Fight aphids in a way that’s not hazardous to the environment and beneficial insects. Here are some safe and natural ways to get rid of aphids!
Most of us find these small pesky insects in our garden and consider them harmless. But once allowed to reproduce aphids multiply quickly and before long cause havoc in the garden. Chemical insecticides kill aphids, but they are harmful to the ecosystem and kill beneficial insects too! The good news is that there are natural ways to get rid of aphids, given you take action at the right time. But first, we need to know more about aphids and how they look to identify them.
What are Aphids?
Aphids are common bugs that rely on plant sap as food and belong to the family Aphidoidea. The good news is that they form in groups on the stems of the plant and move very slowly. They reproduce quickly and, if left untreated before long, will damage the plant beyond recovery. They not only suck the sap from leaves but can damage flowers and fruits as well, making them deformed. Did you ever observe yellowing, wilting and withering plants in your garden? Well, now you can point your finger to the culprit. Aphids! And in this post, we’ll discuss how to get rid of aphids naturally.
How to Identify Aphids
Although aphids are tiny, identifying them is not difficult, mainly because they are found in groups. Most common aphids are green, but their color can vary and depends on the species and food source. They can be white, brown, yellow, pink, light green, black, and red. These pear-shaped insects are only to about 1/4th to 1/8th inch in size, making it difficult to spot them with naked eyes. There are aphids secrete a substance that covers their body, giving them a waxy and wooly appearance and hence the name wooly aphids. Long legs and two antennae protruding from the head of aphids is their defining feature. Aphids have wings that help them disperse in search of new food sources, although most adult aphids are wingless. Now that you know how to identify these pesky little creatures, let’s discuss natural ways to get rid of aphids.
How to Get Rid of Aphids
Now that you know more about aphids and how to identify them, let’s learn how to get rid of aphids. Although there are insecticides that kill aphids and are highly effective, they come with their own set of problems. So here we won’t discuss the chemical pesticides but natural ways to keep aphids at bay. Natural remedies to get rid of aphids are effective and won’t harm flora and fauna. As aphids are also soft-bodied insects like whiteflies and spider mites, these natural ways to get rid of aphids are effective against them too! So, without wasting any more time, here are natural ways to kill aphids.
1. Spray Cold Water
It’s easy and efficient, and all you’ll require is a hosepipe to spray cold water on the affected parts of the plants. Aphids don’t have a stronghold over the surface of the leaves and will get displaced with a strong stream of water. Make sure that the jet of water is not too strong as it can topple or uproot the plant.
2. Handpick Aphids
Handpicking aphids is particularly useful when the aphid infestation is in an early stage. Look on the underside of the leaves, and there is a good chance you’ll spot them. Pick them up by the pinching motion of your hand and throw them out; it’s that simple. Use a magnifying glass to spot aphids easily and make sure to wash your hand after you handpick them. Use gloves for better protection!
3. Aphid Repellent Plants
This natural way to get rid of aphids also promotes greenery. More greenery won’t hurt anyone, except for aphids, of course. Plants that belong to the allium family such as chives, garlic, and leeks have a distinct smell that aphids detest. Herbs with strong odor such as fennel, cilantro, dill, and also marigold flower repel aphids and some other pests. Catnip is another plant that repels aphids, although it may attract cats.
4. Aphid Trap Plants
In the previous point, we mentioned plants that repel aphids, but you’ll be surprised to know that there are plants that you can use to trap aphids. Trap plants attract aphids and keep them occupied, so they don’t damage other delicate plants. Keep the trap plants isolated as the aphids can affect the nearby plants. Nasturtium, dahlia, Zinnia, mustard, and hollyhock are some excellent examples of trap plants. It is researched for crop systems under the alias companion plants for aphid management, which you can check out here.
5. Trim Infested Parts
Are there visible chunks of plants missing and heavily infested by aphids? Well, the right thing to do is to get rid of such parts. Use a sharp pruning tool to cut back stems, leaves, flowers, or whichever part is infested. Once you discard the infested parts spray cold water or even better aphid repellent solution over the plant.
6. Soap Solution to Kill Aphids
Liquid soap solution kills aphids by degrading the outer protective layer of aphids, after which they dry out. Prepare the homemade soap solution by pouring 2-3 tablespoons of liquid dish soap and lukewarm water (250-300 ml) in a spray bottle. Shake the bottle and spray the solution over the infested area. Make sure to spray the soap solution only over aphids as it can kill beneficial insects too. A pinch of cayenne pepper in the solution will increase its effectiveness tenfold.
7. Vegetable Oil Solution
It’s a highly effective solution that suffocates aphids by blocking the breathing pores. To prepare this solution, mix liquid soap and vegetable oil in the ratio 1:4, respectively. Pour the solution in a spray bottle and spray it liberally on the underside of leaves infested with aphids. Aphids will suffocate and die within minutes.
