Annoying Aphids: All About Aphididae And How To Get Rid of Them

Ed Wike
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Aphid Overview

Aphids are tiny little sucking pests that can wreak havoc on your plants and garden. Have you ever admired the vibrant flowers on a rose bush and watched as the leaves turned yellow and curled up, seemingly overnight? You can blame those deathly looking yellow insects that have taken over your roses.

Aphids can be identified easily by their pear shape and their soft, green to black colored body. Depending on the species of aphid you have, they will most likely be small in size with a few exceptions.

They can be red and black or white and black colored.

They can also be green, yellow, brown, orange, pink, black, and white in color. Whatever their color, one thing is for sure: the aphid is most likely a garden plague.

What Do Aphids Look Like?

Aphids are members of the insect group known as Hemiptera. They can be brown, black, gray, or even green.

Just like the general idea of a flea, aphids are small creatures. Almost an inch long if they are not infested, they are a bit bigger if you count their big, bulbous bodies.

Aphids have long antennae. What is special about their mouthparts is that they have a pair of large cutting structures that are called stylets. Their mouths are like tube-shaped scissors that have a notched end. They hold these stylets in their jaws and use them to pierce the plants that they are feeding from. Then they suck the sugary juices out of the plants through their beaks.

They have six legs, two branched antennae, and a long piercing mouth part.

Aphids are usually dull colored. They can be dark green, brown, or black. If they are plump, they will be paler in color.

The crinkly, whitish to greenish patches found on the foliage of trees and herbaceous plants could be aphids. You will see them on the underside of the leaves. They range from 0.0004 to 0.074 inches in length.

Life Cycle of Aphids

Almost every kind of plant in the world is vulnerable to aphids, and the insect may cause damage to the plant. Aphids often put leaves of a plant into fatty tissue called 'honeydew' and pass it to another insect species, called 'aphidinae'. These aphids tend to spread over a whole plant.

Aphids are generally found around the belly area of a plant and tend to feed there. These insects often gather around plants and suck their sap. The honeydew secreted by aphids under the leaves of the plants may also attract fungus and mold growth.

Sexual reproduction is merely temporary in aphids. A female aphid occasionally produces both male and female offspring. For a brief time, male offspring tend to be like females. In, certain shorter periods, one male may be born out of a colony. However, when environmental conditions are favorable, females become males again.

Young aphids most often tend to go through sexual phases at the time of birth. In some species, aphids are formed by parthenogenesis, a process by which aphids are produced without fertilization.

In certain aphid families, genetic mutations may cause a parthenogenesis and produce a related colony of females.

Males are generally produced in larger quantities than females. The male offspring which emerged at the time of parthenogenesis are generally asexual but they occasionally go through sexual phases.

Common Habitat of Aphids

Aphids are not only found in gardens, it is also found in homes and commercial properties. They favor sweet plants, or plants that are in leafy growth stage. Such plants attract them and they breed at a fast rate.

By far, the most favored attraction of aphids to a home is the ornamental plant on the balcony or even inside the house. These aphids are not destructive but nuisance and can cause damage and leaves damage on your plants when certain predators in the area don’t come to the rescue.

Such predators are ladybugs, lacewings, and green lacewings. So it means that it is important to first look at yourself to ensure that your balcony is free of these predators before thinking that chemical means should be used.

However, there is a change that your balcony will suffer huge infestations of aphids by all means. This means that chemical means will be the only solution. These chemicals can be bought over-the-counter or can be home-made. However, as always, make sure to protect your plants and the environment and always wear a protective gear.

What Do Aphids Eat?

Interestingly enough, the aphids diet mostly consists of plants that humans consume. The tiny pests love plants like wheat, cotton, tobacco, potatoes, and curcurbits, to name a few. The specific type of aphid that is attacking your plants will determine whether they eat the leaves, stems, roots, or even the fruit.

Different aphids species are also attracted to specific types of plants. The minute insects can be found in and near forests, meadows, parks, gardens, ornamental gardens, and other plants and regions.

If you are planting a garden or nursery, the species of aphids that you will attract will depend on the area that you live and the growing conditions of your plants.

