Protecting your plants from Aphids

At this time of year as the weather is getting warmer most plants will be coming into the full flourish of growth. But while this new growth will bring a lot of joy it will also bring with it the risk of infestation from pests such as aphids.
   Aphids are tiny insects that gather on the leaves, buds and flower stems of plants, in order to feed on the sap. These insects live in colonies and will attack almost any plant be it indoors, in the greenhouse or in the garden. Aphids tend to be most commonly green in colour but they can be appear as either white, yellow, blue, black or brown insects about 2mm in size. These insects spread with incredible speed and as a result it is vital to spot and deal with new colonies early. Aphids will generally concentrate their attack on a plants new growth which tends to be softer and have a high sap content. Along with distorting flowers and stunting growth, greenfly also leave a sticky secretion on the plants leaves which encourages sooty-mould to attack the plant causing very serious damage. The fact that these pests tend to gather on new growth can be used against them as it makes them quite easy to spot and allows you to deal with them quickly.
   Like most pests and diseases in the garden you will find when dealing with aphids that prevention is quite often better than cure. While there is no way of being 100% free from aphids, it is possible to minimise the risk of infestation. This can be done by encouraging birds to frequent and feed in the garden and by building up a population of beneficial insects such as laybirds which will eat hundreds of the little pests everyday. While beneficial insects such as ladybirds will occour naturally in the garden you can beef up their populations by either buying them as larvae or by planting plants which will attract them to the garden such as poppies or marigolds.
   If however you find that prevention doesn’t work for you and an infestation is found there are a number of different ways of dealing with it. Along with the traditional insecticides for dealing with greenfly, there is now a huge range of organic sprays on the market. These sprays are generally based on soaps and fatty acids, and while they are very effective in dealing with aphids have a great advantage in that along with being suitable for use on edible crops, they don’t do any harm to the beneficial insects.
© Copyright, Highland Landscapes, Letterkenny, 2008.