Aphids are soft-bodied insects that the size of a grain of rice, but they can destroy your plants if left in the garden. Ants often protect and heard aphids because they dine on the honeydew these pests secrete. So the key to getting rid of aphids is controlling your ant population in combination with your aphid control methods.
The Ant and Aphid Team
Aphid-herding ants, like honey ants, go to great lengths to protect aphids from natural predators and parasites in your garden. Why do ants provide this protection? Because the ants feed on the sweet honeydew aphids secrete.
Honeydew is a sticky, sugary substance secreted by different types of sap-sucking insects, like aphids. The sticky substance may be a treat for ants, but it's not for your plants. Sooty mold is fungus that grows on honeydew. It does not injure the plants directly; sooty mold blocks sunlight from getting to plant leaves, which causes them to turn yellow and drop prematurely.
Ants do not hurt plants on their own. But their herding and protection of sap-sucking insects aids in the aphids ability to grow in numbers. The more aphids you have on your plants the more likely your vegetation will sustain serious damage. And because ants offer protection, Mother Nature's way of dealing with insect infestations is thwarted.
Because aphids remove sap from plant leaves, they damage the plant's ability to process nutrients properly. They most often feed on new, tender growth, so always check there first for signs of aphid damage:
- Distorted yellow leaves
- Grayish cast on foliage
- Stunted leaves
- Black sooty mold
Aphids are small, but you can see them. You're likely to find a cluster of them on the undersides of leaves. Aphids may be pink, white, black, or pale green in color.
You can try a few different methods of control for aphid problems. If you notice a few underneath leaves, you can destroy the pests by hand. Simply rub the leaf between your forefinger and things, being careful not to damage the plant leaves.
For larger infestations, mix some insecticidal soap with water, per package directions, and spray the affected plants. You can buy insecticidal soap at a local garden center.
If you have ants and aphids, set out ants traps and destroy ant hills in addition to aphid control efforts.
You may find aphids on a variety of plants, such as
- Apple trees
- Crape Myrtle
- And more
For large infestations that you cannot successfully control on your own, you may need to contact a local pest control company. The professionals can help identify the type of aphid and determine the best way to deal with the problem. More information can be found here.