8. Apply Neem Oil
Somewhat similar to the soap solution, neem oil has the added advantage of being organic. Apart from aphids, it’s effective against mites, fungi, and other insects. As neem oil is natural, it’s safe for use and won’t harm kids, pets, and your livestock. Two tablespoons of neem oil in a gallon of water are potent to ward off insects, including aphids. Spray the solution liberally over the plant, especially on the underside of the leaves.
9. Essential Oil Solution
Similar to neem oil, essential oils are also natural and organic and won’t do any harm to the environment. Peppermint, rosemary, clove, and thyme are all competent to keep pesky pests and aphids at bay, but lavender is the most effective. 5-10 drops of lavender essential oil in a spray bottle filled with water is enough. You can also use a mix of 4-5 different essential oils that’ll ward off several insects. As essential oils are aromatic, they’ll lift your spirit while doing the tedious task. This scientific study supports the effectiveness of essential oil against aphids.
10. Spray Insecticidal Soap
Don’t want to go through the fuss of preparing a solution? Insecticidal soap is the solution as they usually come pre-mixed. Available in garden centers, greenhouses, nurseries, and online stores, it’s easy to get your hands on them. Read the label thoroughly before application as they are harmful to certain plants.
11. Introduce Beneficial Insects
By beneficial insects, we mean the insects that prey upon aphids and won’t eat away the plants. You can get them on any online store or attract them by plants they enjoy. Ladybugs/lady beetles, hoverflies, praying mantises, and green lacewings are among such insects that’ll benefit your garden in the long run by keeping aphid infestation under control. See this detailed article on the effect of ladybugs on aphids.
12. Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth
A naturally occurring sedimentary rock formed by the fossiled marine phytoplankton, and it will help get rid of aphids. As dubious, as it sounds, this can be said about Diatomaceous Earth. All you need to do is sprinkle its powdered form over the parts of plants infested with aphids. Similar to the soap solution, it destroys the outer protective exoskeleton of aphids, which ultimately leads to their death. NCBI supports this claim.
13. Target Ants
Although this sounds absurd, ants do have an impact on the aphids, but its indirectly. Ants prey upon the insects that prey on aphids giving aphids a free rein to reproduce. So next time you see ant colonies in your garden obliterate them. Swarms pf ant is the last thing you want if you want to get rid of aphids. Honey traps are great for luring away ants!
14. Reflect Sunlight
Install an aluminum foil or reflective mulch on the ground near the plant. The reflective surface will redirect the sunlight onto the underside of the plant, making navigation difficult for aphids and other insects. It helps curb the transmission of aphids from one plant to another. Vegetable gardens are more benefited from this than flower gardens.
15. Attract Birds
Birds prey on insects, including aphids, so taking measures to attract them in the garden is useful for aphid control. Install birdhouses and spread crumbs of bread and other bird food in the garden to attract birds. Smaller birds such as warblers, chickadees, sparrows, wrens, and titmice love to snack on aphids. Aphids are one of the primary food sources for little birds.
16. Use Cinnamon Oil
Cinnamon oil solution is another useful and safe home remedy to keep aphids at bay. Pour half cup of cinnamon oil in a gallon of water to prepare the solution. Turn the garden hose to the plant with a forceful stream of water that’ll make the aphids blow away in the flow. Now all that’s left is to spray this solution over plants and watch as cinnamon oil does its magic. Don’t leave any crevises on the stem and dose the bark too. Spraying once in every two weeks is enough till the problem persists.
17. Spray Garlic
Garlic is rich in sulfur, which has a pungent smell that aphids detest and is also toxic for pests. To make the garlic spray solution finely chop 3-4 garlic cloves and add 2 tbsp. of mineral oil to it. Let the mix sit for 24 hours and then strain out the chopped garlic. Add the strained liquid to half a liter of water. Use the solution directly or add a tablespoon of liquid dish soap to make to garlic spray solution even more useful.
18. Onion and Castile Soap Concoction
Apart from vampires and other such evil creatures, aphids also fear garlic and onion. It’s a potent aphid repellent concoction that is prepared by using one organic onion (medium), one organic bulb garlic, cayenne pepper powder (one tbsp.), and castile soap (two tbsp.). First, add all these ingredients except castile soap in a bowl and pour 4 cups of water in it. Mix the ingredients and bring them to a gentle boil. Let it cool and strain through a cheesecloth and discard leftovers. Add castile soap to the mix and pour it in a spray bottle. That’s it!
19. Tomato Leaf Spray
The process is pretty straightforward chop or mince two cups of fresh tomato leaves and add two cups of water to it. Allow the mix to sit overnight without any disturbance and strain out the liquid in the morning. In a spray bottle, pour the strained out liquid and further dilute it with 1-2 cups of water. The solution works because of the alkaloids present in tomato leaves that are toxic to aphids. According to this study, tomato leaf extracts were found effective for aphid and pest control.