If you are an avid gardener like I am, likely at some point you will have the need for aphids control. Aphids are a common garden pest that like to feed on a wide variety of plants, garden vegetables, and flowers. There are many different species of aphids, but the common variety is pale green with a pear-shaped body (although they can be brown, tan, black, pink or gray). Aphids are piercing pests which means that they use their mouths to suck the nectar out of the plant stems. They are tiny, just 1/8″ long. Aphids are usually found on the underside of the leaves of plants or hanging onto the stems, especially around new growth. One sign that you have an aphid problem, other than spying the little pests, is seeing curling leaves on your plants.
Aphids will feast on many different types of plants but prefer lupine, nasturtium, roses and members of the cabbage and nightshade family, including tomatoes and peppers. A healthy plant can usually handle a minor aphid infestation, but it’s best to work on aphid control and remove any of the pests that you see so they don’t overtake a plant.
How to Kill Aphids
Of course, chemical applications are an option, but never my first choice, especially around plants where our chickens wander. Fortunately, there are lots of good bugs that enjoy eating aphids. These include ladybugs, spiders, lacewings, parasitic wasps and others. By being aware of which bugs are beneficial to your garden and not just squashing every bug you see, you are actually making your job of aphids control easier. So leave those good bugs alone and let them help with your aphid control. A single ladybug can eat 5,000 aphids during its lifetime. That can certainly put a dent in your aphids population!
How to Make a Natural Aphid Spray
My first inclination is always to try to battle any garden pest naturally before turning to chemicals. I have tried several methods of aphids control on the pests currently invading our lupines and have found this two-step method for aphids control to be the best.
Step 1. Mix up some dish soap (I use Dr. Bonner Castile Liquid Soap) into a spray bottle with water in a ratio of one Tablespoon of soap per two quarts of water. (Neem oil also works well.) Shake the contents to mix well, then liberally spray the affected plants. Be sure to get the underside of the leaves as well as the tops and stems. Wait an hour and then spray the plants and rinse them completely with water from the hose to remove the soapy residue which can burn the plants if left on too long. Let the plants dry completely.
Step 2. When the plants have dried, brush or knock any aphids you see remaining on your plants to the ground with your hand (there shouldn’t be many after the spraying). Then carefully sprinkle around the base of each plant with Diatomaceous Earth.
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is an all-natural powder often used for natural pest control for gardens. It’s made of crushed fossils that pierce the bodies of insects so they dehydrate and die. It’s perfectly safe for humans and other mammals, although you don’t want to breathe in the fine powder, which can irritate your lungs. When you’re working with Diatomaceous Earth, you can cover your nose with a mask to make sure you don’t breathe it in and aren’t bothered. Since most aphids can’t fly, they will have to crawl back up the plant, right through the Diatomaceous Earth you have sprinkled and so will the ants that are attracted to the plants by the aphids.
Note: Since Diatomaceous Earth can also be harmful to bees and other beneficial bugs, you want to be careful to use it only around the base of your affected plants and not sprinkle any on the leaves or blossoms. It’s best not to use it on a windy day. Diatomaceous Earth is also rendered ineffective once it gets wet, so plan on treating your plants when several days of dry weather are predicted.
Like most natural remedies, this method of aphids control might take several applications to completely eradicate the pests but it will keep harmful chemicals out of your yard and garden. Check your plants every few days and repeat the two-step process as necessary until you don’t see any more aphids.
Garden pests at this time of year are common and can be a frustrating problem. For more advice on ridding pests from your garden and your chicken coop naturally, you’ll want to read about the best fly repellant and how to get rid of bagworms.
What are your favorite methods for aphids control and getting rid of other bothersome insect pests? Let us know in the comments below.