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Aphids

Closer Look Of The AphidAbout 250 types of aphids are considered serious pests, out of 4000 known species. They sometimes have wings, but usually not, and seem to be green to pale in color, very small and soft-bodied, usually in the shape of a pear, sometimes covered with a fine whitish wax. They tend to be sluggish, not moving much, and are commonly known as plant lice. Aphids are considered pests because they suck vital nutrients from the plants they infect, and can transmit several viral diseases, such as Cauliflower Mosaic, Cucumber Mosaic, and Lettuce Mosaic. The affected plants seem to put all their energy into fighting the pests and produce small, poor fruit (vegetables).

Aphids secrete honeydew, which attracts ants and upon with a disease called sooty mold will grow, causing dark spots to appear on the leaves. So if you see ants on or near your plants, suspect aphids nearby. These bugs move very little, and mostly just feed and breed, so if you hose-off the aphids, they normally will not be able to re-infect your plants. However, because they can produce 15 generations in a single growing season (they require only a week from birth to reproduction) you might have to do battle with them several times. Aphids seem to be worst during dry, hot weather, so check for them during these periods, perhaps every other day. It is worth noting that there are many different types of aphids, such as carrot aphids, green peach aphids, bean aphids, cabbage aphids, pea aphids and turnip aphids to name a few. Some aphids infect only certain vegetables, while others are not so selective.

Adult

Winged Aphid And Wingless Aphid AdultDuring the summer months, females give birth to live young (nymphs), mostly females, at the rate of about 25 per week over a 2 to 3 week period. No males are needed with aphids, most being asexual, and the adult females carry the eggs inside of them until they hatch. By eliminating egg laying, aphids have shortened their life cycle and can thus produce more generations in the shortest amount of time. When food becomes low, aphids produce winged females, which fly to new host plants, which is basically how aphids spread in your garden. So if you see winged aphids, they are probably spreading from plant to plant, so you will have to take steps immediately to stop the spread.

When fall approaches, aphids produce both males and females for the purpose of laying fertilized eggs that will over winter, being ready to produce a new crop of insects the next spring.


Eggs

Aphids can produce either eggs or live young. In general, during the summer months, they produce live young but during the fall they produce eggs, which can survide the cold winter tempertures. By eliminating egg production during summer, more aphids can be produced, which is why aphid levels can become so great in your garden. Eggs over winter in the soil and hatch in February or March, getting off to an early start to attack your plants.


Nymph

Aphid NymphThe wingless nymphs, which are simply smaller, resemble the adults in color and shape, and reach maturity in one or two weeks, beginning the cycle again. With aphids, there is no dramatic transformation between larvae and adults; adults are simply larger aphids.


Vegetables That Aphids Like To Eat

Asparagus Carrots Lettuce Radishes
Beans Celery Melons Spinash
Beets Corn Parsnips Squashes
Broccoli Cucumbers Peas Tomatoes
Brussels Sprouts Eggplant Peppers
Cabbage Kohlrabi Potatoes

Control

For the home garden, the best way to rid yourself of aphids is to use either a hose to wash them off your plant leaves, or use an insecticidal soap and water mixture delivered from a pressure sprayer. Repeat this process every three days, but don't over-do the use of soap, because it can reduce fruit yields. If you want a more potent soap solution, combine the soap with citrus oil or pyrethrum oil. Another trick is to use yellow sticky traps set near your plants or to use aluminum foil at the base of the plants to confuse the aphids. Finally, if a stronger chemical is needed, malathion can be used.

Lady Beetles Are Natural Enemies Of The AphidIf you see dead RED aphids, it can indicate that a deadly fungus spore is present that is killing the aphids, but that is non-threatening to humans. Don’t hose off these dead aphids, but transfer them to infected plants to infect the other aphids in the colony. This is normally all you will need to minimize aphid damage to your plants. Many natural enemies, including parasitic wasps, lacewings and lady beetle larvae can also help keep aphid populations in check. By maintaining a healthy garden, with a minimum of chemical pesticides, you will naturally attract these helpful aphid predators.

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