Aphids are tiny little insects that are found on houseplants, fruit trees, garden vegetables, etc. There are almost 4000 different species. These pests have a soft body which is about one-eighth of an inch in length. The body color can be brown, red, black, green or yellow depending on the species. Normally, these sap-sucking insects are found in clusters in areas like young succulent shoots of a plant. They are also found under the surface of the leaves and even on the roots. When there is a heavy infestation, it can cause extensive damage to the plant where the leaves may curl up, wilt, and inhibit plant growth. Therefore, before the infestation takes over, it is advisable to follow the following steps.
Understanding the Life Cycle of Aphids
The aphids life cycle is quite unique. Most female aphids do not have to mate with their male counterparts for reproduction. During spring, females give birth to only nymphs in large numbers by hatching overwintering eggs. Within a week, these young nymphs will produce additional live young nymphs. This process continues until a colony takes shape. Later, some female aphids develop wings and fly to other host plants and establish a new colony there. It is just before the onset of fall that the sexual orientations (that is males and females) of the aphids develop, before mating to lay overwintering eggs.
How Can Aphids Be Controlled?
Aphids can be controlled with or without the use of chemicals. Some methods that are popularly used to control aphids are as follows:
The simplest method of aphid removal is dousing the infested tree with a strong stream of water. When there are aphids on houseplants, bring it outdoors first before spraying water on them, in order to avoid these from infesting other plants at home. This should be done daily, until the plant is free from aphids.
You can prepare pepper spray at home and use it to control the existence of aphids. For this, you will require 3-4 hot peppers, a few cloves of garlic, and one quart of water. Mix all the three ingredients properly in a blender. Pour it in a spray bottle and apply it on the infested plant(s).
Predatory ladybugs are widely used for aphid control. You will be surprised to know that an adult ladybug can eat almost 1000 aphids in just one day. They can be purchased from a garden supply store. Store the bag of ladybugs in the refrigerator for a few hours and release them on plants when the sun's rays aren't intense (early morning/late evening). Water the garden or the plants where you want to release the bugs, to keep them hydrated. Empty out a few ladybugs at a time every week, until the aphids disappear. This method works well, even when the plants are badly infested by aphids.
Using an insecticidal soap is another effective treatment method that can destroy aphids quickly. For this, prepare a mixture using one teaspoon of insecticidal soap, half a teaspoon of horticulture oil, and one quart of water. Pour the mixture in a spray bottle and apply it on those parts of the plant where aphids frequently attack. Later, if required, you can wash off the soap with plain water. For root-infested control, you have to remove the houseplant from the soil and submerge it into the soap solution for 2-3 minutes and then put it back in the soil. In the next week, make sure that the plant is not over-watered or else the chemicals will be washed away from the roots.
The best way of to control the presence of aphids is to prevent the plant from witnessing a full-blown attack. This can be done by thoroughly checking all household and outdoor plants for signs of an infestation. You can identify aphids by their pear-shaped bodies and protruding antennae. Another sign is the presence of a sticky fluid known as honeydew, which is secreted by the pests in large amounts. These gooey bits can be found on the plants, as well as around it; this attracts a lot of ants. Don't hesitate to take action, or you won't be able to save your plant for an infestation.