So, you’re dealing with an aphid infestation- and you want to learn how to get rid of them.
Quickly. And effectively.
This comprehensive tutorial will guide through the process of eradicating your garden from these nasty little plant-destroyers. This covers everything from the basics to learn and get a brief history about aphids and what they’re attracted to, repelled by, and DIY methods you can do at home to get rid of aphids quickly.
Ready to get your garden free of aphids? Read on.
What are aphids exactly?
Aphids are true bugs. They’re small, soft pests that live all across the continental United States. They’re found in every zone, especially where the temperatures are nice and the weather is warm.
How big are they?
Aphids are tiny. They’re about ¼ of an inch and are often hard to see unless you look closely. They range in colors from white, black, gray, green, brown, and even pink aphids have been spotted before. They have a shiny, waxy coat on their outer shell to protect them from the elements with a pair of antennae and a pear-shaped body. The younger aphid babies (AKA nymcphs) look exactly like the adults but smaller in size. They have two short tubes sticking out of their rear end.
Most aphids are wingless but some can form wings when colonies grow crowded, so they can migrate from plant to plant and start a new colony. They’re social creatures that stick together.
What plants do aphids eat?
They eat anything as long as it doesn’t have sulfur. They’re especially fond of cabbage, beans, potato, peach, melons, and apples. But they also feed on regular garden and household plants and other fruits and vegetables. There’s really nothing they won’t feed on unless it’s too extreme, like peppers, spices, or onions.
They really like plant juices and new, buddies flowers and roots. Succulents and new growth are the favorites for most species, but not all.
Why are aphids bad for plants?
Aphids may look cute (to some folk), but they’re literally leeches to your plants. They’ll suck the life force out of your plants and use it to survive and multiply- only to create more leeches to suck more of your plant’s remaining life. They’re also known to spread diseases, bacteria, and even viruses between plants. And they have an endless hunger for plants to top it all off.
Where do aphids come from?
Aphids are found all throughout North America. They’re usually active during Spring and go away when temperatures rise. They eat nothing but plants, which makes them herbivores. They won’t bite humans as far as I know and will only eat plant matter- though, this isn’t a good thing (which is why you’re probably here).
They especially like to eat budding plants that are growing and lay their eggs on leaves (usually hidden) to survive the wintertime. They live together in small colonies and migrate from plant to plant when they’re done feasting.
How fast do aphids reproduce?
They live up to 40 days and reproduce very quickly. Female aphids give birth to female nymphs, which means they skip the egg stage if needed. This happens more often during the summer and spring when there’s a ton of food available.
They can give birth to 12 offspring per day, which mature in just a week and can then reproduce themselves. This leads to a bustling popular of aphids rather quickly and why it’s very important to control their population whether DIY style or hiring a professional.
How to identify aphid damage
The most obvious way is to visibly see them growing on your plant! Besides that, here are a few other ways you can spot damage:
- Sticky substance on your plant
- This is called honeydew and it’s what they leave on the plant. It turns black if it’s fungus grows on it, which may block out your plant’s need for sunlight.
- Leaves turning yellow or curling
- Ant infestations surrounding the plant (eating the honeydew secretions)
- Stunted growth
- Shriveling plants
- New buds being eaten or not growing
- Sooty or moldy fungus on plant
- Possibly weakened plants or slower growth rates
- Misshapen, curling, or weirdly shaped leaves
- Distorted fruits or vegetables
- Eaten roots or stems
- An abundance of ladybugs (they naturally eat aphids)
Once you’ve identified possibly aphid damage, it’s time to take action right away. They’ll eat up the plant and then some if you don’t do something about it. This guide will teach you how to control aphids at home and get rid of them- DIY style!
We’ll cover natural remedies, how to make homemade aphid spray, using plants they don’t like, controlling and repelling them with plants and veggies, killing aphids using things you have around the house, and the popular soapy water recipe!
Let’s get started.
How do you get rid of aphids?
Well, it’s pretty easy if you spot them early. In the beginning, aphid control only involves just a bit of pruning and some aphid killer. You shouldn’t go all out just yet because you may damage your plant.
