How to get rid of aphids: aphid control & prevention

How to get rid of aphids: aphid control & prevention

There are many different ways to get rid of aphids. We will show you how to control aphids naturally and will demonstrate the advantages of organic aphid control methods.

A single aphid is not a big problem; however, aphids tend to mass reproduce. As the pesky aphids can weaken your plants considerably, we will show you some possible ways of getting rid of these pests.

How to get rid of aphids on plants: the best remedies

There are various ways of controlling aphids. While some remedies work well, others are not very effective. We will show you how you can use beneficial insects, household remedies or organic sprays for aphids as well as chemical products to get rid of these pests.

How to get rid of aphids naturally: organic aphid control without chemicals

There are countless synthetic products available on the market which have proven to be efficient against aphids. However, they carry a higher risk of harming beneficial insects as well as the user themselves. We therefore advise against the use of these products in your garden. Organic products and home remedies are an effective and safer alternative for yourself and the environment.

Neem-based products are especially effective when it comes to aphid control. These products are made from the oil of the neem tree. The aphids absorb the active ingredient while sucking on the plants and will stop doing so after only a few hours. The active ingredient also interferes with the aphids’ development, therefore covering all aphid generations. What is special about neem-based products is that they have a systemic effect: the active ingredient is absorbed and distributed to all parts of the plant. This way, all aphids, even the well-hidden ones, are affected.

There are also organic rapeseed oil-based products. However, they are only effective when they come into direct contact with the insects. For this reason, they do not have a systemic effect. As a result, you might have to apply the product several times, which some plants do not tolerate well. Other organic remedies might contain pyrethrins which can be harmful to beneficial insects. We therefore advise against using such products.

Unfortunately, household remedies against aphids only have a limited effect. To be really effective they often require multiple applications. If the aphid infestation is not severe and detected early, though, they can also get the job done. If you want to know more about different household remedies for aphid control, you can check out this article. We will explain, for instance, how to fight aphids with the help of soap solutions and stinging nettle extract. However, in the case of a severe infestation, often only an actual pesticide will help.

black aphids on a plant
Aphids can cause big harm to your plants [ Klejdysz]

Getting rid of aphids with beneficial insects

Even though some beneficial insects are already naturally present in the garden, the insects can also be purchased specifically for controlling aphid infestations. The targeted use of beneficial insects is particularly effective in greenhouses and conservatories. When used in the garden, the insects will usually migrate and will not stay on the plant that requires treatment.

Ladybirds are the beneficial insects which can exterminate the largest number of aphids. Their larvae are especially voracious; they can easily get rid of up to 600 aphids during their developmental stages. You can use different types of ladybirds to control aphids, for example the two-spot ladybird (Adalia bipunctata) or the seven-spot ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata). A ladybird species which we do not recommend is the harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) as it is a very invasive species which has led to the decline of many ladybirds native to Europe.

Another very effective beneficial insects are ichneumon wasps (Ichneumonidae). They use their stingers to lay a single egg in each aphid. The eggs develop into larvae which then use the unhatched aphids as food. After about seven days the ichneumon wasps emerge from a small hole in the body of the prey. One ichneumonid can get rid of several hundred aphids. Most species can only infest certain kinds of aphids. Aphelinus abdominalis, however, is an ichneumon wasp with a broad prey spectrum.

The final beneficial insect against aphids to be mentioned is the green lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea) or, more specifically, its voracious larvae. They are very undemanding when it comes to environmental conditions. If a larva finds an aphid, it will bite the insect and suck it dry in no time. This way, one larva can kill a multitude of aphids in a single day.

Tip: Beneficial insects can be highly specialised and often only feed on one specific aphid species. You should therefore always consult an expert before using beneficial insects for pest control. Furthermore, using beneficial insects is only advisable when you can offer the insects good conditions for rapid reproduction and if you do not use other pesticides at the same time.

How to get rid of aphids with chemicals

If the beloved plants are threatened by an aphid infestation, quite a few hobby gardeners (even despite their love for the environment) prefer to use conventional, ecologically harmful aphid sprays. Some frequently used products contain deltamethrin which works unbelievably fast through a so-called “knockdown effect”. However, this means that the products are also very harmful to beneficial insects in your garden. Neonicotinoids such as acetamiprid and flupyradifurone are often harmful to bees and many other beneficial insects as well. You should therefore always make sure to purchase plant protection products which are suitable for organic farming, instead of resorting to the more toxic synthetic products. Unfortunately, there is a still persistent idea that organic pest control products are less effective and/or slow in their effect. This is untrue and there are many natural remedies that do work quickly and effectively.

ladybug and aphids on a plant
Beneficial insects are a natural way to control aphids []

Aphid prevention

We can find aphids everywhere in our gardens. Unfortunately, we cannot prevent the small pests completely. Here are some simple tips on how to prevent an aphid infestation as much as possible:

  1. There are many beneficial insects in our gardens which can help get rid of aphids, such as ladybirds, ichneumon flies, green lacewings and gall midges. The number of aphids can be regulated with a natural garden design, which provides many possibilities for the beneficial insects to retreat. You can attract beneficial insects to your garden with native flowering plants. At the same time, you should avoid using chemical plant protection products in your garden that are harmful to beneficial insects.
  2. As a preventive measure, you should also make sure that your plants are as resistant as possible to a potential aphid infestation. This can be done by avoiding nitrogen-rich fertilisers and ensuring a good potassium supply for your plants. Providing your plants with a good location also makes for more resistant plants that are attacked less frequently by aphids. You should also avoid planting them too close to each other so that the individual plants can develop well, and their roots have enough space to grow.
  3. Many aphid species spend the winter on specific host plants, from which they attack new plants in the next spring. If you keep these winter hosts out of your garden, you might be able to avoid an early aphid infestation in spring. The black bean aphid (Aphis fabae), for example, likes to spend the winter on guelder roses (Viburnum opulus). So, if you find that your plants are frequently infested by black bean aphids, you should remove guelder roses from your garden.
  4. If you generally have a big problem with aphids, we recommend that you use a plant strengthener. You can strengthen your plants’ cells by spraying horsetail extract, which contains silicic acid, onto them. This makes it more difficult for the aphids to penetrate the plant with their proboscises. However, this is only really effective when repeated approximately once every week.

Nevertheless, sometimes the weather favours the aphids’ growth so strongly that all preventive measures fail. If this is the case, the only way of getting rid of the insects is with an effective organic plant protection product.

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