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Aphids Suck – In More Ways Than One

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So you want to learn how to get rid of aphids naturally?

Before you set about learning how to get rid of aphids, it helps to learn more about the insects themselves. That way you can be more confident that the problem in your garden is actually aphids. Plus, by learning more about aphids, you might be able to see ways to put them to work in your garden. That way you can spend less energy fighting these buggers.

Wondering how to get rid of aphids like ones on iris?

Aphids on Iris

Aphids suck, but can aphids kill a plant?

Years ago I picked up a t-shirt with the words: “Aphids Suck.” The double entendre still makes me giggle. Don’t get it? You aren’t alone; I’ve had to explain it to more than one new client as they quizzically eyed my potentially offensive t-shirt. And, the explanation leads to a better understanding of the damage aphids do. As well, I may end up helping gardeners see the positive potential in these insects. Moreover, most find relief in realizing aphids probably won’t kill their plants.

Read on to learn more about these insects, their benefits, and suggestions for how to get rid of aphids in your garden.

So, what’s the double meaning all about?

The first meaning of “suck” is pretty straightforward for anyone who has had to deal with aphids. That’s because these creatures can make a mess of our plants by feeding on them.

Sometimes we find our aphids on irises. But other times, we’ll find aphids on trees. And, often cabbages and broccoli are covered in aphids. But, other times we don’t find aphids. Yet we find ourselves lamenting the damage they left behind. That’s because aphids love to feed on tender new growth. So, later, as the plant grows, we find curled up, puckered, messed up plants.

And, we may also lament the sticky goo they excrete all over our cars, patios, and tree trunks.

Because aphids suck, they leave this kind of plant damage.

When studying pests and disease, its important to understand how they do damage. This helps us identify which pest may have been on a plant in the past (or may be on it currently).

Aphids happen to have sucking mouth parts. So, they literally suck the juices out of the stems, flowers, buds and leaves of plants. And, that leaves behind contorted, twisted, puckered plants in their wake. Hence, aphids really do SUCK!

Simultaneously to sucking aphids excrete pure, but very wet, sugar.

And that can leave some really gross goo behind. But, there may be a benefit to aphids pooping sugar…

Their sugar poo can attract a host of other garden fauna like ants and carnivorous wasps.  The ants to sip up their honey poo; the wasps to eat them up – yum! (Or at least yum to your garden fauna.)

Garden wildlife you want might be how to get rid of aphids!

Lady Beetle Aphid Lion is a great way to get rid of aphids

Aphid lion

Aphids also attract beneficials like hummingbirds and insects like lady beetles. These soft pest insects are a favored food for lady beetle larvae, meat eatin’ bees, and for hungry hummingbirds. So by gobbling them up, your garden flora becomes your beneficial how to get rid of aphids.

So, what to do when your plants get infested with aphids?

Well, it can depend on your tolerance. And, how you deal with them may depend on where they’re eating which plant.

If you want to attract hummingbirds, let the aphids flourish. In fact, these birds and others will help clear aphids from tree tops that you can’t reach.

Or, would you like to have more lady beetles in your garden? If so, leave the aphids alone, and they will come.  Just don’t kill the little orange and black alligator looking creepy crawlies. That’s because those are baby lady beetles. And they’re also known as “aphid lions” because of their voracious appetite.

Okay, so you just can’t stand it. Those pests have to go.

Here’s how to get rid of aphids without a lot of ‘cides:

First, If you just don’t want to look at old aphid damage like puckered leaves and mangled flowers, start by cutting out any older growth that may be infested with the pests. Often, early bloomers, like hellebores their favorites. Therefore, aphids will hatch early on the waning flowers of these plants. So, unless you’re hoping to save seeds, cut out the spent flowers, removing the pests as well — before they spread out to other plants in the garden.

Secondly, you see active aphids are on new growth, try blasting the plants with forceful jets of water. This will blow them away. But, be careful though. That’s because you don’t want to blow away your tender perennial tender growth as well.

Thirdly, if you just have a few clustered hatches, try simply wiping them away.

Fourthly, if they keep coming back in your potted plants, you may need to exchange all of the soil as well.

What about using home remedies to eradicate aphids for good?

You may have heard that spraying vinegar will kill aphids. Well, that might work, but you’ll likely kill your plant at the same time.

And maybe you’ve been told to douse them with dish soap. While that might kill an aphid, it’s likely to harm your plants too.

So probably better stay away from these techniques.

And how can I keep from getting aphids in the first place?

Consider growing plants like nasturtiums in your garden. That’s because these attract aphids. So, they head for your sacrifical nasturtiums instead of your broccoli.

Yes, pesticides exist for defense, but…

If you can stand a small number of them in your garden, know that they do become a part of the larger eco-system feeding other beneficials in the garden. And, it isn’t likely that aphids will kill your plants.

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