If you grow plants in your yard, greenhouse, as houseplants, or in a flower or vegetable garden, the time will come when getting rid of aphids will become a necessary chore. Nearly every single plant has some species of aphid that feeds off it at times, so virtually no plant is immune to them. Although many species of aphid exists, controlling them is the same for all.
Aphids, Ants, and Honeydew
Aphids can live on plants for quite some time before their damage becomes noticeable. It is often when conditions are right and these insects multiply into dense populations that they begin to cause serious problems, and gardeners then begin thinking about getting rid of aphids. Even though they are very tiny insects, once they begin forming these large masses, it is hard not to spot them, especially on the undersides of leaves and at the areas of tender, new growth.
Once you embark on getting rid of aphids, you also get rid of their honeydew. The so-called honeydew substance is a thick, viscous liquid secreted by aphids that ants find highly attractive. This is why ants are so often found wherever aphids have taken up residence.
Ants feed on the honeydew and attack any beneficial insect that may come along that is a natural predator of aphids. This makes it important to treat the area for ants as well as for aphids.
Applications of insecticidal soap, neem oil, or narrow-range oil all do a good job getting rid of aphids. The trick is to check the plants regularly and treat accordingly. One treatment rarely kills all the aphids and their eggs, so by checking all plants once a week, the gardener fares much better in determining whether or not subsequent treatments need to be applied.
These products do kill existing beneficial insects as well as the aphids, but they do not leave a toxic residue, so beneficial insects returning to plants are not adversely affected.
Another method of getting rid of aphids is to simply wash them away. Blasting with a strong spray of water from the hose washes away not only the aphids, but their ant-attracting honeydew secretions, as well. Of course, you need to take care to turn the water on to the undersides of all leaves and to not spray with such powerful force as to damage the leaves or other parts of the plant.
When using water as a way of getting rid of aphids, do so early in the day. This is true of any water-based application to plants whether indoors or our outside in the garden or yard area. The idea is to allow enough time for any water to dry completely off the plants in order to prevent diseases that come from fungus developing.
As long as the conditions are right, moderate to high humidity and warm temperatures, getting rid of aphids will be on most gardeners agendas. Although you will most likely never completely rid your plants of them, at least you can keep them under control.