of tender, new growth.
Once you embark on getting rid of aphids, you also get rid of their honeydew. The so-called honeydew substance is a thick, viscous liquid secreted by aphids that ants find highly attractive. This is why ants are so often found wherever aphids have taken up residence.
Ants feed on the honeydew and attack any beneficial insect that may come along that is a natural predator of aphids. This makes it important to treat the area for ants as well as for aphids.
Applications of insecticidal soap, neem oil, or narrow-range oil all do a good job getting rid of aphids. The trick is to check the plants regularly and treat accordingly. One treatment rarely kills all the aphids and their eggs, so by checking all plants once a week, the gardener fares much better in determining whether or not subsequent treatments need to be applied.
These products do kill existing beneficial insects as well as the aphids, but they do not leave a toxic residue, so beneficial insects returning to plants are not adversely affected.
Another method of getting rid of aphids is to simply wash them away. Blasting with a strong spray of water from the hose washes away not only the aphids but their ant-attracting honeydew secretions, as well. Of course, you need to take care to turn the water on to the undersides of all leaves and to not spray with such powerful force as to damage the leaves or other parts of the plant.
When using water as a way of getting rid of aphids, do so early in the day. This is true of any water-based application to plants whether indoors or our outside in the garden or yard area. The idea is to allow enough time for any water to dry completely off the plants in order to prevent diseases that come from fungus developing.
As long as the conditions are right, moderate to high humidity and warm temperatures, getting rid of aphids will be on most gardeners agendas. Although you will most likely never completely rid your plants of them, at least you can keep them under control.
Aphids and Tomatoes
Aphids and growing tomatoes seem to go together like summer and sunshine. If you find this troublesome combination in your garden, read on to find out ways people use (and what not to use!) to get rid of those sap-sucking little pests that eventually always seem to turn up in even the best-tended gardens at some time or the other.
The Inevitability of Aphids
Although it has not been scientifically proven, aphids and tomatoes seem to come together when gardeners have a propensity to over-water or over-fertilize. Humid conditions seem to attract aphids (and as a result, ants), as does feeding your tomatoes too well.
Before you haul out the hose or the tomato food, keep this in mind. Water only as much as your tomato plants actually needs and do the same about feeding them. Too much of a good thing often turns into a bad thing, and finding a thriving population of aphids on your tomato plants is one of those bad things.
Many folks pull the sevin dust off the garden shed shelf, thinking this chemical will do the job to cut the connection between aphids and tomatoes. It won’t. Neither will the liquid form of sevin. Sevin will, however, kill many beneficial insects that actually prey on aphids, so only apply sevin if you intentionally want to help out your population of pet aphids.
Aphids fall under the category of insects that suck sap, and sevin works far better on insects that chew, so save the sevin for the caterpillars and other chewing pests you find in your garden, if you are intent on using it.
Don’t Go Buggy Over Aphids
To get the job done of severing all ties between aphids and tomatoes, malathion, diazinon, Dursban, orthene, and pyrethrins make up the heavy artillery of chemical pesticides that kill nearly everything, including aphids, in your garden. You may be leery of eating tomatoes sprayed with such heavy-duty killers, however, and reading the labels on each of these chemicals containers may prevent you from using these on tomatoes.
Developing cancer on down the line is just not worth the perceived need to kill bugs in the garden, no matter if they are aphids or some other insect. If you must use a chemical, try insecticidal soap, instead. It is far less potent, which means it may not kills as many aphids, but it also may not kill YOU!
The safest means of parting the ways between aphids and tomatoes lies in an ordinary garden hose. By simply spraying off the bugs, you not only not risk poisoning beneficial insects, you never have to worry about ingesting anything toxic yourself.
You do need to take care not to set the spray too hard, or you will damage the plants. And you will also be re-spraying the plants, especially the undersides of the leaves and anywhere there is temptingly tender new growth, every few days. This can be somewhat of a hassle, but considering the alternative, is it really?
Aphids and tomatoes as a duet can be a pain in the neck, but it is not the end of the world. Leaves curling and dying cause most damage seen from aphids, and the unappetizing thought of accidentally biting into a tomato with aphids on it is not pleasant. But think about what you are doing before you do anything, and let the simplest remedy be your best solution. Considering just spraying those aphids off, and then enjoy the rest of your gardening day!
Homemade Aphid Control
Aphids are a common garden pest that can be deterred by the use of homemade aphid control. Aphids are sometimes called “ant cows” because they are often seen in the league with ants. The ants actually keep them and feed on a substance the aphids produce, called honeydew.
When ants move from plant to plant and take their aphids with them, they spread any type of plant diseases that may be present. The aphids themselves suck the juices from the plants and multiply rapidly. There are a number of methods of homemade aphid control that have been found to be effective.
In many cases, homemade aphid control does not harm beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and their larvae, lacewings, praying mantis, and others. These beneficial insects eat aphids, so you don’t want to use anything that will harm them. Some homemade insect sprays are somewhat toxic, though, so you will need to exercise caution in using them.
One simple thing you can try if you typically have aphid problems in your vegetable garden is to grow a row of nasturtiums. Aphids will prefer them to the food crops, particularly if the nasturtiums have yellow flowers. This method of homemade aphid control is called planting a “trap crop.”
Water Treatment Method
Another homemade aphid control method is to simply give the plants that are infested a hard spray of water from the hose each evening for a while. This discourages the ants and knocks the aphids off the plants, killing some. It has no effect on beneficial insects such as lacewings. One homeowner tried this method, and was delighted to see the lacewings simply jump off the plants momentarily while the aphids and ants received their “treatment.”
There are some other simple forms of homemade aphid control that don’t require putting together a concocted bug spray. (We will get to concocted bug sprays in a moment.) Try laying a flat square of aluminum foil at the base of your plant. This will cause light to bounce upon the lower sides of the leaves, which the aphids will not like. Also, it is reported that a bright yellow pan of water will attract aphids, which will then drown in the water. Try adding a drop or two of dishwashing liquid to ensure that the insects drown.
One of the simplest sprays you can make for homemade aphid control is a soap spray. To each gallon of water add a tablespoon of castile soap. Let the soap dissolve into the water, then spray away. Soap causes the surface tension of water to be reduced, which makes it able to be absorbed by the exoskeleton of an insect. Without soap, water simply beads up on the side of an insect. With soap added, water is absorbed into the insect, which in turn drowns.
Some herb teas also act as homemade aphid control, but you don’t brew these like you would a cup of tea for yourself. For instance, take a quart of stinging nettles herb and cover with water. Put a lid on the concoction and let it set and ferment for about three weeks. Strain off the strong brew. For spraying, dilute this tea by adding a cup of the brew to seven cups of water.
A similar recipe is to chop up a couple of cups of the leaves from tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, tobacco, or other nightshade family plants. Make the homemade aphid control liquid by letting them soak overnight in two cups of water. In the morning, strain off the liquid and add two more cups of water to the liquid. Use this liquid in your spray bottle.
Another simple recipe for a homemade aphid control spray is to add a cup of isopropyl (or rubbing) alcohol to a quart of water. This spray can damage tender leaves and is not recommended for delicate plants like African violets.
Table of Contents
- 1 How to Get Rid of Aphids
- 2 Aphids and Tomatoes
- 3 Homemade Aphid Control