Aphids

There are over 5,000 different species of aphids.

Aphids are small (1/8 inch long), soft-bodied, pear-shaped insects that may be green, yellow, brown, red, or black depending on species and food source. They have needle-like mouthparts that they use to suck juices out of the plants.

Low to moderate numbers of aphids aren't usually damaging in gardens or on trees. However, large populations of aphids can decrease growth rate, cause mottled leaves, leaf yellowing, stunted growth, browning, wilting, low yields, and death.

Aphids can also produce large quantities of a sticky secretion known as honeydew, which often turns black with the growth of a sooty mold fungus. Some species of ants are attracted to and feed on the honeydew. These ants will protect the aphids from natural enemies and carry them to new plants when their food source is depleted.

Aphids may transmit viruses from plant to plant, particularly vegetables and ornamental plants. Squash, cucumber, pumpkin, melon, bean, potato, lettuce, beet, chard, and bok choy are crops that often have aphid-transmitted viruses associated with them.

There are several ways to get rid of aphids.

* Water: Spraying cold water on the leaves; sometimes all aphids need is a cool blast to dislodge them. Typically they are unable to find their way back to the same plant.

* Insecticidal Soap: An Organic multipurpose insecticide that kills bugs on contact. Follow directions on the bottle when applying.

* Neem Oil: Works by suffocation and contact. Avoid applying during the hottest part of the day.

* Diatomaceous Earth: This product is an organic insecticide that causes insects to dry out and die by absorbing the oils and fats from their bodies.

* Natural Predators: Ladybugs, Ladybug larvae, Soldier Beetles, Hover Flies, Lacewings, Spiders, Parasitic Wasps, Assassin Bugs and Big-Eyed Bugs all feed on aphids. They keep aphid populations in check and reduce the need for chemical controls.

Note: If you have Aphids on your Butterfly Weed or Milkweed, do not use chemicals, as this will kill the monarch caterpillars if you have them.