How To Get Rid Of Aphids

If you have ever grown houseplants, you have probably noticed some of the little green or even black insects that come to visit. These pesky little critters are called aphids and they are incredibly annoying.

One of the first things that will pop into your head when you notice these is—"do I have to get rid of them?" The answer is yes. Aphids are very annoying bugs that will slowly kill your plants if you don’t treat them. Fortunately, getting these pests off of your houseplants is not that hard.

The first thing to do is to plan ahead. Many people spare themselves hours of frustration by bringing their plants in the bathroom and then setting them in the bathtub when the aphid infestation appears. You won’t have to worry about the aphids escaping to your bathroom sink from the bathtub because they can’t climb slippery surfaces.

Secondly, you need to go to the hardware store and purchase a diatomaceous earth. This is an environmentally safe and natural product that will help to get rid of the aphids.

When you are fighting these pests, always remember to use very little natural insecticides if you can. Not only do they prolong the problem, but they are also toxic and poison your environment.

Organic Aphid Control

Insecticides are not the only way to control aphids …examine the more natural approach below.

Some manufacturers suggest a very weak infusion of garlic in water to be sprayed directly onto the aphids.

This supposedly smells so bad to the insects that they will move away from the plant.

Others suggest coatings of paraffin or Tangle-Trap (both petroleum products), which contain a substance that repels aphids.

Aphids also hate chamomile and marigolds, and they dislike peppermint, lavender, and cloves sprayed on the leaves.

Individual plants with plenty of different scents may also help to repel aphids.

Throughout all of this spraying, pay care to the environment by only spraying the aphids and not the leaves around them.

If you find sticky spots on your plants this is a sign that greenfly and blackfly are present.

If you do not put out any pesticide and the aphids are still back the next day use a very strong stream of water to remove the insects from the plant.

What type of plant is your aphid infesting? Do you treat these plants the same?

Tulips and daffodils are very susceptible to aphids, especially after they have bloomed and are drying out.

There are several beneficial insects that help to control aphids.

Ants & Aphids: Wiping Them Both Out

Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied insects that can quickly take over your garden. Unfortunately, ants love aphids as well!

For aphids, ants serve the same purpose as the ladybug for bugs. Ants protect the aphids and bring them food so they protect them too. In return, the aphids give the ants a sweet liquid called honeydew.

The most effective way to combat ants and aphids is to go for the head, which is where ants get their food. If you annoy the ants, they will leave and bring them away. A very simple way to do this is to wipe them with a moist paper towel or a spray bottle. The honeydew, which the ants love so much, can be killed by diluted soapy water or a pesticide. Do not spray the bees with any pesticides.

Environmental Aphid Control

There are many different methods that you can use to control Aphids alone, entirely or in conjunction with one another that it is hard to nail down which method is most effective. One of the best solutions, when you want to kill Aphids entirely, is to use a chemical. Pyrethrins are usually used because they are so toxic, but not harmful to humans, pets, and other wildlife. The problem with this however is that there are times when the chemicals will affect other insects in the area that you don’t necessarily want to affect. The only downside is that the insects may not die right away. Over time you will see fewer and fewer Aphids until they have all died.

Another option that you can use to kill the Aphids is the old standby for getting rid of pests, and that is the use of soap. When you use soap, you are essentially drowning the Aphid. The drawback with this solution is that it does not always work. Depending on the time of year, and the type of Aphid, you are dealing with, you may have to do this several times over a long period of time. Obviously this can be a problem for people that don’t like pesticides being used in their yard, but you do not have to worry about harming other creatures.

Sometimes the simplest ways are the most effective ones. Often times you can just wipe the Aphid off of the plant.

Beneficial Insects To The Rescue!

According to organic gardening enthusiast Mary Berry, Aphids are a diurnal group of insects. They go about their business during the day, and favor buds and foliage of roses for their favorite sources of food.

Thrips cause damage to plants by removing juices and tissue. They also spread virus diseases, especially to soft fruits and vegetables. Thrips are generally brownish-yellow.

Aphids are destructive to gardens, decimating the plants and eventually killing them off. Aphids suck the life sap out of the leaves, leaf stalks, buds, and flowers of the plants. Damaged plants eventually die off.

