What do you do if your plants still have yellowed and distorted leaves even if you’ve taken good care of them? Try checking the plant for tiny sap-sucking insects called aphids.
What are Aphids?
There are at least 6 types of aphids that differ in color and vary slightly in size, but they are all members of the superfamily Aphidoidea. Colors range from black to colorless, and are mostly wingless although there are winged aphids, too. Some aphids feed on specific plants only, but others can colonize several plants over time. A few aphids will feed on different plants in different times of a year.
They can be as destructive as other plant pests because they reproduce very fast and in high numbers, so it is possible to affect the rest of your garden with just one plant. They are also vectors for viruses, mold, and eventually leave plants disfigured. It is known to gardeners that aphids can form a mutual relationship with some ant species, and in fact, some of them are farmed by ants.
What Do they Do to Plants?
To determine if your garden is infested with aphids, you will only need to look for clues in your plants. The aphids usually feed on the roots, stems, leaves, buds, fruits, or flowers of the plant but this depends on the species. They usually prefer succulents if they are the type that feed on a variety of plants.
Look for stems or leaves covered with a sticky substance that looks like strings of white cotton, mishappen/curling/yellowing leaves, fungal growth, blackened branches and leaves, deformed and distorted fruits, galls on leaves or roots, and other insect infestation on the plants (aphids can attract predators). Lastly, look at the underside of the leaves if there are tiny insects because the aphids usually hide there.
How are Aphids Removed?
Aphids can be difficult to control, so make sure you take note of all the signs of infestation. If the infestation is only limited to specific parts of the plant, just physically remove the affected leaves and stems. Drop these cuttings into a bucket of soapy water then discard.
If there are ants in the garden that might be helping increase the population, trim the lower parts of the plants so that they don’t touch the lower ground. Some gardeners even coat the lower stems with sticky substances, so the ants can’t have access. Some people also spray soapy water or neem oil to remove both the aphids and ants. Most soaps, however, can also kill beneficial insects, so neem oil is usually more preferable because it can also eliminate other pests and fungi.
Some gardeners choose a natural approach by introducing the natural aphid predators such as the ladybug beetle. If you have fragrant herbs, you can also introduce green lacewings. Another way is to introduce plants to attract the aphids away from the other. These include aster, zinnia, cosmos, verbena, and dahlia.