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Aphids and Pest Control – Treat Them Correctly

As a pest control technician and business owner, I have found that every year, at least one insect has a boom in population.  Last year, here in my home state of Oklahoma, we had a huge number of aphids.  So let’s prepare for this year by diving deep into what an aphid is, what does it do, and what can you do as a homeowner to protect your yards and gardens from aphids.

The ecosystems that surround us are in constant flux.  All sorts of different factors, such as weather, pesticide use, humidity and other factors can effect the insect kingdom in many ways. Whether it is an excess of pesticide used against that insects predator, or just a group of factors encouraging a population boost in these insects, the end result is the same. 

What’s an Aphid?

Aphids are a small, soft bodied insect that group into colonies on many different plant species.  Some of them have wings and search for new plants to lay eggs upon.  When they do, the nymph form emerges and begins to feed upon the plant.  It will inject its needle like sucking mouth parts into the plant, to suck out the sap.  When they do this, they will inject a small amount of saliva that may cause the leaf to curl or deform.  

Aphids leave a waste behind known as honeydew.  This is a very sugary substance that many different insects use for food.  Ants, bees and other insects will feed upon this substance.  It can also cause a black mold to form on the leaf.  This is often the first sign of aphids in your garden.  

Do they damage plants?

In most cases, aphids do not harm well established plants and trees.  But they can deform foliage, over feed on young plants and spread some virus borne diseases to your trees.  Often flowers or fruit will be deformed by their feeding.  Other less desirable insects can and will be attracted to your garden and yard by their honeydew.  Windows and cars can get dirty by dripping honeydew.  And that stuff is hard to get off of your car!

So, should you be concerned?  In most cases, you don’t have to be.  But a watchful eye never hurts.  Watch for black mold on the foliage of your trees and plants.  Be especially vigilant with new plant life that has not been established yet.  These young plantings are where aphid overpopulation can do the most harm.  And if you see curled leaves or deformed blooms, you should probably take a closer look. 

How can I deal with them?

If aphids have become a problem for your backyard paradise, then it may be time to take action.  Look closely at the underside of leaves.  This is where aphids hide.  If you see only a few, you may be able to manually crush them, or gently prune effected leaves, solving your problem.  If the problem is larger, a more thorough solution may be necessary.  

Pesticides are not the best method of dealing with aphids.  Because these insects hide underneath foliage, and sometimes inside curled up foliage, they are hard to treat.  Most pesticides for use against them are contact pesticides that have to be applied directly to the insect.  These are usually light natural oils and fatty salts that effect the membrane of the aphids.  Artificial pesticides with residual effect are usually too difficult to apply properly and can injure bee and small bird populations.  So if you do decide to spray something for aphid control, make sure that you use the correct control method.  And a call to your local company and experts in pest control may be the best solution.  

Conclusion

Aphids are an important part of our ecosystem.  They provide food for many beneficial insects that are found in our yards and gardens.  But as with any insect, overpopulation can make them a problem.  Hopefully you have a better understanding of this insect, and how to deal with them!

There is more sound advice for other mindful gardening methods . The section on ‘Ecologically Sound Gardening’ is very relevant

About the Author

Kevin Behe is a pest control technician, business owner, husband and father living here in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  He has spent his life traveling through Europe and the Americas searching for life, love and pest control.  You can learn more about his company, TermMax Pest Control at his website and FaceBook page.