Natural Pest Control Aphids: Organic Garden and Fruit Tree Aphids Remedy and Tips

In natural pest control aphids should be first appreciated for their important role in your local ecosystem.

Aphids are the bottom of the garden food chain, which means they are the main item on the menu for a wide variety of other critters that are beneficial to your organic garden system.

Being small and succulent, and capable of breeding up to big numbers rapidly, aphids are great food for a wide range of small predators.

In this important position at the base of the food web, aphids form the foundation for a large and complex, and therefore resilient and productive, organic garden ecosystem.

It might be hard to appreciate how crucial aphids are in giving natural pest control a boost in your garden, especially when they’re hoeing into your plants!

But, for long term successful natural pest control aphids should be allowed to build up in numbers for several weeks before you even consider active control.

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Otherwise you will starve their predators before they have even had a chance to get established! I tried this myself and found that the waiting game paid off with a veritable army of aphid predators rushing to the feast. So check regularly for the presence of the aphid predators…

Learn to recognize these allies – both adult and larval forms so you will know when help has arrived. You wouldn’t want to accidentally kill the good guys! So let’s meet them!

Chalcid wasp eating aphids

APHID PREDATORS ARE MANY AND INCLUDE:

Wasps and hover flies:

There are many species of wasp and hover fly like insects that adore eating aphids either as adults or larvae. Aphids parasitized by Chalcid wasp larvae will look dark and “mummified”. Hoverfly larvae look just like a little caterpillar.

Lady Bug larva. Photo: Robert Grubba

Ladybugs:

Both adult and larval Lady Bugs (or Lady Birds) exclusively eat aphids – up to 200 a day! The larvae look like a dark spotted grub.

Ladybug larvae

Lacewings:

Larvae of the graceful Lacewing are fearsome little critters that resemble a tiny Earwig in shape with a good set of jaws at the front. Lacewing eggs are interesting – they come in a group of little white eggs, each suspended on its own delicate upright “stem”.

Adult Lacewing

Predatory midges:

The adults are tiny, delicate flies that feed on nectar. Their young are small brown maggots that love eating aphids as well as mites, scale, white flies and thrips. Predatory midges are commercially available and are often used effectively in greenhouses for year-round control.

Small spiders and birds:

Even little spiders and small birds love to get in on the feast and eat aphids for you. Spiders of all kinds are great insect eaters.

HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT APHID PREDATORS:

Adult wasp feeding on nectar. Photo by Jason Hochman

Others, notably Umbelliferous plants (their flowers are shaped like a flat umbrella – see photo) such as coriander, dill, fennel, parsnip, anise, cumin, carrot, and parsley, are magnets for predatory bugs such as wasps and hover flies that prey on aphids, caterpillars and other garden pests.

Adult wasp feeding on nectar.

This is because as adults some of these predators only feed on nectar that they can only get from such flowers.

So let some of your parsley, carrot and fennel go to seed, and grow native plants near your gardens. Buckwheat, Poached Egg Plant, Sunflower, Yarrow and Wild Angelica are especially good for Hover Flies.

Treat all spiders with love and care and provide rocks or logs around the garden to encourage the crawlers.

Any little flower spiders I discover in the vegetables and herbs I bring in from the garden during summer are carefully collected and returned to the garden.

Encourage birds with bird baths, dense, prickly or nectar bearing native shrubs, and other seed and nectar sources.

WHAT HAS SOOTY MOLD GOT TO DO WITH APHIDS?

When it comes to fruit tree diseases black leaves are really primarily a pest problem rather than a disease.

Black Sooty Mold is common in aphid-infested trees, especially citrus.

This is because it grows on a honey mist produced by aphids higher up in the tree that drifts down onto the leaves below.

You’ll probably also find a lot of ants on your trees with these black leaves. They are there to “milk” the sweet sap from the aphids, and actively protect their little herds from predators like Lady Bugs and Lacewing larvae.