Small aphid infestations
If you just noticed a possible aphid infestation, here’s what you can do:
Prune them off
Remove them by hand and pick them off. Start by getting a container with soapy water. The soap will remove the coating on their outer shells, which will easily kill them over time.
Get a pair of dexterity garden gloves and just pick them off and dunk them into the soapy water. Do this for as many plants as you see with aphids on them and continue this for a week.
If you see too many on a certain plant, just prune it. Prune the whole branch, leaf, or stem off and throw the whole thing in the container.
After a week has passed, assess your situation. Do you see any more aphids? Has the popular been diminished greatly?
Large aphid infestations
If you have a lot of aphids, do these methods instead:
Remove all aphids by hand by pruning the plant. Although you may lose a large portion of the plant, it’s better than having it all eaten up. The plant will grow back, but the aphids won’t.
Cold water spray
Spray freezing cold water on the plant. Though this may not be an option for everyone, if you have the luxury of cold water, spray down the plant just before the sun rises, midday, and after sunset. The cold water will repel them and often they can’t find their way around to the same plant because they’re disoriented. This may spread them to other plants, so be careful.
Use catnip directly on the plant. Aphids naturally hate catnip and since it’s really easy to use (just stick it on the plant), this is worth trying. This will repel them, but won’t kill them. Just FYI. Be wary of other plants getting infected. But if you just have one plant or only care about one, then this is worth a try.
Using rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) to kill aphids. You can find this at any pharmacy. Just make sure it’s pure and doesn’t have anything added to it. You can get a big container for just a few dollars anywhere. Look for the 70% strength and grab a bottle.
Then combine the alcohol with water in a 1 part alcohol to 1.5 parts water solution. Add 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid and a dash of cayenne pepper to make a very potent, natural DIY aphid killer and repellent. Put it in a spray bottle and you’re good to go!
This may harm plants or other bugs, so apply a small amount and observe over time. Watch for reaction from the plant and give it at least 48 hours to react.
Plants need to be watched carefully when alcohol or, soap, or other additives are sprayed. SHould the plant react negatively, dilute the solution with more water. Try doubling the amount of water until the plant accepts the spray.
Diatomaceous earth (DE)
Diatomaceous earth (also known as DE) is a powder that will kill aphids naturally. It’s non-toxic, but be careful when using it because it can harm other beneficial bugs and pollinators. You can find this stuff at any hardware store that carries pool supplies. Gently dust the plant with DE so that a visible, but a thin layer is present. Test it on a single leaf and let it sit for a few days before allocating more.
Another thing you can do is get a large container filled with soapy water. Then dunk the whole branch with aphids into the water. Swish it around until they all let go. This will ensure a near 100% kill rate. Remove any aphids that are clinging for dear life. And throw them into the container afterward.
For plants that are hard to reach or can’t be moved easily, get a spray container (any old container with a nozzle with do- like a used Windex bottle), and fill it up with a 60:40 solution of warm water to soap.
Top it off with a tablespoon of cayenne pepper. This will produce a ton of soap suds and produce a powerful, potent homemade aphid killer. And for those that are hiding from your spray, the cayenne pepper will act as a repellent for them.
Spray the plant where you see any aphid activity. Be sure to get the undersides of leaves, as they lay their eggs there.
You can also try dusting the plant with some baking flour. This won’t kill them right away, but it’ll clog their digestion over time and eventually they perish. This method in combination with the cayenne pepper spray is a lethal combo to get rid of aphids quickly.
Homemade aphid spray is easy to make and completely safe for pets and children. This beats the stuff at the hardware store with questionable ingredients all day.
Tomato and cayenne pepper
Tomato leaves are also a natural aphid repellent. The alkaloids in tomatoes are very toxic to them, but no harm to plants.
You can make this stuff yourself by getting a large tomato and chopping a few cups of tomato leaves and soaking them in water for 24 hours. Get two cups of leaves and soak them in two cups of water. Then put it all into a spray bottle and spray the plant as you would with cayenne pepper.
You can combine this solution with cayenne pepper (1 tablespoon) for an even more powerful DIY aphid control spray.
Garlic is another powerful vegetable you can use to kill aphids. This is a little riskier because garlic can kill some plants.