The insecticidal soap solution can be used on plants with a light infestation of aphids. It is also good for use on plants with a serious case of powdery mildew. Insecticidal soaps are quite effective against aphids and other soft-bodied insects.

Using a few drops of dish detergent to a gallon of lukewarm water can bait a trap for insects. Spraying the entire plant with the detergent solution will kill adult and egg pests when they land on the leaves or stems.

To destroy eggs, soak a paper towel in the mixture and wrap the wet towel around the stems of the plant. Check the towel every few hours for dead insect larvae.

Preventing Aphids

Did you know you can eat aphids? Well, you can! And you aren’t alone. Many insects and animals have a taste for aphids … which means that eliminating these pests can be as easy as creating a lush environment for the predators of aphids. .. like ladybugs and earthworms.

Ladybugs are pretty appealing names, but there are a lot of detractors to this insect pest. When they are in your vegetable garden (or, you know, your house), you want them out! The ants in your garden are called aphid lions, and you want them in your garden.

There are many, many aphid predators that can be introduced to your garden or yard. This includes ladybugs, lacewings, ground beetles, and parasitic wasps. In fact, after all of the aphid predators are introduced, you will surprisingly find that you have one less pest to stress about.

While you can purchase all of these aphid predators, you can also attract them by planting larger sized plants with flowers and plenty of blooms. You will need to do your own research on the best plants for this purpose. The aphid predators want to feast on these plants, so you will find that you will have these pests all under control in no time. And your garden will flourish.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, we’ll answer the most commonly asked questions about aphids.

Q. What are aphids?

Aphids are soft-bodied insects without wings that are a mere one or two millimeters long at most. They can be any color, and the ones we usually see are green or black, depending on their diet. Some species have red patterns on the abdomen, which often looks like a flag.

Q. How long do aphids live?

In the summer, the lifespan of aphids is only 2-3 weeks. In the spring and autumn, they live for longer. The reason for this is the temperatures. When it’s very hot, aphids die quickly.

Q. Do aphids bite?

No. They don’t bite, but some have mouthparts and can pierce plant stems. When aphids pierce the stems, they can transmit viruses to the plant. This is why it’s important to control their population.

Q. Are aphids carriers of disease?

Aphids transmit many diseases, including the potato blight.

Q. Do aphids swarm?

Yes. This happens when they feel threatened, when their population increases, and when the weather changes.

Q. How do you get rid of aphids?

Q: My plants have curled leaves after aphids are gone! Help?

A: Aphids are tiny bugs that look like small, pear shaped aphids. Unfortunately, as many as you see may be on the plant, small eggs may have been laid on the underside of the plant before aphids were seen. Over the next few days, the eggs will hatch into nymphs, and these ones will be wingless.

The nymphs and adults feed on the underside of the leaves where the sap is, and in some cases, the stomach of the aphid is very large. When feeding is in progress, they secrete a sugary liquid which they lap up, producing the characteristic green and yellow spots you see on the leaves.

It's possible that some honeydew secretions will stick to leaves around the feeding area or to the leaf surface. This sticky stuff is nothing but a waste product from the aphid. The sugar found in the sap combines with this sugar alcohol to coat the leaves.

Aphids attack a wide range of plants, including vegetables and ornamental plants.

If the leaves on your plants have curled and distorted, then the most logical reason is because of the presence of aphids.

Q: Do aphids jump?

For a long time, researchers believed that aphids cannot jump. However, aphids have a structure called a cauda, which is a small tail-like plate that is used for balance and steering. Through genetic engineering, scientists have now been able to transform those tail plates so as to make them resemble a pair of legs. It turned out that these mule-like creatures can actually jump quite high. So don’t be fooled by their tiny looks, because these little insects can be quite mighty.

Aphids are tiny aquatic creatures that look something like a plant louse. They have paired legs and antennae. In fact, it is believed that their ancestors used to be wingless and evolved into what we know them as today. Now, they have four wings. The body is covered with waxy scales called the cuticle. This layer is very similar to the one that can be found in the beetle armor and in many different species. The body is divided into three parts: head, thorax, and abdomen.