Aphids are notorious pests and they’re gardener’s nightmare, but where do aphids come from? And how can you protect your plant from this ravaging pest?
Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects, often yellowish in color, that suck the juices from plants, which they inject into their own bodies. There are over 200 species of aphids. They come in all sizes: some barely visible to the human eye; others up to 2 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide.
Aphid populations can get out of control if conditions are right, such as a dry season or cold temperatures. Aphids reproduce rapidly and spread quickly by developing wings and flying. If you have an infestation, try not to panic. Prevention is key to keeping aphids away from your plants.
Where do aphids come from?
Aphids are most likely to be found in open, disturbed soil where there is plenty of organic matter.
Smaller populations can be found in trees and shrubs where the leaves are covered with soft tissue. Aphid eggs are laid in clusters on the undersides of leaves. Larva hatch from the eggs and burrow into the leaf tissue or head down to the root system. Adult females may move around looking for food but mainly stay close to the plant feeding area when not mating or laying eggs.
The best way to identify an aphid is by looking at its antennae. Some aphids only live for a few days, others for several weeks. Aphids reproduce rapidly, so if you find aphids on your plants again the following season, it’s likely they were planted by an insect or bird — their lifecycle is not long enough for them to survive on their own.
Aphids reproduce rapidly, often creating large populations that can wipe out whole plant species within a few years. They spread quickly, both through natural dispersal and through human movement. Although usually harmless, they can also affect crops by reducing crop yields or by transmitting plant diseases. Aphids reproduce by cloning themselves, usually by parthenogenesis (asexual reproduction) and the female aphid can produce several batches of nymphs before she’s ready to mate.
The White Flour Beetle is native to the United States and is believed to originate from Mexico. Aphids tend to be found in warmer climates, where they can survive winters without freezing. Aphids generally attack plants by sucking out their sap. Their presence also makes it difficult for other insects to survive. They’re also known as plant lice because many people use the word “aphid” to refer to any type of louse.
Scientists believe that a number of species of aphids originated in Mexico, where they were once a major agricultural pest. In the United States, they’ve been a problem in agriculture since at least 1880, when farmers began finding them on wheat crops in Pennsylvania.
In the U.S., aphids were first detected in the country in the early 1920s, about 70 years ago, and since then their numbers have grown exponentially. Today these insects are found everywhere in North America.
The most important aphid species in North America is the black aphid (Aphis fabae), which was introduced from Europe around the turn of the 20th century. The honeydew it produces is a major food source for ants, which in turn serve as an important food for many other insect species, including some parasitoids and predators of aphids.
Although there are thousands of different species of aphids around the world, only a handful are known to be significant pests in North America. They include various species of black aphid, green peach aphid (Myzus persicae), potato aphid (Macrosiphum euphorbiae) and apple aphid (Rhopalosiphum pomifera).
Lifecycle Of Aphids
Many species of aphids are green or brown, but some look more like yellowish white flecks.
Aphid lifecycles vary widely depending on the species, but they all start with eggs laid by a female aphid. The eggs can hatch within two to four days under ideal conditions. Overwintering eggs can remain dormant for up to two years before hatching. Some species have multiple generations each year; others take several years to develop into adults and must overwinter before starting anew.
Aphids are classified within the superfamily Aphidoidea (or Aphis). They are most closely related to aphids that attack our crops such as corn, soybeans and cotton.
Aphids feed on plants, sucking sap from their leaves or stems. The adult wasps produce a sugary substance called honeydew which acts as a food source for the young aphids. These grow into adulthood and start laying eggs on the plants they suck from – often offshoots of their own host plant or another nearby plant. Within a single season, these aphid colonies can number in the millions.
Aphids often appear in late summer and early autumn. Most often they can be found in damp areas, where their presence is caused by the water discharging from the soil or nearby greenhouses.
The aphid population increases during wet weather, so it’s important to keep an eye out for these pests during this time; however, they can also appear at other times of the year, often when conditions such as high humidity and poor air circulation combine to create ideal conditions for their breeding.
Before you can take action on them you have to know what they look like though – as well as how they reproduce and spread.
How To Get Rid of Aphids
The first step in dealing with an aphid infestation is to identify the insect. There are many varieties of aphids out there — some are green, gray or black; others are orange, red or brown — but all share certain characteristics: a round body and two pairs of membranous wings that fold under their bodies when they’re not flying (called “halteres”).
There are two main kinds of aphids: soft-bodied (sap sucking) and hard-bodied (ant attracting). Both kinds can be difficult to control manually, but they’re easier to manage with an integrated pest management approach. If you want to knock out aphids, it’s important to avoid overuse of harsh pesticides or any kind of chemicals that could harm other beneficial insects.
Insecticidal soap is helpful when used at the first sign of aphid activity and should be sprayed on all leaves, stems and fruit. These products can be purchased through nurseries or online retailers such as Amazon and eBay. You should follow the instructions closely to avoid over-dosing and harming your plants.
Ladybugs are aphid control specialists, meaning they eat lots of other insects, too. They prefer aphids over all other food sources, so they’ll literally go after anything that has a sweet taste or is soft or squishy. The only downside is that ladybugs also eat plants — specifically the ones you may want to grow for market — so you’ll need to be careful about how much of your crop you leave for them to eat.
A good way to know if you have an infestation is when you see green/black spots on the leaves which are caused by their excretion or honeydew, which is a clear sticky liquid that they secrete (otherwise known as “produced waste”).