You can keep ants off the tree by greasing around the base of the trunk with a thick layer of Vaseline or a skirt of sump-oil soaked rag.

As for the aphids, just deal with as described here.

ANOTHER TRICK- PLANT DECOYS!

Yellow Nasturtiums can be planted around tomatoes to serve as a decoy for Black Aphids, and can be removed with their pest burden before the Aphids’ young develop wings.

BUT WHAT IF THE CAVALRY DOESN’T ARRIVE?

Aphids have the ability to switch their mode of reproduction to suit prevailing seasonal conditions.

They can reproduce asexually, where females give birth to live female offspring clones from 5 days of age! They tend to do this at the start of the season.

Towards the end of the season a female will give birth to a male child, mate with it and then lay eggs capable of surviving the winter.

With such clever and versatile multiplication tricks up their sleeves occasionally aphids can get the jump on their predators.

Sometimes careful close observation of your aphid infestation will fail to find evidence of any predators.

In those rare occasions when you can’t rely on ecologically natural pest control aphids may have to be dealt with using home made organic pest control remedies.

GARDEN AND FRUIT TREE APHIDS REMEDY

There are several options available for you to try:

All Purpose Soap Spray

A good orchard spray that controls sucking mites, aphids, Rutherglen Bug and thrips but does not seem to affect spiders can be made as follows:

Just grate 2/3 of a cake of soap (save up those pesky little bits left over until you have enough) into 4.5 liters (1 gallon) of hot water. For a more effective recipe, add 1 tspn white oil, 300mls of old cooking oil and 2 tspns of caustic soda to the mix while it is still hot.

Use it once it has cooled to room temperature and only spray it on parts of the trees affected by pests. Avoid spraying anything onto plants during hot periods of the day.

To make larger quantities (enough for 100 trees) combine 18 gal (68 liters) of waste cooking oil (ask at your local fish and chip shop), 1 liter of white oil (optional), 9 gal (34 litres) of water, 3 kg (6.6 lbs) caustic soda and ½ box of washing machine soap powder in a large cooking pot and simmer gently for 3 hours.

Pour into containers to cool and solidify, then use as a spray at the rate of 2 kg soap to 20 liters of water.

Wormwood Spray

Pick fresh Wormwood and crush the strong smelling fronds into a large jar. Fill the jar with hot (just off the boil) water and leave overnight. Strain the Wormwood tea that results and dilute in 10 parts of water to 1 part of tea.

Spray onto the aphids (but not during the heat of the day). This preparation is also good to repel slugs. It needs to be reapplied regularly to be effective.

Garlic Spray

Soak 120g (4 oz) chopped garlic in 2 tablespoons of mineral oil or liquid paraffin for 48 hours.

Add ½ liter of water and 7g of pure soap flakes then strain.

Dilute in 25 liters of water and spray to control aphids, thrips and soft bodied pests. Allow aphid numbers to build up first so predator populations are established.

Spray bottle - your organic pest control tool

Quassia natural pest control aphids

Chips made from the bark of Quassia trees contain a bitter substance that controls a wide range of insect pests. A great thing about Quassia is that it does not harm many beneficial insects such as Lady Bugs or Bees (nor is it effective against Codling moth, Mexican Bean beetle or Peach aphid).

The chips are boiled to extract the active ingredient, then made up with a little detergent to use as a spray. Sprayed on the leaves it kills sap sucking insects. Taken in by plant roots, it has a wider effect on plant feeding pests, acting as a stomach poison.

It is long lasting and should not be sprayed on edible parts as it tastes bitter.

The Last Resort - Pyrethrum Spray

Pyrethrum comes from the African Daisy (marigold). It is used as a 4% preparation and is very poisonous to all animals. Artificial pyrethroids (Promethrin, Allothrin) have been synthesized and have a longer life (1 to 2 weeks) than the natural equivalent.

With such a wide range of strategies available for organic and natural pest control aphids can be readily dealt with by organic gardeners and farmers!

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