Winter Is Over, But the Aphids Are Coming

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Winter Is Over, But the Aphids Are Coming

Now that winter has finally come to an end and summer is upon us, the millions of aphid eggs that were laid last fall will begin to hatch, spelling worrisome issues for plants all over the world.

Aphids are a parasitic family of insects that are found in temperate areas all over the world. They are infamous amongst farmers, gardeners, and anyone else whose livelihood depends on keeping plants healthy due to the fact that they feed directly on the sap of plants, leading to a variety of problems that reduce the plants’ health and well-being. The following helps you identify, educate, and eliminate aphids, but you can always contact a Vernon tree service in Oregon for immediate help.

IDENTIFYING APHIDS

Winter Is Over, But the Aphids Are Coming

Aphids are very small insects and therefore can be somewhat difficult to locate upon a plant. Make sure to thoroughly inspect all parts of your plant to discover if you have an aphid infestation. Check underneath leaves, as well as on the stems of plants and around every branch to find them. These insects generally range from as small as 1/16th of an inch all the way up to 3/8ths of an inch and have soft, pear shaped bodies. The majority of aphids are green in color, however there are other species such as the wooly aphid that are white; or the black bean aphid which, as its name suggests, is black in color.

Depending on the species, aphids may or may not have wings. Those species that do will have transparent wings that are longer than the body itself. Aphids will have two compound eyes and may be found in the presence of nymphs, which are very similar to adults in appearance but are of course smaller and do not have wings.

APHID REPRODUCTION

Because they lay eggs in the fall that gestate over the winter, aphids will generally appear around the springtime. This does however, depend somewhat upon the climate they reproduce in. In more mild climates, as well as in controlled climates (such as greenhouses), aphids are able to reproduce year round.

Most aphids reproduce both asexually and sexually, laying eggs inside of the crevices in tree bark or upon plant stems during the shorter fall days. During the summer months the aphids reproduce asexually, with the females continuously birthing live nymphs directly. These live nymphs are female and are clones of the mother, leading to multiple generations throughout one summer.

Finally, by the autumn they begin giving birth to males, which may be missing wings and mouths and once again they begin laying eggs for the winter.

APHID RANGE AND HOST PLANTS

Aphids can be found throughout the world, but they differ from other insects in that they are more likely to be found in temperate zones as opposed to tropical ones. They have the ability to migrate over incredible distances, being carried by winds across vast areas of land and even over oceans. Most aphid species are adapted feed off of individual types of plants, although some are capable of surviving on multiple different hosts.

There are over 4,000 different species of aphids and about 250 of these are significant pests to humans, affecting farming, gardening, forestry and other livelihoods.

THE EFFECT OF APHIDS UPON PLANTS

Aphids can have a variety of deleterious effects on plants, which depends on the species of plant as well as its age and the presence of other pathogens and parasites. A few aphids that feed on leaves won’t necessarily do a lot of damage to a tree, but as aphids reproduce extremely effectively, a small amount of them can quickly balloon into a large and destructive population of insects.

A large amount of aphids can quickly cause leaves to wither and turn yellow; certain aphids also create a sticky liquid secretion known as honeydew which can lead to the growth of an unsightly fungus known as “sooty mold.” This mainly effects ornamental plants such as azaleas, gardenias and laurels.

Aphids can also transmit viruses to plants; farming crops such as squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, melons, beans, potatoes, beets and bok choy are often affected by these viruses. It does not require a large population of aphids to transmit a virus and they are capable of causing very large losses among crops. Certain species of aphids also attack the roots of plants; the lettuce root aphid is an example of a soil-dwelling species that can kill lettuce plants by damaging their roots.

CONTROLLING APHIDS

There are several methods gardeners and farmers have at their disposal for managing an aphid infestation. The first and foremost step in pest control is to frequently inspect plants for signs of an aphid population. Examine plants at least twice a week during the season of largest growth; it’s best to catch the problem before it starts to cause the leaves to wilt and curl.

In addition, the standard practice of Vernon’s tree service in Oregon is to keep an eye out for a large ant population on your plants as well; ants are known to harvest the honeydew that aphids produce and therefore provide an important clue that aphids may be nearby. Ants have a mutualistic relationship with aphids, helping to protect them from predators in return for the honeydew and therefore controlling the ant population will help to control the aphid population in turn.

There are many natural methods of dealing with aphids if you do not wish to apply pesticides. Lady beetles can be purchased in most garden stores; these are a natural predator of the aphids and will offer some help in curtailing the population. Always release lady beetles around dusk because if they’re released in bright daylight they will immediately fly away.

Aphids can also be chemically controlled with insecticidal soaps which can be applied directly to plants; canola oil is a natural way to kill aphids although its mechanism for doing so is to smother the insects, which means that you must ensure that you thoroughly cover the plant. Other natural methods include thoroughly spraying your plant with water and applying a spray made from garlic and cayenne pepper which will kill the aphids without harming the host plants.