Spring Insects – Aphids

Warm winters are is to blame for an early onslaught of pest in the summer. A plethora of pests can survive warm winters. Some of the most common insects are scale, whiteflies, Lace bugs, garden aphid, Leafminers, and Japanese Beetles. Some of the most prevalent diseases affecting plants this season are black sooty mold and black spot.

We have posted information to help you define and eliminate your pest problems. Three posts are already available to help you. Check these out:

Let’s begin this series with one of the most common garden pest insect, Aphids!

What are Aphids

Aphids feed on both garden crops and ornamental plants. There are around 250 species that in essence “specialize” in feeding on different types of plants, everything from pine trees to your strawberries. Aphids may be green, yellow, brown, red, or black depending on the species and the plants they feed on. They vary in length from 1 to 10 millimeters. The basic mug shot of an aphid shows a plump, pear-shaped body and two tubes, or cornicles, which project from their abdomens. Most adult aphids are wingless, but many species also exist in winged forms, especially when populations are high or during spring and fall. This provides the pest with a way to disperse to other plants when they run out of food.

Aphids feed by using special mouthparts to pierce plant tissues and suck the sap out of tender plant shoots and leaves. Their feeding causes leaves and stems to become distorted and cause wilting and sometimes even dieback of shoots and buds. This distorted growth may be mistaken as herbicide injury. Aphid’s ability to transmit plant virus diseases may be more harmful to some plants than any direct feeding damage.

Aphids feed in colonies, part of the reason that they are so destructive. Generally, if you see one aphid, there are lots more to be found as well. Aphid populations are largest during the spring, on the flush of new growth. During this time these insects excrete large amounts of a sticky, sugary substance commonly called “honeydew”. The excreted honeydew coats leaves, stems, and fruit, stimulating the growth of sooty mold. With a big enough infestation of aphids, leaves below the aphid colony begin to grow fungi from the aphid honeydew, this is black and brown in color and called sooty molds, these molds cover leaves and other objects below aphid colonies where the honeydew collects. To get rid of the sooty mold requires getting rid of the aphids.

Aphids often work in a symbiotic relationship with ants. Some species of ants “farm” aphids, protecting them on the plants they eat, eating the honeydew that the aphids release. Some species of dairying ants manage large “herds” of aphids that feed on roots of plants in the ant colony. Queens that are leaving to start a new colony take an aphid egg to found a new herd of underground aphids in the new colony. These farming ants protect the aphids by fighting off aphid predators.

Aphids are unlike most insects in that the large majority are female which reproduce without mating; and many seldom lay eggs, but give birth to living young.

How do I control Aphids?

Early detection is the key to reducing aphid infestations. Small numbers of individual colonies on small plants can be crushed by hand or removed by pruning as they are found. In some cases, this may provide adequate control. Insects that attack aphids include predatory lady bugs, hoverfly larvae, parasitic wasps, aphid lions (the larvae of green lacewings), crab spiders and lacewings.

Most products used for aphid control work as contact insecticides. This means that the aphids must be hit directly with spray droplets so that they can be absorbed into the insect’s body. Sevin is not effective against many aphids so it is generally not a good choice for control unless recommended specifically. In fact, applications of Sevin may reduce the number of beneficial insects, such as lady beetles, and increase the potential for aphid outbreaks. You can kill aphids by spraying, especially under the leaves, with a solution of 2 tsp mild dish or laundry soap to a bottle of luke warm water. The soap washes off the aphid’s protective waxy coating and causes dehydration. You can also mix three parts luke warm water to one part vegetable or horticultural oil and a couple drops of dish soap.

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The best time to water is between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. There are many reasons why the experts say to water in the morning, but all the reasons originate from two place…bugs and disease. It seems logical to water at night to prevent water loss through evaporation, but a damp, dark landscape is a welcome wagon for bugs and disease. It is much less expensive to lose a little water through evaporation than it is to combat these pests with fungicides and pesticides.

Of course, if you live in an area where there are restrictions on water use, water when you can. A little water at the wrong time is better than none at all.


Drip or trickle irrigation was conceived almost fifty years ago by an engineer in Israel, Symagha Blass. His observations of a tree near a leaky faucet having more growth than other trees nearby led him to patenting a low pressure water delivery system that applied water ‘drop by drop.’

It has been the agriculture sector of the irrigation industry that has benefitted the most from his discovery. Drip irrigation systems in agriculture provide many benefits to the farmer: Low pressure operation, fertilizer application directly to the root zone, weed control, because of reduced wetting areas, reduced run-off, and, most importantly, drip irrigation provides greater yields over more conventional irrigation techniques.

As in agriculture, drip irrigation of landscape projects provides reduced run-off, weed control, and accelerated plant growth. In addition, drip systems in landscaping allow for irrigating any time of day. Because drip emitters do not spray water, there is little evaporation, and no spray means no foliage or buildings getting wet.

One of the best reasons for using drip irrigation is the reduction of controller stations and valves. Because drip emitters flow so little water when compared to the conventional spray heads, you can irrigate more plants or plant area with the same amount of water. You should remember, however, that you will need more time to irrigate those plants since the application rate is so much slower.


Because your irrigation system is outdoors and is exposed to the elements, and is made up of components which are sometimes damaged by lawn mowers, cars, etc., there may come a time when you will need to know what to do in the event of damage.

First, always be on the lookout for malfunctioning sprinkler heads and soggy areas that may indicate an underground water leak. If your irrigation system is in some way damaged, there are several different things you can do.

1. If the damage is one particular sprinkler head, you can simply turn off the section on the controller which the damaged head is located in. By turning off this one section, the remainder of your landscape is irrigated without interruption.

2. If, for some reason, #1 is not effective, unplug the controller from the source of electricity. This will turn off your entire irrigation system, so none of the sections will receive water.

3. If this is still ineffective, there is probably a break in the main water line that supplies the system. To stop the leak and to stop the supply of water to the entire system, turn off the main water valve that is located near your water meter.

If you need further assistance, please feel free to call.

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