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THOSE PESKY GARDEN PROBLEMS - APHIDS

rose aphids photo from flower buds blog

rose aphids photo from flower buds blog

Aphids are among my sworn garden enemies, since they apparently like my rose bushes and hibiscus plants more than I do. I’m outnumbered and I know the reason why — if just one aphid survives, and his descendants for the next ten generations also survive, it’s a scientific fact that their combined weight would be in excess of that of five hundred million men. Now, that’s pretty impressive for an insect, that on average, only measures between one sixteenth to one quarter of an inch at the most.

Part of this is due to the fact that it only takes sixteen days for each generation of aphids to evolve. That means in a mere one hundred and sixty days, or five months, you can have ten generations of aphids devouring your garden. Typically, without controls, there are twelve generations of aphids beginning each spring.

If you were to lay these generations out in a line, it would be a staggering aphid statistic, for you would have a line that measures seven million eight hundred and fifty miles of little aphids. If that doesn’t have you ready to run to the nearest garden center for a weapon — nothing else will — but wait there are better solutions!

Normally, I practice a live-and-let live existence with most garden pests that others would gladly eradicate. A few aphids, however, soon multiply like city filled with rats and can quickly become overwhelming garden pests. Their appetites are voracious, for these little buggers live to eat. Historically, over the centuries, if no controls were in place, aphids have been known to have devastated entire crops in several countries.

Interestingly, while our gardens can be over run by armies of multiplying aphids, destroying everything from roses to most flowers to fruit trees, vines, corn, potatoes, cabbages, beans, hops and many other important timber trees our little enemies have both enemies of their own, while also having an important role in nature as a food source for others.

We might think of them as fierce, but actually they are quite frail. Furthermore, they have the distinction of being the most favorite dessert, a delicious bit of seductive insect chocolate so-to-speak — the delight of ladybugs (ladybirds) and lacewing larvae. This is due to the fact that they are a virtual moving fountain of honeydew.

However, don’t be fooled, while they have natural enemies, they also have friends in low places. The best example of this is the symbiotic relationship between corn aphids and small brown ants. These little ants have a sweet tooth and only the corn aphid’s honeydew will do. They actually herd the aphids, and take care of them, much like we do with cows, so that they can “milk” them periodically or their honeydew. Left without controls, the corn aphid can devastate a farmer’s crop.

So, if you are wondering what is the best way to control aphids in the home garden? — the answer for severe infestations, or rather the non-chemical answer, is simply import your own army of ladybugs (ladybirds). Note: Be sure to release your ladybugs/ladybirds in the evening so they are not the unwitting victims of birds. They can be bought for a relatively small investment of less than ten dollars.

Other methods are to:

  1. Wash them off your plants with water.
  2. Spray with a home solution of dish detergent, water, and Neems oil.
  3. Discourage aphids by planting companion aphid deterrent plants: namely — dill, fennel, coreopsis and brightly colored flowers.

 

As the weather gets warmer, the ants will take their aphid nursery out for warmth and fresh air. They will even move them deeper if the weather should be unusually cold.

In the spring the aphids hatch. Then, the brown ants will take their adopted youngsters to feed on the roots of common smartweed and foxtail grasses to fatten them up. By the end of spring, the aphids will be producing their own young that are both winged and wingless.Meanwhile, the corn crop is growing and soon the ants bring the aphids back to the corn crop to lay their own eggs.As the summer progresses, the ants care for the aphids, taking them to the roots, and from corn stalk to corn stalk to feed. The aphids produce honeydew, which they pay their hosts in. The ants actually stroke the aphids with their antennae.One interesting side fact is that the aphids that are born in the summer are all females, both winged and wing-less. However, by fall, the wingless aphids become males.

 If You’d Like To Know More About Aphids!

University of California Pest Management Program

How To Get Rid Of Things

How To Get Rid Of Aphids Naturally

The Bug Review - Aphids