Those pesky, troublesome pests we call – Aphids – on houseplants but also in the landscape are sometimes called plant lice.
You’ll find them on the young, tender tips of new developing growth, on the undersides of leaves and clustered or in colonies on stems.
There are numerous species, so one picture of aphids may look different than another.
They are small and tiny (size wise about 1/8 of an inch and oval in shape), lice-like insects, green, pink, white, brown, red, yellow-gray, gray and black in color. Some aphids live only on one type of plant, others will thrive on many different plants.
They are equipped with delicate, tuber-like piercing/sucking mouth parts.
These small insect pests are able to pierce through the outer tissues of the plant, suck and ingest the fluids and juices from new tender growth and stems. This results in a plant having a general lack of vigor and stunted growth.
Their feeding distorts the new growth and they sometimes cause leaves to curl.
Aphids live and work in colonies, are usually wingless and are generally easy to control. Winged aphids can cause a real problem since they can spread so rapidly – within days.
Even though aphids can multiple rapidly, they move from plant to plant slowly. They like anything that is green.
Generally, all aphid species can be controlled without much difficulty with a good contact insecticide – chemcial or organic (insecticidal soap is a natural aphid killer, kills on contact). The insecticide comes in contact with the pest and kills the aphid by stopping or blocking the breathing pores.
For getting rid of aphids, you may need to repeat applications three times to be sure to kill the eggs as they hatch. Because aphid eggs are air-born, keep an eye out for more, you may need to re-apply.
If one of the commercial soaps is not available, try a simple “homemade aphid spray” – 3-4 tablespoons of liquid dishwashing soap per gallon of water and apply as a foliar spray to your plant. Make sure the underside of the leaves are sprayed as well.
Soap is effective in managing aphids, safe for people and the environment so is Neem Oil which I’ve found to be very effective in controlling aphids.
Keep an eye out for ants. Aphids and ants go together. The ants “farm” the aphids for the honeydew they secrete, which also coats leaves causing a “sooty black mold.”