9 Ecofriendly Aphid Control Methods

Aphid Control can be a daunting task, a task which most gardeners have dealt with at some point, but it can be done.

Getting rid of aphids, those tiny creatures who love to suck the juice out of growing tips and leaves on your roses or other tender plants and ruin your flower gardening efforts, is a must, and there are at least 9 ecofriendly methods you can use for aphid control.   However, before discussing how one can get rid of aphids, let’s have a look at what they look like.

What Aphids Look Like – Why You Need Aphid Control

Aphids invasion on a rose bud - time for aphid controlAphids are very small pear-shaped creatures that appear in great numbers on the rose cane tips in May and early June.

While sometimes the young have a pink cast or the off one is black, the majority are lime green and can be difficult to spot on a green stem.

Aphids can multiply extremely rapidly, suddenly appearing seemingly out of nowhere in such great numbers that it seems as if a huge migration has arrived overnight.

Aphids are smart.  When they take over a plant, they somehow cause the leaves to curl inward so that they can  protect themselves from insecticidal spray. If there is no aphid control in place, these aphids tend to attack tender young shoots, emerging leaves, and even the twigs. In other words if you do not get rid of them, they can quickly destroy your plants.

Did you know that ants “take care” of aphids?

You see ants love the dark sticky substance called “honeydew” which aphids secrete.   As a matter of fact, ants treat aphids as seemingly prized livestock for food production and will move the aphids on your plant to less populated leaves.  (It’s extremely interesting to see the ants at work although you may not wish to watch too long before you exercise some sort of aphid control.)

So if you see a lot of ants going up and down the stem of roses or other plants, you may want to check for aphids and get rid of both ants and aphids before the ants have their “ranch” on your prized plants. The natural citrus killer homemade spray (No 3 below) can get rid of both.

Aphid Control: 10 Ways to get rid of aphids in your flower garden:

1. The fastest and easiest way to get rid of aphids is to squeeze them with your fingers and knock them off the canes or wash down infested plants with a brisk spray from the hose. Some research indicates that once sprayed off, aphids do not find their way back to the canes and recolonize.

2. The best and fastest way I have found to get rid  of an aphid infestation is to use a particular homemade spray recipe which was given to me.  This spray will both feed the plants through the leaves (foliar feeding) and get rid of the aphids.

To make this recipe, you will need a 1 liter (approx 1 quart) spray bottle filled with HOT water (not boiling or burning water but at least as hot as a milk bottle warmed up ready to give to the baby), some gelatine, and ground ginger which you could use for cooking.

To this liter of water add about 1/8 of a teaspoon of gelatine powder and shake well. Then add 1/8 of a teaspoon of ground ginger and again shake well.  Then spray above and below the leaves and along the stem. If your water has cooled off, warm it up as the mixture needs to be hot in order to act quickly on the aphids.  Caution:  not so hot that you burn your leaves.

Every fall I surround my rose bushes (which are in pots on a 4th balcony) with a plastic bag.  Of course I leave the top of the bag open so the shrub can breathe.  Well the day after I sprayed my newly-revived-from-the-winter-ordeal rose shrubs, I noticed a few adult flies lingering on this plastic surrounding the plants.  They hardly moved when I approached them with my fingers.  They had probably taken a bite or two and so I easily killed them.

When I gently shook the shrubs’ leaves, I could see these “white” specs falling off.  The leaves looked happy and healthier than ever.

I continued this spraying a few times more times (waiting one day in between sprays).

I even used this spray on my emerging lettuce leaves in order to feed them, not because they had aphids but because they looked weak and seemed to need help.  You see, gelatine is a mixture of peptides and proteins, so gelatine is beneficial to not only humans but also plants.  For more information, google “gelatine food value”.  What you will discover about gelatine is most interesting.

3. A third method is to spray insecticidal soap (found in any nursery or some hardware stores) on infested canes and foliage. The soap does not leave any residual toxicity that would harm beneficial insects. NOTE: The insecticidal soap must be reapplied every day or two until the infestation is reduced.

4. Natural citrus killer homemade spray for Aphids.

5. Rotenone applied either as a dust or as a wettable powder spray also works well.

6 Any pyrethrum-based sprays will work.

The first four ways mentioned above are probably the most effective, but the following are other options.

7. For aphid control you can apply diatomaceous earth, a powder made from the fossilized remains of tiny sea creatures called diatoms.

Its advantage is that, unless it is inhaled, it is harmless to humans and pets while to soft-bodied insects it is razor sharp and tears their exterior casing.

The disadvantage is that diatomaceous is easily washed off leaves and canes and must be reapplied after a rain.

8. Adult ladybug beetles and larvae consume large quantities of aphids. If you can somehow attract the lady beetles to your back yard, you’ve got it made.

However, buying ladybird beetles can be a waste of money because they can simply fly away (and help themselves to your neighbour’s aphids instead of yours).

9. Some people love this method of aphid control the best.  If your roses/plants are covered with aphids, drape banana skins over the branches. Amazingly, in a day or less the aphids are gone. Although I have not personally tried this method, those who have say they have no more aphids as long as they save their banana skins for the rose bushes!

10. Having toads around is my favourite method of aphid control. If you can, keep toads around your garden.  However, to keep toads around, you must provide them with clean drinking water every other day or so.

I would use bottle covers or small clean sardine cans and put these under trees close by or anywhere where it is shady and out of sight.  When I had toads around, both aphids and the ants which used my roses to farm aphids would disappear.

