Unfortunately, you may run into problems with aphids in either your indoor or outdoor grow. To spot them, turn the leaves over on your plants, you’ll see oval-shaped bugs, which could be green, yellow, black, brown, or red.
Aphids are one of the most commonly found types of garden pest. Of the more than four thousand known species of aphids, around 250 of those are known to be harmful to our crops. Aphids are also known by the names “green fly” or “plant lice”, and can be seen as a tiny piercing insect which feeds on the tender stems of plants, preferring new growth over older leaves and roots.
Dealing with an Aphid Problem
These little-winged insects like to hide under the leaves of your plants and chomp away to suck all of the vitamins out of the stem. Once they do so, you’ll quickly notice the leaves turning yellow, as well as wilting. Even worse, you may find the tips of your plants turning black.
When it comes to snacking on your plants, aphids not only suck all of the life from them, they also drop a sweet substance, often called “honeydew”. This substance may result in mold on affected plants, as well as attracting ants and other predatory insects. Essentially, the aphids suck all of the vital nutrients from the plant, leaving it vulnerable to pick up a slew of diseases and other predatory insects that we definitely do not want near our crops!
In addition to making your plants vulnerable to disease, the aphids also frequently carry viruses themselves, which they then transfer to the host plant. These viruses are typically lethal to crops like citrus fruits, grains, and potatoes.
Getting Rid of Aphids Early
The key to solving your aphid problem is noticing it early. For this reason, we recommend that you check your plants at least once a week. To do so, simply inspect the buds and under the leaves for any colonies forming.
And if the wasps don’t come, the ladybugs and birds will. Of course, you can always purchase ladybugs to let loose in your garden as well. Just be sure it isn’t too windy the day you release them or they may end up in your neighbor’s garden instead. As a predator to aphids, ladybugs – and birds – will gladly eat them all right off your plants for you.
Introducing or strengthening the population of a variety of species of beneficial insect – for example, the green lacewing – can result in a dramatic improvement in the recurrences of infestation, as well.
However, you may not want to simply rely on Mother Nature to sort it out, and we get that. Whether you’re outdoors or indoors, there are a few options available to you to remedy your aphid problem quickly.
First, you may find that using a simple spray of soapy water will help with washing away the aphids. The water pressure is one way to remove them, and the detergent in the soap is another. The detergent helps dissolve the waxy coating protecting the aphids’ bodies and helping them stick to the plants.
Generally speaking, however, this method will remove all insects, including beneficial ones like ladybugs, lacewings, and hoverflies from your plants, which leaves them susceptible to further infestation.
Household antibacterial soap is the first step we always try, but stronger insecticidal soap is another option if you desire. Especially, if you are not finding success with other methods. Use extra caution with insecticidal soap as it will destroy all species of beneficial insects present in your garden. Be sure to only apply it where absolutely necessary and to reintroduce beneficial species after treatment.
One effective way to treat your plants for aphids is with neem oil. You may dilute organic neem oil in water and spray onto any crops affected by aphids, treating much the same as you would with dish soap, While neem oil does not act as an insecticide in the sense that it does not kill beneficial insects, it does tend to repel many of them and should, therefore, be used with care. Learn more about repelling pests with neem oil here.
Mix equal parts of rosemary, thyme, peppermint, and clove essential oils (organic, of course – around five drops of each) into a small spray bottle of water. Shake well and use as a general insect repellant. The mixture is excellent on infested plants to destroy eggs and their larvae. To learn more about all of the benefits of using essential oils, check out our blog post here.
Additionally, certain flowers attract aphids. Zinnias, cosmos, dahlia, and asters are a few of these flowers. You can choose to plant a flower bed which will attract the insects to that area of your garden and away from the crops. Just make sure to keep plenty of space between your flowers and your veggies!
Aphids are something most every gardener will have to encounter at some point in their lives, whether they are growing indoors or outside. Thankfully, there are also many methods for treating these pesky pests, as well. And if you think about it, a few of the right bugs here and there just makes for stronger plants in the long run. Don’t stress out over a few aphids, just grab some soap, a little oil, and a few ladybugs. It’s all going to be just fine.