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Getting Rid of Aphids

Aphids, also known as plant lice, are the bloodsuckers of tender plant life. They need to be dealt with swiftly and thoroughly when first discovered because they multiply like crazy. They love flowers as well as vegetables, shrubs and trees.

You can easily identify aphids because they have no look a likes. They are tiny oval or pear shaped soft insects and gather in groups around tender new growth. The most prevalent color is green which blends in with most vegetation and makes them hard to spot. Depending on the species they may also be yellow, red, brown or black. If you take a magnifying glass you can see they have long legs and some needle-like protuberances on the tail end.

Aphids feed on plant sap and thereby weaken the host. This causes distorted growth and dieback. In addition they produce a sticky sweet secretion from their feeding known as honeydew. If not removed, honeydew in turn attracts a fungus called sooty mold which leaves a black residue. Honeydew also attracts ants, flies, wasps and other critters. Beginning with aphids, you can have a whole chain of undesirable events.

So how do you fight these pests in your garden and on your houseplants?

Outside, aphids can be dislodged by a strong spraying with a hose which will also remove honeydew and mold. This works well on sturdy plants or shrubs, but might injure tender vegetation and houseplants.

For a gentler approach, use a spray bottle filled with home made insecticide. Mix up a batch of aphid killer in an 8 oz spray bottle. Fill bottle with water and add 2 teaspoons of liquid dishwashing soap.

Another good remedy is to mix a solution consisting of one part vegetable oil to 3 parts of water plus a dash of dishwashing liquid. Spray infected plants thoroughly, including undersides of leaves.

A natural and totally green method of control are predators. Ladybugs and their larvae love to eat aphids. You can purchase live ladybugs at your favorite garden center. Bring them home and turn them loose. They will be hungry and start hunting immediately.

Keep ladybugs around by putting up a ladybug hotel where they can spend the night and shelter from rain and predators. Ladybug houses are easy to build yourself out of a small piece of plywood, or you can purchase one ready-made.

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