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Bad Bug Profile: Aphids

Ant farming aphids on a pear leaf.


I have to admit that I have a soft spot in my heart for aphids.  Sure, they suck the life out of my vegetables, but did you know that ants farm aphids just like we farm chickens?

Species: Many species in the  aphid family (Aphididae)

Plants Affected:
many types of fruits and vegetables and ornamental plants

Natural Enemies:
Lady bugs, lacewings, syrphid flies, parasitic wasps.  (It's far better to encourage natural populations of these predators than to introduce them.)

Organic Control:
Hosing with water; insecticidal soap (but may harm natural predators)
An aphid feeds by sticking its mouthparts into the phloem ("vein") of a plant.  The sap in the plant's phloem is under pressure, so the liquid rushes into the aphid's body, passing so quickly through its gut that a large amount of excess sap passes straight through the insect and out the other end.  This liquid, known as honeydew, is high in carbohydrates.

Enter the ants.  Ants consume the second-hand sap, but they also take care of the aphids to make sure their meal tickets stay alive.  They'll chase away predators and move aphids to new plants.

In my garden, aphids don't tend to be a huge problem.  In the spring, I start to see their populations exploding, then ladybug larvae show up and eat the aphids.  The ecosystem tends to equalize at low levels of both aphids and ladybugs.  If I'm concerned about an aphid infestation, I usually just squish them with my fingers or spray them with a hose.




Learn to keep bugs at bayRead other posts about Organic Insect Control:





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