You can test it in a bare spot first to see how the plant reacts. Mix four cloves of garlic and soak them in 2 tablespoons of mineral oil overnight. Strain the garlic and pour the oil into a cup of water. Then use that solution to spray the plant. Spray the plant and let it sit for 2 days while looking for damage. If not, then continue to spray the whole plant.
Again, if the plant reacts negatively, just dilute the spray with more water. Try doubling the amount of water in the solution.
Indian neem oil
Neem oil comes from the Indian neem tree and can help repel aphids. You can buy this premade or make it yourself. It’s kind of hard to acquire, so you’re better off going to your local garden center and buying a small bottle.
Mix 1 teaspoon of neem oil and 1-quart water. Then add in ½ teaspoon of dishwashing soap. The solution can then be applied to plants safely and will require multiple rounds of application. Spray the entire plant. Then repeat the process a week later.
Continue for a month until aphids wear off. The solution can’t be stored for longer than a few hours, so use it up as soon as you combine all the ingredients together.
Lastly, you can also use a pressure washer and blast them off with water. This will easily blast them off the plant, but gives them a narrow chance to escape. They could easily take over another plant, so you need to be careful with this method. Blast them to a controlled area, like a clearing with no other plants. Then you can sweep them up and trash them or simply wash them with a bucket of warm, soapy water. This method isn’t recommended as it has a low kill rate.
Combine methods together for a powerful, DIY aphid killer solution at home
You can also combine any of the methods to find a plan that works for you. Of course, don’t do them at the same time or else you may end up mixing harmful chemicals. Always read the label and take all safety precautions. But you can try one method after the other until one works.
That’s what I mean by combining the different techniques.
You should start with the simplest way to get rid of aphids and work your way up to more extreme measures.
By the time you’ve gone through all the options and you’re still dealing with a huge colony, it’s time to hire a specialist.
Fight nature with nature
You may have heard that the ladybug is the aphid’s worst nightmare. You can bring these bugs into your garden quickly and they’ll eat up all the aphids without damaging your plants. You can’t really buy ladybugs easily, but you can plant certain plants that’ll attract them to your aphid-infested garden quickly.
Plant plants that attract ladybugs
Plant any of the following plants away from the infestation to attract ladybugs:
- Bachelor Buttons
All of these plants will attract a healthy spawn of ladybugs and eventually they’ll feast on the aphid population.
Plant aphid repelling plants
You can also plant some plants that are natural aphid repellents, such as the following plants that they absolutely will hate:
Those plants will act as natural aphid repellent plants since they hate anything in the allium family. They’ll also attract ladybugs so you’re killing two birds with one stone.
You’ll want to plant all of these away from the infestation at first to attract ladybugs. Then they’ll naturally find the aphids and eat them up. Planting too close to the infected plants will just have the aphids eat up these plants as well if they’re not naturally repelling plants.
You can also attract birds to eat aphids by planing sources of shelter and water. Get a bird feeder, birdhouse, and bird bath. This will attract various birds that will eat up aphids like a snack depending on where you live. Birds like wrens, titmice, and other small birds will consume aphids like nothing.
Preventing further aphid attacks
- Spray horticultural oil to wipe out any aphid eggs on fruit trees.
- Remove any aphids and dispose of them when spotted. Don’t let them breed.
- Constantly monitor for signs of aphid damage or possibly colony infestations.
Attract aphid predators
Attract beneficial bugs that eat aphids, like ladybugs (lady beetles), lacewings, wasps, and more. You can do this by planting the proper plants that attract them and use them as a control for the aphid population. Do research online for plants that these beneficial and natural aphid predators like.
Plant your plants next to other plants that repel them. For example, plant your fruit tree next to your onion. Or your daisies next to your tomato. Grow them together so one repels the other and they can benefit from each other. This is called companion planting.
Plant your vulnerable plants next to trap plants. For example, ladybugs will hover around specific plants like chives. Plant your chives next to your mustard or nasturtium plants. You can also use garlic and chives to repel them when planted next to your veggies, like lettuce or peas or rose bushes.
Did you get rid of the aphids yet?
So that’s that. Hopefully, this guide will help you control and get rid of your aphids in your garden. If you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll get back you ASAP. Or if you’ve dealt with these nasty little creatures before, leave some tips for other readers!
Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.
I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).
Fight nature with nature.