Return to main tree page 






These small (1/6-inch) pear-shaped, soft bodied insects cluster in tight groups on 
juicy new growth. Aphids may be green, black, brown, gray, red, pink, or yellow. 
Some species have preferred target plants. Piercing mouthparts suck sap from 
plants. They may spread viral diseases.

SIGNS Foliage curls, yellows, and puckers. Sticky honeydew excretions encourage 
growth of black sooty mold and may attract ants.

PREDATORS Green lacewing larvae, ladybugs and their larvae, minute pirate bugs, 
parasitic wasps, syrphid fly larvae.

Life Cycle

In cold regions, aphids hatch in May or  June from eggs laid the previous fall. Then the females give birth to live nymphs every two weeks until the weather turns cold. The babies are born pregnant, and within a week, start delivering young babies of their own. Some nymphs born late in the summer grow wings as they mature. Then they fly to trees and lay eggs that over winter in the bark and hatch the following spring. In places where the weather stays mild all year, the pests just churn out one live litter after another.


 Aphids attack just about any kind of plant under the sun, including turf glass. The grass blades turn yellow orange and grow poorly, and ant hills suddenly appear. Mow your lawn, and spray it with Clean-Up Tonic (below). 

Anyone who's ever grown so much as a pot of petunias has come across these little suckers. You'll generally find them clustered on new growth, draining out the fluids and leaving the plants wilted, discolored, and stunted. As if that weren't enough, some aphids spread viral diseases as they move from one victim to the next.

North America is home to more than 1,300 species of aphids. Some of them target only one type of plant; others are less particular in their drinking habits. Aphids can be almost any color of the rainbow, but they're all tiny (less than 1/10 inch long), pear-shaped, and usually wingless, with soft bodies and mouths that can pierce right through even the toughest leaves and stems. Most species are smooth-bodied, but the kinds that attack trees have wooly coats that make them look like little cotton balls.   

Aphids are famous for the honeydew they produce, but have you ever wondered exactly what this substance is? When aphids tap into a plant, they're after just one ingredient in the sap-nitrogen. Once their systems have extracted it, they secrete the excess liquid in the form of the sweet, sticky stuff that ants love so much. (See Lethal Tonic below) 

Avoid over watering and over fertilizing, which stimulate tender growth. Remove heavily infested foliage, if possible. Hose off plants, including undersides of  foliage. Squish aphids with fingers or a cloth. Wrap sticky band barriers around tree  trunks to prevent ants from harvesting the honeydew excreted by aphids. Apply  insecticidal soap.

A hard, driving rain will kill boatloads of aphids, and you won't have to lift a finger! If Mother Nature won't cooperate, give your plants a strong blast of water from the garden hose, making sure to spray the undersides of the leaves. Repeat two or three more times, every other day. And try to work in the morning, so the foliage has plenty of time to dry before nightfall. (Otherwise, you could end up swapping your aphid woes for fungus nightmares.) 

Strong Medicine
Sometimes, even a deluge doesn't wipe out all of the little sap-suckers. In that case, take care remnants with Garlic Spray (below). There won't be a live aphid left!

Color Yellow
Like many insects, aphids are drawn to the color yellow. When you're battling with the flying types, you can play this card to your advantage in two ways:
1. Hang yellow sticky traps on your plants . 
2. Fill yellow plastic margarine tubs with soapy water, and set them on the ground near your plants. The bugs will fly right into the drink and drown. 

Nasty Side effects
Anyplace you've got aphids at work, you face the threat of plant viruses. There is no cure for a viral disease, but there is a product that may prevent an outbreak. Good old milk! Scientists have proven that milk helps protect plants against the nasty little organisms. Here's how you can put this germ-fighting power to work:
1.   Every time you empty a carton of milk, cream, or buttermilk, fill the container with water, shake it, and pour the contents onto one or two of your plants.
2.  Whenever you're working with aphid-plagued plants, keep a bowl handy that's filled with a half-and half mixture of milk and water. Then every few minutes, dip your hands and tools into the mix. 

Indicator plants
Once you've bid aphids goodbye, there are plenty of ways to keep them from launching another attack. But first, here's a handy way to find out when they're grouping on your borders: Just plant either marigolds or nasturtiums on the perimeter of your yard. Aphids will flock to these two, easy-to-grow annuals before they'll touch any other flowers. If you find the pesky pests on your trap crop, your mission is two-fold:
1.  Dig up the trap crop and destroy it. 
2. Protect your other plants by implementing the aphid-avoidance measures in this section.

