I wanted to make some kind of reference to the Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt 90's hit... buuuuut... unlike the film, this is not a cute rom-com moment where I confess my love of aphids. Below, are 11 things to know about aphids.
This content was inspired by one of my visits yesterday where I found lots of green aphids (pictured) on some fall broccoli.
Aphids are one of the most common insects we see on our plants, and can be found on plants of all kinds.
Aphids enjoy a "goldilocks" range of temperatures. They are seen most often when temperatures are between 60 - 90 degrees. For us, in the Charlotte area, this is usually late spring and early fall.
Aphids are usually found on the undersides of leaves that are closest to the soil. Be sure to check under your leaves every couple of days, especially when temperatures are in this "goldilocks" zone.
Aphids use a tiny stylus or straw like appendage on their heads to suck the sweet sugary sap from your plants leaves. You'll rarely see aphids congregating on fruit.
Aphids congregate, ha! They are often seen in abundance. Female aphids can reproduce asexually or sexually, and can give birth to both live young and lay eggs. Uff...
Aphids in few numbers are not a huge concern, but you should definitely keep an eye on them. A handful of aphids on your plants will not be devastating to your harvests however, if you feel you have an abundance (like the ones pictured above), you should take action swiftly.
Aphids are snacks for beneficial bugs like ladybugs and other beetles, praying mantises, lacewings, hover flies, earwigs, spiders, wasps, and more! If you see any of these insects or arachnids in your space, leave them be. They may be feasting.
Aphids do not like members of the allium family (garlic, onions, chives, green onion, leeks, etc.). Consider planting these in and around your fall crops for added protection. Note: there is an allium aphid (because of course there is) which is black, and semi-uncommon in our zone though not totally unexpected!
Aphids are best treated with manual removal. You can rinse your plants leaves, you can smoosh aphids, you can trim affected stems and leaves as needed. Focus on your most populous sections first. When you trim, be sure to back up your cuttings and throw them away. These are not ideal for the compost pile or to leave around your growing space.
Aphids enjoy high-nitrogen soils so keep this in mind as you're amending your soil between seasons. Don't overdue it on the compost. When in doubt, hold back on the amendments (compost, worm castings, plant food, etc.). You can always add more later.
Aphids can be treated with products such as diatomaceous earth or neem oil. Both of these are safe for organic production but you'll want to use these with caution, and especially if you have beneficial insects around (like pollinators, or the aphid predators I mentioned above). Use these products either first thing in the morning or later in the evening, when insects are less active. Don't apply them if its windy out. Repeat as needed but don't overdue it.
Yesterday, I applied diatomaceous earth to the broccoli plants. I did this as a precaution / prevention after I trimmed the leaves with the most aphids.
Diatomaceous earth works as a desiccant (dries out soft insect bodies). Diatomaceous earth is safe to handle with or without gloves however you do not want to get it in your eyes or nose, remember how it works? Diatomaceous earth is safe to use around pets, and is a great flea treatment if needed!
You can find diatomaceous at any local hardware store, garden center, nursery, etc. If you can support local, then you must!
And if you are in a pinch, and need to order it online, you can do that too (and support me!)