The little green bugs in your house are called Aphids, and they are part of the insect family Aphididae, which includes around 5,000 different species. Aphids are common on houseplants which they infest and feed on.
The most common aphids are light green, but they can also be pink, white, grey and black, and can even have wings that allow them to travel to new plants to infest rapidly.
There are so many types of aphids because they tend to prefer feeding on one type of plant or are monophagous.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- What an aphid is and how to identify them
- The lifecycle of an aphid
- What damage aphids can cause to your houseplants
- Non-chemical way of getting rid of aphids
- How to prevent aphids from coming back
What are Aphids?
Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects, smaller than the head of a pin, that suck the nutritious sap out of plants. They can prevent the growth of flowers and fruits that help plants reproduce, primarily if large numbers infect a plant.
Luckily, aphids are easy to get rid of and control once you are aware that they are infesting your plants.
How To Know If You Have Aphids
Aphids are tiny and can be challenging to see with the naked eye unless you know what you’re looking for. While the most common aphids are green, there are plenty of other colours they can come in, along with a waxy outer coating.
One of the telling signs of an aphid is its pear-shaped body and long antennae. These characteristics are in nymphs as well as adults.
Aphids are usually wingless unless there is overpopulation, and they need to spread out more quickly.
They typically feed and live in large groups, but how large those groups get depends on food supply, so that you might find them in smaller groups.
Depending on what plants are in your home, you will get different aphids as they prefer certain plants. Some different types include bean aphids, melon aphids, and potato aphids.
In the winter, aphid eggs attach to wood and will hatch into females come the spring. The females can give birth to nymphs without mating, which grows rapidly into adults within ten days.
The male aphids are born in the fall and will mate with the females to create eggs for the winter.
Things work slightly differently indoors, as controlled temperatures and year-round food supply mean they didn’t have to slow down their reproduction.
Female aphids can continue to give birth to nymphs all year, resulting in uncontrolled populations on indoor plants.
Aphids Effect on Houseplants
Aphids can rapidly move from one plant to another, causing damage. In outdoor situations, ants tend to gather around aphids because they feed on the sugary liquid they secrete as they feed or honeydew.
In indoor conditions, aphids fly or crawl from one plant to another.
You may also notice a sticky substance on the leaves or stems of your houseplants from the honeydew aphids product. The honeydew can also drip onto floors, furniture and even get into the fur of pets.
Aphids damage houseplants by attaching themselves to the soft green stems and sucking the sap from them. New foliage then looks wilted and crinkled since they aren’t getting the sap they need to survive and thrive.
Once the infestation becomes bad enough, the honeydew will encourage a sooty mould to grow and leaves will fall off the plant.
Some aphids can cause damage to roots which results in abnormal growths on both the roots and the leaves.
How to Get Rid of Aphids
Pest prey on the weak, so the best prevention of infestation is to have healthy and thriving plants that are less likely to attract aphids from the start.
This can be something as simple as repotting your plants when they have been in too long, which can cause plants stress.
However, if you find yourself with aphids already feasting on your plants, here are some non-chemical things to try to stop them from settling in and reproducing.
Keep in mind that if you decide to use sprays, you should use them at dusk or very early in the morning when there is less insect activity to prevent you from harming other insects that are beneficial to your plants’ growth.
- By hand. The simplest way to get rid of aphids is to put on some gardening gloves and either knock them off the leaves outside or knocking them off into a bucket of soapy water.
- Wash your plants. A slightly bizarre prospect, washing your plants in cold water either by spraying them or dipping them in water will knock any aphids off your plant’s leaves and get rid of the honeydew they produce that might attract other critters.
- Flour. For large infestations, dust your plants with flour to make the leaves less appealing to insects. Flour causes constipation in pests.
- Insecticidal soap. Insecticidal soap is a soap that targets insects by suffocating or dehydrating them. Spraying this soap on the underside of your plant’s leaves will help get rid of the aphids feeding there. You can learn more about insecticidal soaps and how to make your own by checking out this article by Bob Vila.
- Neem oil. Neem oil comes from neem trees and affects insects’ feeding abilities, acting as a natural repellent.
- Cayenne pepper. Much like using a diluted soap, putting a pinch of cayenne pepper into a solution of water and dish soap can help deter aphids when sprayed on your plants.
- Rubbing alcohol. Applying rubbing alcohol with a cotton swab to your plant’s leaves will kill any aphids that are feeding there. Make sure it doesn’t have any additive that might cause damage to your plants. However, this method is a bit time-consuming and may work better for light infestations.
- Remove infected leaves. If you noticed that there are only aphids on a specific part of your plant, then you may be able to remove the infected section and dispose of it outside. You’ll want to check the underside of the leave to make sure you spot all the infected areas.
- Sticky strips. Hanging sticky strips around your plant can trap any aphids that come near. Sticky strips are easy to find at garden centres and online.
If you choose to use a spray, make sure you are getting close to the plant, and you’ll want to spray until the plant is dripping.
Make sure you are also getting the soil around the plant as aphids can drop off the leaves and be crawling in the soil.
How to Prevent Aphids
Once you have successfully gotten rid of the aphids on your house plants, there are some things you can do to prevent them from making a reappearance:
- Check your plants. It’s easy to deal with aphids if you check them early, so make a habit of checking your plants while watering them and keeping an eye out for any signs that aphids are taking an interest in them.
- Beneficial bugs. You might find it tempting to treat all insects equally, but the truth is, some insects are beneficial to your plants’ overall health. Insects like ladybugs and lacewings feed on aphids and can keep them from colonizing in your plants.
- Diatomaceous Earth. This is a mild insecticide that is sharp to the soft-bodied insects and will rip them up as they crawl over it. You have to reapply it every time it rains, so it’s easier to use in the summer than in the spring or autumn.
- Garlic and chives. Planting or potting garlic or chive plants near other indoor vegetables and herbs can help repel aphids.
- Catnip. Aphids don’t like being near catnip, so having some around your houseplants can help keep them from coming in to feed.
- Host plants. Having host plants is less about prevention and more about control. Host plants attract the aphids to themselves to be on one plant instead of all of them. Nasturtiums act as good host plants. You can try host plants if you don’t mind still having aphids around but still want to keep them away from certain plants.
The best way to get rid of aphids or any other pest is to rotate what you’re using. Take a few different things from the above list and change what you are using each week.
This way, you can cover all the different phases of the aphid lifecycle and cover any bases you might have missed. It would help if you were using a preventative two or three times a week.
Aphids can multiply quickly and cause damage to your houseplants if not dealt with right away.
However, they are pretty easy to get rid of before they do any real damage and preventing them from coming back by having certain plants and insects around your plants that make them less desirable to the aphids.
The best prevention for any pest in your home is to keep an eye out for early signs that you can deal with before they become actual infestations.
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