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Garden Pest Profile: Aphids

When you step out into your garden, do you see curled, misshapen leaves? Or do you see yellowing foliage, covered in patches of sticky goo? If the answer is yes, you should look a little closer—you might have an aphid infestation! But never fear, our garden pest profile is here. Keep reading to learn all you need to know about aphids, and how to keep your plants safe from the sap-suckers.

About Aphids

Aphids are tiny, oval-shaped bugs, usually found in large infestations. There are over 5,000 known species of aphid, wow! And they can vary in colour from black and red, to yellow, green, and blue. If you’ve encountered aphids in Australia, you likely came across the blue-green species of aphid. Blue-green aphids are almost transparent, and blend into the green foliage of plants a little too easily.

Like many garden pests, aphids feed on the sap of your plants. They chomp on the foliage, then suck the precious sap from within, weakening your plant with every bite. As they feed, aphids excrete waste (honeydew) on a plant’s stem and foliage. And honeydew, unfortunately, also attracts other problems, like ants and sooty mould.

How to Discourage Aphids

Many aphid species are commonly found in tall weeds and neglected parts of the garden. So, to discourage aphids from munching on your prized crop, try to keep the rest of your garden in check. Also, aphids prefer plants that are stressed or in ill health. Keep your plants healthy by watering regularly and feeding when necessary. And if any of your plants do decline, make sure to dispose of them quickly.

How to Control Aphids

Okay, you’ve gone to admire your favourite rose bush, only to see hundreds of little green aphids covering each stem. Eek! What now? Well, you have a few options…

If you’re a naturalist, you could try manually removing the aphids. Either blast your plants with a hose or squish them between your fingers. Be thorough, though—if you leave even a few behind, the infestation will reappear with a vengeance. Or, you could introduce some beneficial bugs into the mix. Buy some lacewing or ladybird eggs online, and they’ll handle your aphid problem in no time.

If the infestation persists, try white oil or neem oil. Spray every inch of the affected plants, concentrating on the undersides of the leaves. And if all else fails, try a pyrethrum spray. Apply to every surface of the plant the same way you’d apply an oil. However, avoid spraying plants that are in direct sunlight, as pyrethrum may burn the leaves. Also, avoid applying to flowering plants, or plants popular to bees, as pyrethrum is highly toxic to nature’s little helpers.

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