Say Adios to Aphids: 5 Organic Pest Control Techniques

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Aphids on a chilli plant

When you’re growing, well, just about anything, there’s one pest that rears its head time and again: the ever-present aphid! These tiny, soft-bodied insects will attack many plants, leaving them weakened and prone to disease. As a gardener you have the power to fight back, so read on or watch our video to discover five ways for controlling aphids without resorting to pesticides.

What are Aphids?

Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects. All types are less than a tenth of an inch (3mm) long but there are many different species, from the black bean aphid to the rose aphid or greenfly. They come in a range of colours, from white or grey, to green through to black.

Aphids can be quite secretive. Look for them on new growth, in leaf crevices, clustered on buds, along stems or under leaves. The tiny insects are usually found in groups and you may find some with wings - a sign that the colony is about to disperse onto new host plants. Woolly aphids are easier to spot; they shield themselves in a mass of white, woolly wax on tree branches.

Aphids suck plant juices, which weakens the host plant, causing slow and stunted growth. Leaves may become mottled, yellowed or curled, and prolonged feeding may eventually kill the plant. Some aphids also transmit harmful plant diseases.

Aphids on a gooseberry

Controlling Aphids Organically

Most gardens will see the first aphids appear by early summer. Thankfully it’s easy to stop aphids from ruining your crops. Here are some ideas to banish these bothersome bugs.

1. Squash and Remove

Start by checking plants regularly for any signs of aphids. As soon as you spot any, squash them by hand. Clusters of locally concentrated aphids, for example at the tips of shoots, may be nipped off in their entirety and destroyed. Pinch out the tips of broad beans once the first pods appear to make the plants less attractive to black bean aphids.

2. Blast Them Off

Try blasting small infestations of aphids off your plants with a jet of water from a hosepipe. Adjust the nozzle or cover the end of the pipe with your finger to force the water out at higher pressure. The aphids will be knocked off and fall to the ground, and will be unlikely to return to the plant.

3. Spray Soapy Water

Or, spray infected plants with soapy water. Add a couple of drops of dish soap to a spray bottle, top up with water and shake to dissolve. Spray the solution liberally over the plant, remembering to reach all parts of the plant, including the undersides of leaves. The soapy water traps and suffocates the aphids.

Aphids trapped in soapy water

4. Cover Vulnerable Vegetables

Winged aphids can quickly spread plant diseases such as cucumber mosaic virus. To avoid this, cover susceptible plants with row covers in midsummer, when the risk of this disease is highest. Vulnerable plants include cucumber, spinach and celery, so prioritise covers for these vegetables.

5. Attract Aphid Predators

Where you find aphids, you’ll also find aphid predators. Ladybirds (especially their larvae) have a voracious appetite for these soft-bodied insects. Hoverfly larvae also munch their way through aphids, as do lacewings and many types of tiny parasitic wasp.

You can attract these beneficial insects to your garden by planting a range of flowering plants. Plants with simple, single flowers are best, for instance poached egg plant, marigolds, calendula, alyssum, buckwheat and echinacea. Flowering herbs such as dill, fennel, parsley, thyme and mint are also a magnet for predators. Grow these plants next to your vegetables so that beneficial bugs come to feed – and bring their appetite for aphids with them!

Cabbage aphids on kale

Aphids are part and parcel of growing your own food, but they needn’t gain the upper hand. Of course, if you have other methods you use to banish aphids, do share them by posting a comment below.

We’d also love you to take part in The Big Bug Hunt, an international research project we’re running to track the spread of all bugs, including aphids. Pop by the website and report any bugs you find in your garden. By tracking where and when bugs appear, we aim to develop a pest early warning system for gardeners – something I know I could certainly do with!

Bugs, Beneficial Insects and Plant Diseases

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Comments

 
"sadfsa"
asd on Wednesday 20 December 2017
"i plant chivies real close to my rose bushes and i don't get Aphids. if i find aphids on anything i shake some chili powder, or any hot seasoning on the plant, when they die i trim the plant to rid of them. also i have planted hot peppers real close to the squash plants and i don't get the squash bugs, i don't eat the hot peppers just grow them for the bugs, i pick the peppers and toss them in with the squash, or pumkin plants."
ajewel on Thursday 15 March 2018
"Thanks for your tips. Love the one about the chili powder - a great idea! Garlic also works really well when planted close to rose bushes."
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 15 March 2018
"Hi thanks For sharing valuable information for pest control related problems as this will help us to find the best solutions for keeping our harvest safe for these 24 hours eating pests.pest such as organic and rodents destroy lot of our harvest "
abhigaur on Thursday 19 April 2018
"lovely content for pest related problems a lot of people will take benefit from this as this will help him to get rid of harmful pests"
abhigaur on Wednesday 9 May 2018
"Can you advise on a solution for aphids on tomatoes? I do not wish to hose the tomatoes down as it may spread other disease, so is there any other way to compliment the efforts of natural predators?"
Jaco Schoeman on Wednesday 11 July 2018
"Hi Jaco. You have two options. First, you could spray your tomatoes with an organic pyrethrum-based insecticidal spray. Make sure you reach all leaf surfaces, not overlooking any corners, nooks or crannies where the aphids might be hiding. This does, however, run the risk of disrupting the natural balance in your garden. The second option is to introduce beneficial insects/biological controls such as lacewings, lady beetles/ladybirds, or parasitic wasps. These insects and their grubs will either eat the aphids or lay their eggs inside them, killing them in the process. Introduced biological controls may be bought and set up, but they really work best under cover in a greenhouse or polythene tunnel."
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 12 July 2018

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