Aphids are a common garden pest that can be deterred by the use of homemade aphid control. Aphids are sometimes called “ant cows” because they are often seen in league with ants. The ants actually keep them and feed on a substance the aphids produce, called honeydew.
When ants move from plant to plant and take their aphids with them, they spread any type of plant diseases that may be present. The aphids themselves suck the juices from the plants, and multiply rapidly. There are a number of methods of homemade aphid control that have been found to be effective.
In many cases, homemade aphid control does not harm beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and their larvae, lacewings, praying mantis, and others. These beneficial insects eat aphids, so you don’t want to use anything that will harm them. Some homemade insect sprays are somewhat toxic, though, so you will need to exercise caution in using them.
One simple thing you can try if you typically have aphid problems in your vegetable garden is to grow a row of nasturtiums. Aphids will prefer them to the food crops, particularly if the nasturtiums have yellow flowers. This method of homemade aphid control is called planting a “trap crop.”
Water Treatment Method
Another homemade aphid control method is to simply give the plants that are infested a hard spray of water from the hose each evening for a while. This discourages the ants and knocks the aphids off the plants, killing some. It has no effect on the beneficial insects such as lacewings. One homeowner tried this method, and was delighted to see the lacewings simply jump off the plants momentarily while the aphids and ants received their “treatment.”
There are some other simple forms of homemade aphid control that don’t require putting together a concocted bug spray. (We will get to concocted bug sprays in a moment.) Try laying a flat square of aluminum foil at the base of your plant. This will cause light to bounce up on the lower sides of the leaves, which the aphids will not like. Also, it is reported that a bright yellow pan of water will attract aphids, which will then drown in the water. Try adding a drop or two of dishwashing liquid to ensure that the insects drown.
One of the simplest sprays you can make for homemade aphid control is a soap spray. To each gallon of water add a tablespoon of castile soap. Let the soap dissolve into the water, then spray away. Soap causes the surface tension of water to be reduced, which makes it able to be absorbed by the exoskeleton of an insect. Without soap, water simply beads up on the side of an insect. With soap added, water is absorbed into the insect, which in turn drowns.
Some herb teas also act as homemade aphid control, but you don’t brew these like you would a cup of tea for yourself. For instance, take a quart of stinging nettles herb and cover with water. Put a lid on the concoction and let it set and ferment for about three weeks. Strain off the strong brew. For spraying, dilute this tea by adding a cup of the brew to seven cups of water.
A similar recipe is to chop up a couple of cups of the leaves from tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, tobacco, or other nightshade family plants. Make the homemade aphid control liquid by letting them soak overnight in two cups of water. In the morning, strain off the liquid and add two more cups of water to the liquid. Use this liquid in your spray bottle.
Another simple recipe for a homemade aphid control spray is to add a cup of isopropyl (or rubbing) alcohol to a quart of water. This spray can damage tender leaves and is not recommended for delicate plants like African violets.