Toads love aphids,  grasshopers, ants, crickets, flies, and will seek them out in your garden.  I have noticed many times that if there were toads around, there were few to no aphids on my rose plants and no ants on the ground.  Therefore I did not bother using anything else as long as I knew there were toads around.

(Of course if there are aphids on tall climbers, it would be more difficult for toads to reach the aphids, so you would have no choice but to spray.)

10.  Some may suggest using Neem, but I have found that not all plants like Neem.  Therefore, if you choose to use Neem spray, try it out on a small patch of plants in an inconspicuous spot.

11. Another option is to use homemade garlic spray or homemade rhubarb spray.  Please note that whatever spray you use, try it out first on one plant or even on  only a few leaves of the plant.  Wait 24 hours. Then you will know whether you should use the spray or not.

Also, never spray when it is very hot.  Do your spraying early in the morning so the spray will dry before the heat or in the evening after the plants have cooled down but early enough so the spray will have time to dry before it’s dark.

Gardening tip:

When using sprays on aphids or any other insects, it is best to alternate materials. If you use insecticidal soap initially, you might follow up with rotenone, then the third treatment could be done with pyrethrum and then rotate back to your insecticide soap.

Why?

Rotating control methods keeps the insects from developing resistance to a particular toxin. If a spray is used exclusively and regularly, the insects that survive live to breed and pass on their resistance, creating an ever larger resistant population.

Usually after the first infestation has been reduced by doing the above, natural predators such as ladybird beetles, wasps, predatory mites, and hummingbirds . . . and toads  . . . can help aphid control by keeping  the aphid population in check.

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3 Responses to “9 Ecofriendly Aphid Control Methods

  • 1
    Alice
    June 7th, 2015 08:34

    June 7 2015: I just tried the banana skin remedy on a struggling white climber rose that miraculously survived the harshest winter on record in Toronto. It worked instantly. Thanks for this list.

  • 2
    Lorre
    April 5th, 2016 05:29

    My rosebushes are very young and supple.
    How do I get the banana peels to stay on the bush?

    Hi Lorre
    You might want to make the banana peel short and narrow
    to diminish the weight of the peel.

    You might also try adding some of the banana peels around the base of the rosebush
    to see what will happen.

    I personally cut the banana peels in very small pieces and compost these through vermicomposting; when ready, I mix the finished vermicompost with the soil around the base of my roses.

    Marcie

  • 3
    Lonna grell
    October 11th, 2016 10:26

    My very young rose bush that we started from a cutting several months ago from a tiny cutting revived and flurished.Then the Aphids. We spreaded with a mild water and Dawn mix and it did ok however the Aphids returned in a couple of weeks. My husband handled it this time going on Youtube and changed the amount in the mix to a stronger amount.. Tbdy look terrible. They are dropping there leaves like crazy. The plant is in terrible shape. How can I save this poor plant? Lonna Grell
    _____________________________________

    Dear Lonna

    When You spray, a lot depends on the time of day you do the spraying. Once the heat set in, if you spray you are likely to burn your leaves.

    Aphids are pests that can be difficult to deal with. When I still had my rose garden, I found my best ally to be toads. In order to attract them, I would put small flat containers filled with fresh water here and there hidden by foliage, and I would change the water every 3 to 4 days or sooner if I noticed the container was dry. These toads go to work at night and they did an excellent job of removing the aphids on my roses. I also had to watch out for ants who would try to “farm” aphids and move them from plant to plant.

    Some people surround the area with other plants such as garlic or onions to fool pests by changing the smell.

    Another way to get rid of pests is to find a spray which is mild, made with ingredients that humans can swallow so that it will not hurt the environment and which will change the smell of the leaf ever so slightly. It is better to spray more often with a mild spray that will bring results than to go above given recipes. Experiment with different sprays.

    For example I have been growing vegetables on my deck since I had to move to an apartment. This year I was having problems with spider mites on my tomato and bean plants. I tried the dish soap mixture spray, but did not like the idea of maybe “eating” the leftover spray on the tomatoes plus it seemed to dry up the leaves, so I changed the mixture to 1 litre of boiling hot water in which I added about 1/8 of a spoonful of Avocado cooking oil. By the time the mixture was in a spray bottle, the water had cooled enough that I could handle the container with my hands yet was hot enough to bring through the mixed avocado oil. I figured the plant might prefer something like Avocado oil that might help feed them through the leaves rather than a soap that would block the pores. This mixture worked very well both for me and the plants because I cook with Avocado oil so extra oil on my crop would not matter and the plants seemed to like it. So experimenting in small areas first is the key.

    What to do with your plant? Even though it has no more leaves, it does not mean that it will die. You did not say where you live. If you live where there is snow, then the best thing to do is to give it tender loving care, (i.e. make sure the soil does not get too dry and you mulch it for the winter.)

    If you live where there is no winter, feed the soil by mixing in good composted material (not the powder you mix with water), keep watering it as usual, and you may find leaves coming back onto your rose shrub. Make sure your rose is healthy. That is your number one priority. Roses must be fed regularly. Composted manure once a month mixed into your soil is the best.

    Also if your water has a lot of chlorine, draw the water ahead of time and let it sit for a while so the chlorine can escape into the air. If you have fluoride in your water, using a good filter might be wise. I do both because our water has both chlorine and fluoride.

    Good luck.
    Hope you let me know how you made up via email.

    Take care
    Marcie

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