If you’re an avid gardener or simply like to keep your lawn and landscaping looking healthy, you may already be privy to the scourge of aphids and whiteflies. These pesky garden lovers can wreak havoc on your precious plants. To help keep your garden and landscaping protected, you’ll need to learn a little bit about how these insects operate and how to control them.
These tiny insects have pear-shaped bodies with long legs and antennae. Aphids range in color and can be green, brown, yellow, red, or even black depending on the species and their specific food source. If the insect you’ve spotted has cornicles projecting from the back of its body, then you’ve spotted an aphid as this is a distinguishing feature that sets it apart from other insects. Aphids are generally wingless and feed on leaves and stems. They are usually found in dense groups and don’t move quickly when disturbed.
Aphids also reproduce rapidly which can cause a lot of damage to your garden. Due to California’s mild climate, aphids are able to reproduce asexually with females giving birth up to 12 times per day. During the warmer seasons, young aphids can go from newborn to reproductive in just a week.
Despite what its name may lead you to believe, the whitefly isn’t a fly at all. They look more like moths than flies and are related to aphids. These tiny, white insects have a characteristically quick flutter when disturbed. This quickness, in addition to their elusive nature can make them difficult to control. Whiteflies hide on the undersides of leaves where they feed on the juices of plants.
Whiteflies also reproduce rapidly. During the warmest part of the year, these insects can mature from egg to adult capable of reproducing in just 16 days. Nymphs, or immature whiteflies, have no wings, legs, or antennae with oval bodies.
Whiteflies can cause two types of damage to a plant. The first is considered to be “direct” damage. Whiteflies can seriously injure plants by sucking juices from them, causing leaves to yellow, shrivel, and drop prematurely. If the numbers of whiteflies per leaf are great enough, it could possibly lead to plant death. The second, which is known as “indirect” damage, is caused by the whitefly adults. They can transmit several viruses from diseased to healthy plants through their mouthparts. Whiteflies (just like aphids) excrete “honeydew,” a sweet substance that forms a sticky coating on leaves. The honeydew is soon colonized by a fungus called “sooty mold,” making leaves look black and dirty. Generally sooty mold is harmless except when it is extremely abundant and prevents light from reaching leaf surfaces, causing plants to become stressed. Sooty mold can easily be washed off with a forceful stream of water on sturdy plants.
Are Aphids and Whiteflies Dangerous?
While aphids and whiteflies aren’t specifically dangerous to humans, they can be very damaging to your garden and landscaping. Surefire signs that you have an aphid or whitefly problem are:
- Curling, misshapen, yellowed, or rotting leaves
- Sooty fungus that makes leaves look black or dirty
- An abundance of ants
Aphids and whiteflies feed on several parts of a plant including fruits, buds, flowers, stems, and roots which means they can cause lots of damage. As they feed, they secrete a sticky, sweet residue which can attract other insects like ants and cause the sooty, black fungus to form. In addition to direct damage to plants, aphids can transmit diseases from plant to plant. Things like squash, cucumber, melon, beans, potatoes, lettuce, and more can succumb to viruses transmitted by aphids.
If you’ve put in the work to grow a garden or landscape your property, you’ll want to protect it from destruction at the mouths of aphids and whiteflies.
Treating for Aphids and Whiteflies
Treating your property for aphids and whiteflies can differ slightly depending on which pest you’re targeting.
Aphid Control Tips
- Research and intro natural predators that will reduce or eliminate the aphid population. Ladybugs and green lacewigs feed on aphids.
- Spray down your plants with a hose or soapy solution.
- Use decoy plants like mustard or nasturtium to attract aphids away from the plants you want to protect.
Whitefly Control Tips
- Clean each leaf of the infested plant with a paper towel or cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol.
- Keep an eye out for ants. These insects protect whiteflies by eliminating predators.
- Hang sticky traps above plants to detect invasion early.
- Prune significantly infested parts of the plant to preserve the rest.
While taking steps to try and treat an infestation on your own may reduce the problem, professional services from AAI Pest Control can help you further manage it. Our experienced staff can inspect your property, plan an approach, and then execute it efficiently to save your plants and landscaping. Contact us today to learn more about our aphid and whitefly control options.