Insect Related Problems – Aphids

Description: Aphids are commonly referred to as ‘plant lice’. The have soft pear-shaped bodies that are normally less than 1/8 inch long. Color varies among species but most are green, yellow or black. Aphids are the only insects that have two short cornicles, or tubes, which extend from the end of their body.

Aphids are typically wingless but when colonies get overcrowded or the host plant become undesirable, winged forms are produced and establish new colonies. (One exception is the crepe myrtle aphid, which is always winged.)

Aphids seldom lay eggs, but give birth to live young. They have the ability to reproduce rapidly and there are multiple generations per year. Each female aphid produces 50-100 daughters during her life span, and each daughter can begin reproducing in six to eight days.

Aphid populations peek in spring when new growth is plentiful. At that time, natural predators, like lady beetles and lacewing larvae, are not well established to help keep populations in check.

Symptoms: Aphids feed by piercing-sucking mouthparts and cause damage by sucking plant juices. However, the fact that they transmit virus diseases causes more damage than the direct feeding. Plants in shady areas are more vulnerable to aphid infestations. Leaves curl and crinkle and flower buds may harden, causing flowers to distort.

Honeydew is a sugary liquid made of unused plant sap and waste products that is excreted by aphids. This sticky substance coats the leaves and is an excellent medium for a black fungus called ‘sooty mold’. It is unattractive and hinders photosynthesis, which can retard plant growth.

Action: Early detection is the key to reducing aphid infestations. Monitor weekly, especially looking under new leaves. Spraying with horticultural oils is effective. Nervous system insecticides are also used as control.

Follow-up applications will most likely be necessary.

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