Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Okay, so aphids aren't the greatest things to have around. They are tiny, soft-bodied insects that come in a variety of colors (the little bugs on the right in the picture). Aphids are most often seen in their wingless form, less than 1/8" long and in middle to large-size groups which generally contain eggs, nymphs, winged and wingless adults - all of which are female. The first time they reproduce, they do so without a male, which is why they seem to break out in such huge numbers all over your plants. The longer they are allowed to remain, the more quickly they will completely overcome the plant until it seems to teem with them as though it had a second skin.
In the picture above, the orange and blue pupae, or larva, on the left is actually a ladybug pupae which is about to consume large quantities of aphids, their eggs and nymphs.
Here is a picture of a ladybug larvae as it might appear to you in your own garden. Remember that the colors can range anywhere from light yellow and purple to deep orange and blue or any combination thereof. You don't want to inadvertently squish one of these - they destroy massive amounts of aphids. Spiders also consume large quantities of aphids.
It is fairly easy to get rid of aphids if they are caught early. I simply run my fingers up and down the stems and over the leaves where I find them, taking care that I don't destroy any beneficial insects while I'm doing it. Aphids are easily dislodged with a spray of water, but I don't use this method until it is quite warm outside because I always end up soaking wet myself! I have noticed over the years that aphids tend to confine themselves to one vertical area on a plant when first starting out. Therefore, when I see aphids in early spring, I look below and above the branch and usually find more hiding out. There are plants like nasturtiums and marigolds (and many others) that seem to attract aphids and people plant them for that purpose. Using the hand removal method, an occasional spray of water, and the cooperation of a multitude of beneficial insects will keep the aphid population pretty well under control. There will always be a few hanging around, but they will do minimal damage, especially compared to the damage that might be done if pesticides were used instead of organic methods.