Aphids are from the Aphidoidea family. They are also called plant lice. They can be one of the most destructive insects for vegetable gardens as well as other plants.

This is why farmers and people who raise gardens are so adamant about getting rid of these pesky insects. The aphid has approximately 4,400 species of insects.

Of these, about 250 species are pests that farmers as well as the forestry department are concerned with when it comes to the damage they can do.

How Do Aphids Feed and on What Do They Feed?

a bunch of aphids

The aphid feeds on many different plants such as sugar beets, potatoes, cucumbers, citrus plants and cereals. The aphids feed on the sap that is contained in the phloem vessels.

Phloem is living tissue that carries nutrients such as sucrose to other parts of the plant where it is needed. For instance, in a tree the phloem is the very innermost bark.

When aphids feed they pierce the phloem vessel and the sap runs into the food canal of the aphid. During the time, they are feeding from the plant viruses which can be transferred from the aphid to the plant. Sometimes these viruses kill plants.

The apple aphid is green although aphids can be brown, black and even pink. They have antennas and a stylet, which a mouth part that is used for sucking the sap from the plants.

The stylets are surrounded by a rostrum, which is basically like a sheath. Many aphids only feed on one particular species of plants while others feed on many hundreds. One such example is the green peach aphid.

What are the Symptoms of Aphid Infestation?

The saliva from aphids is considered toxic to plants. The range of damage from the aphid can be a variety of symptoms, such as:

* stunted growth
* browning
* mottled leaves
* wilting
* slower growth rates
* curled leaves
* death

The sap that is removed by the aphids causes the plant to lose its vitality. Many resources have been expended searching for ways to control aphids. This is especially true of the commercial farmers who have lost thousands of dollars in crops due to this pest.

The aphids will feed on tomatoes and watermelon among other vegetable and fruit crops. The honeydew they secrete when they feed will cause a fungus called sooty mold to grow on the leaves of plants.

Ants also feed on the honeydew so if you pay attention to the presence of a lot of ants in your garden you may find aphids have also taken up residence as well.

Aphids Have Ruined Millions of Dollars in Crops

Back in 2005, Australia had a multi-million dollar crop of lettuce destroyed by aphids. The New Zealand aphid had caught a ride on the wind and arrived in Australia. Before the Australians could figure out what was happening, the aphid had destroyed much of the lettuce crop.

a single aphid

There is an aphid that is indigenous to Australia which is what people thought they were dealing with. However, the typical pesticides did not work on the New Zealand aphid, and the search was on for a way to get rid of this pest that was destroying the lettuce. Never fully eradicating it, they did manage to get the insect under control somewhat.

Aphids are not uncommon in any part of the world, but they are much more widely found in areas where temperatures remain mild. The aphids will travel for many miles riding the wind. They may also be spread by people who transport plants that contain these pests.

How Do I Get Rid of Aphids?

There are many sprays and chemical concoctions available from garden stores or nurseries designed to kill the insect and stop the colony from re-growing.

Many of these sprays are full of chemicals, so while they may control your infestation, they may also damage your plants further and negatively affect other beneficial insect-life in your garden.

If you give in and use chemical sprays, then unfortunately many of the insect natural predators will also be affected and killed by the poisons and toxins present.

There are plenty of chemical-free ways to control aphid populations. Not only is it possible to get rid of your insect infestations, but chemical-free solutions are also better for your garden and better for the environment.

Chemical-Free Control

One of the easiest ways to get rid of this garden pest without using chemicals is to hose them off the leaves and buds. Spend a little time picking off any remaining adults and squashing them between your fingers manually.

When you squash the garden pest, they release a chemical that warns the others in the colony of danger. Many will begin to drop off the plant in self-defense.

Another excellent chemical-free control solution is soapy water. You can make your own soapy water solution by grating soap into water, but it’s easier to simply collect any soapy water from your next laundry cycle into a bucket, or pail instead of letting it run down the drain. Pour this soapy solution over infested plants until the colony disappears.

If your plant is heavily infested, then it is possible to make a chemical-free garlic spray that is very effective. Chop some garlic bulbs and soak them in 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil overnight.

Add another 2 teaspoons of liquid detergent to your garlic and oil mix along with 2 cups of water. Stir well and strain mixture into a sealable jar.

When you’re ready to use it, dilute a teaspoon of mixture into 4 cups of water and put into a spray bottle. Spray your mix directly onto the plant insects visible on the leaves of any infested plants.

Try not to use this spray in very hot weather as it may burn the leaves and buds. This mixture is quite potent and should be refrigerated until needed. Always be sure to label your mix clearly as an insecticide.

Natural Garden Pest Control

The most environmentally friendly control solution is to encourage natural predators. Ladybirds and ladybird larvae will happily eat lots of plant incest. Hoverflies and lacewings will also help reduce your garden pest problem.

This insect tends to cluster on the under-side of leaves and foliage away from direct sunlight. You can deter them by placing a square of aluminum foil around the base of the plant so that sunlight is reflected up to the underside of leaves.

Another excellent all-natural solution is to improve the overall health of your garden’s plants. Being sure to feed, water and mulch your garden properly will promote healthier plants that are able to more easily fend off attacks by pests.