What Are Aphids?
Homeowners who are passionate about their landscape or those who have indoor plants need to learn everything that they can about aphids in order to manage these pests before they wreak havoc on those plants. Experts at AAI Pest Control, a leading pest control company in Modesto, share the most important information that homeowners should know about aphids.
What Are Aphids?
Aphids qualify to be true bugs because they have a proboscis which they use to suck liquids from flowers, leaves and the stems of plants. The fluids on which aphids feed help your plants to transport vital nutrients to the different parts of that plant. By consuming this fluid, aphids deny the plant crucial nutrients and it may ultimately wither and die.
Adult aphids grow to a maximum length of about an eighth of an inch. These adults don’t usually have wings, but they have the capacity to grow wings once an infested plant gets overpopulated with aphids and some decide to fly to the next available plant.
The nymphs and adult aphids don’t differ in appearance, and they are usually green, black, white, yellow, orange or grey in color. Their bodies are soft and are shaped like a pear.
How Aphids Reproduce
The ways in which aphids reproduce give these bugs a chance to become a menace in a very short time.
Stockton pest control professionals say that the most common way through which aphids reproduce is by going through the typical life cycle of most insects from eggs being laid, larvae turning to pupa and nymphs emerging out of the pupa stage before full-grown adults begin producing eggs and starting the process all over again. This process can take about 40 days from start to finish.
However, aphids do have another way that they can use to reproduce when the conditions are suitable. Adult females can give birth to young nymphs in a process called parthenogenesis. This shortens the life cycle because the egg stage will be skipped. The abundance of food sources during spring and summer triggers this way of reproduction.
The nymph which has been born can become an adult and start bearing other offspring in about a week. Aphid numbers can therefore grow rapidly since an adult can bear about a dozen offspring each day. The offspring born also start having their own offspring in a week and the aphid population on your plants can explode within a short time.
Aphids usually multiply in spring and summer as already mentioned. This is the time when plants are actively growing due to the favorable weather at that time.
Aphids live on the plants, particularly on the buds or sections that are freshly grown. The tissues on those new growths and buds are soft enough for the aphids to sink their proboscis into, hence the preference of those plant sections by these bugs.
Aphid activity usually decreases when it gets very hot or very cold since their soft bodies easily succumb to the harsh conditions during such weather.
Your outdoor or indoor plants can easily get infested by aphids since these bugs can crawl or fly to the places where they can find food (fluids from your plants). The aphid activity may initially be hard to spot since these pests prefer to stay on the lower sides of leaves where they are shielded from heat and direct light.
Do Aphids Have Any Benefits?
Most people who ask, “What are aphids?” also want to know whether these bugs have any benefit to the host plants. The only benefit that one can attribute to aphids is that they are a delicacy for other beneficial insects, such as ladybug beetles. Ladybug beetles help in pollination and the control of other smaller pests. Otherwise, Modesto pest controllers assert that aphids don’t have any benefit for the plant and instead threaten its well-being.
Signs of Aphid Damage to Plants
Since it isn’t easy to see the aphids when their population is still small, homeowners and gardeners have to rely on looking out for the telltale signs of aphid damage in order to take action promptly to bring the infestation to an end. Several signs can alert you to aphid activity as discussed below.
- Honeydew on your plants. The sticky, sweet-smelling secretion that you may notice on your plants is the honeydew excreted by aphids as they feed on the fluids in your plants.
- Black spots on leaves. You can also know that aphids are active on your plants if you see black spots on some or all leaves. Those black spots are honeydew which has created a breeding ground for sooty mold fungus. The fungus is attracted by the amino acids and other nutrients in the honeydew. Your plants can quickly die once this fungus starts thriving on the honeydew since those black spots prevent the chlorophyll in the leaves from absorbing sunlight in order to make food for the plant.
- Yellowish or curled leaves. Heavy aphid infestations cause plant leaves to curl since the aphids are concentrated on one side of the leaf and their activity forces the leaf to become deformed. The leaves also turn yellow due to the damage caused by aphid proboscis and lack of nutrients getting to some sections of the affected leaves.
- Increased ant activity. You can also suspect that you have an aphid problem in case you notice an upsurge in the level of ant activity on your plants. The ants are attracted because the honeydew is sugary and provides food for the ants.
Aphids can carry pathogens from one plant to another as they feed. This transmission can cause viral diseases which can kill your plants faster than aphids can. The damage caused by the aphids also causes plants to shrivel and dry since the processes through which plants manufacture food and transport it are compromised by the bugs.
How to Control Aphids
Pest control company in Modesto reveal that aphids can be controlled using either natural methods or through the use of either organic or synthetic pesticides.
The natural methods include planting vegetation species (marigold and fennel, for example) which provide food and shelter for the insects which feed on aphids.
However, those natural predators may need to be supported by pesticides since the aphids multiply rapidly and a large infestation may worsen before the insects have a chance to eat those aphids.
One common DIY technique seen by Stockton pest control professionals is a soap solution. This works by dehydrating the soft bodies of the aphids until they die. The solution is sprayed onto the plants during cool weather when aphid activity is at its peak.
Alternatively, you can ask our AAI Pest control experts for a recommendation of the synthetic pesticides that you can spray on your plants at a regular interval so that the aphid population is eliminated completely.
Remember that synthetic pesticides may also affect the helpful insects in your garden or landscape plants in addition to leaving residues that may affect the environment. You may therefore be better advised to ask the Modesto pest control expert you are working with to use eco-friendly methods of aphid control so that your pets, kids and the environment are safe from harm.