Aphids are small insects with soft bodies that have the ability to survive in almost any climate. These pests find their way into almost every garden. They multiply quickly, so it’s important to get aphids under control before they begin to reproduce. Many generations occur over the course of a season. The good news is that they are slow movers control is relatively easy.
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Aphids are tiny (adults are under ¼-inch in size), and often nearly invisible to the naked eye. Various species can appear light green, yellow, white, black, brown, gray, or even pink! Some may have a woolly or waxy coating. They have long antennae and pear-shaped bodies; the nymphs actually appear quite similar to grown adults. Most species of aphids have two short tubes, called cornicle, projecting from their hind.
Most adults are wingless, but certain species can develop wings when populations become crowded and food quality suffers. The insects can travel to other plants where they reproduce and create new colonies. Aphids tend to feed in large groups, although you can see them in small numbers.
While in general, these pests feed on a wide variety of plants, different species can be specific to certain plants. For example, some species include bean, cabbage, potato, green peach, melon, and woolly apple aphids.
Both nymphs and adults alike feed on plant juices— they attack leaves, stems, buds, flowers, fruit, and/or roots, depending on the species. Most especially like new growth. Some, such as the rosy apple aphid, focus on one or just a few plant hosts. whereas others like the green peach aphid, feed on a variety of plants. Here are a few telltale signs you may have an aphid infestation.
- Curling, stunted, misshapen, or discolored leaves. Be sure to check the underside of the leaves as well; aphids enjoy hiding there.
- Stems and leaves are covered with a sticky substance, called “honeydew”. This is a sign that aphids have probably been sipping sap. This is a sugary liquid that is a waste product produced by the insects that attracts other insects such as ants, who gather the substance for food. When aphids feed on trees, their honeydew tends to drop onto outdoor furniture, cars, driveways, etc.
- The honeydew can sometimes encourages fungal growth called sooty mold, causing branches and leaves to appear black.
- Fruit and flowers can become deformed and distorted due to feeding.
- Aphids can transmit viruses between plants, which also attracts other insects that prey on them, such as ladybugs.