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June 2010
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Kitchen Garden – Damage aphids can do, and steps to remove aphids from your garden – tips and techniques

One of the most common pests in a kitchen garden are called Aphids, these are very small creatures (insects) with a pear shape and soft in texture. Aphids have a long antenna, with 2 short tubes projecting from the ends of their abdomen. There are different varieties of Aphids, some having wings that are transparent. The aphids can have different colors, such as green, yellow, black, pink, etc.

Damage caused by Aphids

Aphids can cause serious damage to a plant, but may not mostly lead to the death of the plant. However, aphids are one of the most common problems inside a garden, attacking many different types of garden plants and trees. Aphids particularly suck the sap of a plant, and when shoots are tender, this attack can cause serious problems to the young shoot and damage the plant significantly. Aphids can reproduce pretty quickly and when a large number attack a plant, then they can cause significant damage. When you have a large infestation of aphids, these can cause reduction in the overall produce of a garden, such as when aphids attack a planting of potatoes. They also cause distortion of the leaves on a plant. Another problem that can be caused by aphids is that they can spread viruses in plants, which is particularly harmful when a garden has a majority of one type of species of plants. Under the most favorable conditions, aphids can grow five-fold within a week.

How to identify an infestation of aphids

In a garden, the seasoned gardener can easily tell an infestation of aphids by their numbers, since aphids are normally present in a large group on a plant or tree (on the stem and leaves). Aphids are slow moving, or not moving at all for long periods of time. Aphids can also be detected by the presence of ‘honeydew’ on the affected plants (Honeydew being an excretion by aphids on the affected plant), even before there is any damage on the plants. Further, the presence of honeydew also attracts ants to a place. Aphids are mostly wingless, but in certain conditions, can grow wings (which allow them to disperse to other plants).

Controlling aphids

First and foremost, keep a regular check of your garden, plants and trees for aphids. It is easier to control them when the infestation is mild, once they are into large numbers, it is harder to control aphids.
Aphids can be controlled through a number of natural predators, such as lady beetles, syrphid flies (larvae), bigeyed bugs, parasitic wings that lay their larvae inside aphids, lacewing. However, there are certain limitations with using such biological enemies. Such predators get interested only when the quantity of aphids are large, meaning that they are not so effective when the number of aphids is small. In addition, even when many of these predators are introduced, a majority of them move away from the scene, this being a natural phenomenon. However, when many of these larvae get introduced inside the bodies of aphids, they eventually grow and consumer the internal organs of the aphids, with the aphids finally dying when the larvae emerges.
Aphids also have natural enemies in the form of fungal diseases, especially when the weather is humid.
Aphids can be removed through a stream of water directed with some force, and this will remove aphids, which prevents the aphids from coming back to the plants, and also removed the honeydew that is formed on the plants. Further, the aphids can be controlled to some degree through pruning of the sections of the trees and plants which are more infested with aphids. If these aphids are put on smaller plants, then they can be removed through a damp cloth.
In the event of none of these measures working, then using an insecticide is needed to control these aphids, but one needs to be sure of which precise insecticide to apply.

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