Aphids are among the most destructive pests because they seem to appear almost anywhere. They’re not particularly picky about the plants they attack. And, they’ll go after those outdoors in the garden as well as indoor houseplants. Because they can balloon in number so quickly, they can wreak havoc in a short period of time. So, if you’re frustrated with dealing with these pests, here’s how to get rid of aphids naturally.
Nowadays, I prefer dealing with pests without having to use pesticides, which were my weapon of choice earlier. But, as you grow as a gardener, you learn better ways that are less toxic to plants, animals and people.
As such, the guide below focuses on different methods that don’t require chemicals to get rid of aphids.
What is an Aphid?
Aphids are very small, soft-bodied creatures that look like small dots or oblong spots on plants. They’re nasty creatures that grow quickly in number and seem to be able to appear in almost any garden.
They harm plants by sucking their sap. And, due to their large number they can easily weaken and overwhelm a once healthy plant.
One thing worth noting is that there are over 5,000 aphid species around. They all have similar qualities in that they look alike, are very small, grow quickly and suck on a plant’s juices.
However, each species has their own characteristics. As such, they have different colors, sizes, distinctive features.
One example is the green aphid which are very damaging. You’re also likely to see gray, black, red, brown and other colored aphis.
That said, there’s good news. While these grow in number quickly, aphids are slow movers which makes it easy to catch up to them or notice them. Their large number also lets you easily notice them.
Finally, they’re among the easier pests to get rid of.
What Do Aphids Look Like?
In a way, aphids look like mini cockroaches in terms of the their body structure. But, they do not have the dark brown color. Instead, they can come in different colors with many being green or orange.
But, because of their small sizes (1/16 to 1/4 inches in length) you won’t really see the details.
For the most part they look like small oblong critters to the naked eye.
And, since they often come as a group, they’re most noticeable as small spots and bumps on leaves and stems of plants.
One important thing about aphids is there are many different varieties. These will vary in size, shape and color. In fact, their colors include translucent, light green, pink, red, browh, orange, white and gray just to name a few.
Some also have wings that allow them to spread more easily to other plants.
Why Are There So Many Aphids?
Aphids not only seem to appear in just about any garden but also grow rather quickly. That’s what makes them very dangerous.
As a group, they can inflict more damage to plants due to their number.
Their fast growing population means they can get more sap from a particular plant draining it of energy and ability to sustain itself.
Just as importantly, most aphids don’t need to mate to reproduce. During the spring, female adults will give birth.
And unlike most pests, aphids also don’t need to hatch. Instead, they come out for the female and will mature rapidly. This makes each generation come around fairly quickly without the need for males.
So, If you spot aphids during the spring and summer, almost all of these are females with the ability to produce more female nymphs.
Life Cycle of Aphids
Aphids thrive in moderate temperatures. This is why they’re very prevalent in here in California. Even worse, because the temperature stays relatively steady with no freezing winters, they grow all year round.
This makes them grow in number very quickly.
As mentioned above, aphids don’t have to mate to reproduce.
Instead, female adults will give birth to female nymphs.
Aphids likewise don’t lay egg. Upon giving birth to young female nymphs, it take between 7 to 10 days for these young ones to reach maturity
Additionally, the aphid population grows very quickly because these females can produce 80 more young aphids in a 7 day period.
That said, some species take a bit more time because they go through “normal” route of reproduction for insects. That is, these species mate then lay eggs.
After that, they wait for the eggs to hatch when the conditions are right, which is usually spring.
So, for these species, you’ll see the jump in aphid numbers around this time of the year.
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Where Do Aphids Come From?
Aphids will appear where there are vegetables and fruits. Some enjoys flowering plants as well. And, other aphid species go after trees and bushes.
The variety of targets is due to the many different kinds of aphids, many of which will have their own preferences. As such, you really need to inspect all your plants.
These destructive pests like to hide on the undersides of leaves. But, they are easy to spot because of their number Unfortunately, by the time they become obvious, you already have a full blown infestation occurring.
In addition to destroying your plants, aphids also attract ants due to the honeydew residue they leave behind. And, if that’s not enough, the sweet honeydew also attracts sooty mold which increases your problems.
So, it is a good idea not to wait for the aphids to grow in number.
However, the only way to spot them early is through regular inspection especially on the undersides of the leaves.
What Do Aphids Eat?
While not pleasing to the eyes, having lots of aphids on the exterior of plants is just like having black ants, not really worrisome because they don’t harm anyone.
But, the problem with aphids is that they feed on the sap of the plant and will destroy the leaves. Since the sap carries the nutrients and fluids around the plant, it will weaken the more sap it loses.
And as the aphid population grows, the more they can overwhelm the plant. As a result, you’ll soon see a healthy plant wither, wilt or have yellow leaves.
Another problem with aphids is they’re disease carriers. This is likewise the case for some other pests which is why you want to keep them away from your garden.
