Aphids on plants are common problems for indoor and outdoor plants alike. These small, pear-shaped bugs particularly like to congregate on new growth. Here’s how to identify, control, and prevent aphids on plants.
We produced a whole mini-guide to common garden pests but decided that aphids deserve an article for themselves.
Aphids are generally harmless to plants unless the infestation gets out of control. A heavy infestation of aphids on plants results in curled, yellowing leaves and wilting plants.
How to Identify Aphids on Plants
|Quick Facts About Aphids|
|Species:||Over 4,000 species|
|Size:||About ⅛ inch long|
|Body Type:||Soft-bodied, pear-shaped|
|Key Features:||Curly antennae, two pointy projections off their rear (called cornicles)|
|Common Signs:||Produce sticky honeydew as they eat|
Aphids are only ⅛ inch long – that’s about the width of two stacked quarters. They’re soft-bodied (not hard like beetles) and come in a variety of colors depending on the species. Aphids may be black, red, green, brown, or yellow. Their color is also affected by what they eat.
Aphids produce a sticky residue called “honeydew,” which drips off of plants and attracts ants. Honeydew can also produce a mold around the base of the plant that may kill the plant.
Most adult aphids are wingless, but once a colony gets big enough, some female aphids grow wings and fly away. They then will start a new colony. Most female aphids are able to produce asexually, and male aphids only emerge in the fall before a new colony forms.
The Life Cycle of Aphids
Their life cycle can be quite complex. In fact, most aphid species go through multiple generations each year that each have slightly different life cycles. For example, the final generation of the year produces eggs that will overwinter before hatching rather than hatching in just seven to eight days.
How to Control Aphids on Plants
If you find aphids on your plants, you might want to control their population or remove them. There are several ways to do this, but my favorite is to just pinch off the leaves of infestations if things aren’t out of hand yet.
If your aphid infestation is a bit too serious for that, here are some other ways to control aphids on plants:
- Use natural predators like ladybugs or lacewings to control aphid populations. You can purchase these predators easily online.
- Use a Bug Blaster to kill and rinse away aphids (and other pests) with just a blast of water.
- Plant garlic or onion nearby, as the smell is repelling to aphids.
- Use other options like Diatomaceous Earth, Safer® Soap, and BotaniGuard ES are non-chemical but highly effective.
If none of these options are working, chemical pesticides are always an option. Be careful to select a pesticide that’s safe for use inside your home if the aphids are on indoor plants.
Photo by Jared Belson
How to Prevent Aphids on Plants
If you don’t have aphids yet, you’d probably like to keep it that way. One of the easiest ways to prevent aphid infestation is to plant some pest-repelling plants in your garden.
Luckily, garlic and onion aren’t the only pest-repelling plants around. Other pest-repelling plants include:
Many nice-smelling herbs, in other words, also double as aphid repellents. If you’d really like to keep aphids away from your plants, some nearby mint or coriander will go a long way!
Have you had an aphid infestation? How did you get rid of aphids on your plants?