Oh No, There’s Aphids on My Flowers!
As you are walking around the garden this spring, if you look closely you may spot aphids on some of your plants. These tiny insects can be found on a variety of plants. Here in Forsyth County, we saw aphids on iris in mid-April.
Aphids are a common insect pest in the landscape – there are thousands of species of aphids worldwide. Aphids are quite small – usually 1/8 inch long or shorter, depending on the life stage. They come in a variety of colors, including yellow, brown, green, red, and gray. While some aphids can feed on a variety of plants, others specialize on certain plant species. See this article from Minnesota Extension for great photos to help you identify aphids.
The reason you may be seeing aphids early in the spring is that they are hatching from eggs that were laid last fall. The eggs overwinter on plant material and hatch in the early spring. Female aphids that hatch in the spring begin feeding and reproducing. Typically, aphids can produce several generations each year, and can reproduce very quickly when it gets warm in the summertime.
So what should you do if there are aphids in your yard?
You don’t necessarily need to do anything about aphids in your yard. Aphids have lots of natural predators, including lacewings, lady beetles, and others. Often, these natural predators will feed on the aphids and keep plant damage to a minimum.
If there is a large infestation of aphids in your yard, you may see a secondary problem of ants and/or sooty mold. Aphids excrete honeydew, which attracts ants and also can grow black sooty mold. You may also observe curled or distorted growth of the plant. In addition, aphids can be vectors for some plant diseases. If your aphid infestation is heavy, it may be time to take action.
One easy action you take is to mechanically remove the aphids from your plants – often a strong spray of water from your garden hose can achieve this. If this doesn’t work, you might consider using an insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. Oils and soaps need to come into contact with the aphids for effective control.
If all of the above methods do not control the aphids in your garden, you may wish to apply an insecticide. Make sure that the product you select is labeled for control of aphids in the home landscape, and follow all label directions.
For more details on aphids, you can read this factsheet from Clemson Extension.