If they chew on a plant that’s diseased and spread to the next plant, they’ll pass that on. So, can speed up any spread of disease in your garden.
Do Coffee Grounds, Banana Peels, And Other Home Remedies Get Rid of Aphids
If you look around the web, you’ll see many websites touting the power of all sorts of home remedies to get rid of aphids and other pests.
Coffee grounds and banana peels are among the most popular. Not sure why but maybe because they’re odd items that you’d never thing will be useful in the garden.
In any case, I highly suggest checking the site before believing them since I noticed that many are not even gardeners at all. In all likelihood, they’ve never even tried it.
Unfortunately, I have.
And, I can tell you that they don’t really work on aphids. Nor are they effective on other pests be it snails, slugs or what have you.
So, just place these kitchen scraps in the compost bin instead.
How To Get Rid Of Aphids
While aphids can grow quickly in number and pose a threat to your plants’ health, they’re fairly easy to get rid of once you spot them.
The key is early discovery so you don’t have to deal with full-blown infestations where not only are there so many of them but they’ve also spread to other plants and have significantly weakened the infected plant.
Hose Them Off
The simplest one I like to do is to just hose them off. The stream of water from the garden hose is enough to wash them away. The only downside here is you don’t want to wash them off to another plant which starts another cycle.
Thus, this works best for plants in containers since you can take it out to the driveway or somewhere there are no other plants then just spray them off.
Another benefits of water is it washed off the honeydew which is a byproduct of the aphid’s sap-sucking process. This keeps ants from coming around since they’re attracted to the honeydew.
Note that one washing away often is not enough. You want to do this every few days until there are no more aphids coming around.
Remove Them By Hand
This is another simple solution to aphids. But, it is one of my least favorite ones.
You’ll need to don a pair of gloves for this one as you’ll be taking the aphids off by hand.
The process is easy, just brush them off or collect them with your hands and dump the aphids you get into a bucket of soapy water.
You can likewise prune the affects leaves and stems and put these into the bucket.
Soap and Water
From above, you already know that soapy water will kill these pests. As such, you can use that knowledge to get rid of the remaining aphids that are still attacking the plant.
All you need to do is mix a liquid soap with water. I like to use castille soap or Safer Brand soap, which is an insecticidal soap. Thus, it will get rid of other pests like whiteflies, mites, mealybugs, scale and earwigs as well in addition to aphids.
Soap works because it dissolves the outer protective layer of aphids and able to reach its body.
Of course, you can make your own insecticidal soap recipe as well.
If you have cayenne pepper, you can use this home remedy to eliminate aphids from plants.
Mix in a pinch of cayenne pepper with a teaspoon of dish soap and water. Once blended, apply to the plants.
This mixture works as a repellant while the soap works like that above.
Neem oil is one of my favorite pest control and treatment remedies. It is organic and is easily to use. It is also very effective against many different pests besides aphids.
Make sure to read the instructions when using. Neem oil is very potent and you’ll need to dilute it with water. Otherwise, it will cause leaf burn in addition to getting rid of pests and preventing them from coming back.
You can likewise use horticultural oil as an alternative.
Both work by spraying them on the plant’s leaves. Although for maximum effectivity, you want to spray them directly on the pests.
Essential oils also work. Although they are generally expensive so you do have to watch how much you mix in.
That said, aphids don’t like fragrant plants. So, peppermint, rosemary, thyme and other essential oils can be mixed with water into a spray bottle. All you need is one of these scents and spray the solution on affected plants.
For more severe aphid attacks, pyrethrins is a good option. You can get a mix from Safer Brands which comes in a spray form. It combines fatty acids along with pyrethrins. And, you can use this to spray and kill aphids as well as many other insects that are bothering your plants.
Beneficial Insects and Animals
Speaking of insects, there are certain bugs and animals that can do the work for you. These will get rid of aphids and keep them away.
Ladybugs are probably the most popular insects used to eliminate aphids. These are natural predators to aphids. As such, you can buy some ladybugs and release them won the aphids.
Before you do, it is important to understand that there needs to be enough aphids for ladybugs to work. That’s because they need enough to feed on and them lay eggs. The reason being that it is the larvae that gets rid of most of the aphids.
Lacewings work in similar fashion with the larvae being the most potent against aphids. Like ladybugs, lacewings are most effective when there are many aphids. And, their larvae can easily consume between 500 to 600 aphids before reaching adulthood.
You can purchase lacewings from your local garden center.
Birds are another benefits animal to have in the garden. They eat worms and bugs. This makes birds helpful if you need to limit insects from your garden.
Additionally, birds in the garden look very beautiful. So, it’s a win-win.
My Final Thoughts
Learning how to get rid of aphids naturally in your garden is very helpful because these pests tend to appear in just about any yard. They also grow very quickly in number which allows them to wreak havoc on your plants.
With the different treatment aphid treatment options above, you can skip the commercial pesticides that contain chemicals, some of which are harmful to you and your family including pets.