They hate these Plants
Aphids love nasturtiums and marigolds, but they hate other plants with equal passion. Include plenty of these winners in your garden, and even the suckers' favorite targets can rest easy:
Basil      Fennel     Catnip      Garlic    Chives      Mint     Dill

Shiny light
Spread aluminum foil, shiny side up, on the ground under your plants. The reflected light will scare the daylights out of the little buggers. 

Some Bananas
Aphids can't stand bananas. So, if you love these tasty fruits as much as we do, you've got a  never ending anti-aphid arsenal. Just lay the peels on the ground under your plants, and aphids will keep their distance. As an added bonus, these skins will break down (which they do with amazing speed) and enrich the soil with valuable potassium and phosphorus. 

Easy on the Nitrogen
A plant that's getting too much nitrogen (N) is a magnet for aphids and other sucking insects. So beware of N overload! In particular, avoid synthetic/chemical fertilizers, which deliver nutrients directly to plants' roots in highly concentrated form making it a snap to serve up an overdose without even knowing it. Instead, use a natural/organic fertilizer, which adds essential nutrients to the soil, where they become available to the plants as they need them. You'll find some excellent brands in any garden center.  

Ask for Help
Aphids have hordes of natural enemies, including aphid midges, bigeyed bugs, damselflies, hover fly larvae, snake flies, soldier beetles, and both adult and larval forms of lacewings and ladybugs. They'll all show up and start chowing down on the aphids as long as you don't use pesticides. 

Garlic Spray

This fragrant concoction will halt an aphid invasion faster than you can say, "Please pass the dish soap!" In the process, it'll also kill any foul fungi that might be lingering on your plants.
1 tbsp. of my Garlic Oil (see below)
3 drops of dishwashing liquid
1 qt. of water

Mix these ingredients tether in a blender, and pour the solution into a hand-held sprayer. Then take aim and fire. Within seconds, those bugs'll be history!

Garlic Oil
Keep a batch of this patent oil in the fridge, and you'll always have ammunition against aphids and other garden thugs.
1 bulb of garlic minced
1 cup of vegetable oil

Mix the minced garlic and the oil, and pour into a glass jar with a tight lid. Put the jar in the refrigerator and steep the oil for a day or two. To see whether it's ready for action, open the lid and take a sniff. If the aroma is so strong that you take a step back, you're ready to roll. If the scent isn't so strong, mince half a bulb of garlic, mix it into the oil, and wait another day. Then strain out the solids and pour the oil into a fresh jar with a lid. Keep it in the fridge, and use it in any Thug Buster that calls

Lethal  Tonic
If ants have turned your favorite tree into an aphid ranch, don't pull any punches. Reach for your trusty hose-end sprayer, and load it with this magic bullet.
3 tbsp. of garlic and onion juice' 
3 tbsp. of skim milk 
2 tbsp. of baby shampoo 
1 tsp. of Tabasco® sauce 
1 gal. of water

Mix all of these ingredients in a bucket, and pour the solution into a 20 gallon hose-end sprayer. Then spray your tree every 10 days until the aphids are lyin 6 feet under. 
*To make garlic and onion juice, put 
     2 cloves of garlic, 
     2 medium onions, and 
     3 cups of water in a blender, and puree. 
Strain out the solids, and pour the remaining liquid into a jar. Use this mixture whenever it's called for in a Thug Buster. When you're done, bury the solids in your garden to repel aphids and other pesky pests

Clean-Up Tonic
This mix will kill lingering webworms and just about any other bad-bug 
bugs that mistake your yard for the local salad bar.
1 cup of dishwashing liquid 
1 cup of antiseptic mouthwash 
1 cup of tobacco tea* 
Mix these ingredients in your 20 gallon hose end sprayer, and saturate your plagued plants from top to bottom. Repeat as needed until the vile varmints vamoose for good, then apply it every two weeks in the evening for season-long control. 
*To make tobacco tea, place half a handful of chewing tobacco in an old nylon stocking and soak it in a gallon of hot water until the mixture is dark brown. Pour the liquid into a glass container with a tight lid for storage.