Dealing with aphids

A single aphid landing on a plant can produce thousands of offspring within weeks, so it pays to know your enemy if you want to protect your plants.

A s soon as the weather warms up, look out For .aphids. Commonly known as blackfly and greenfly, these pests multiply rapidly and can devastate a garden.

Aphids feed on sap and attack most types of garden plants. Infested plants suffer from yellowing, curled leaves, hardened buds and disfigured fruit and flowers. As well as damaging plants by sucking sap, aphids excrete honey-dew, a sticky substance which coats leaves and fruit. In time, this can he covered by unsightly sooty mould. Aphids can also spread viruses as they move from plant to plant so inspect plants regularly and act the moment you first catch sight of any aphids. A few aphids can simply be wiped or sprayed off with soapy water but once they have multiplied, you’ll need to resort to an insecticide.

However, you can reduce the chances of attack by encouraging their natural predators, which help keep aphids at hay.

Natural predators

Whenever possible, use insecticides that won’t harm beneficial creatures, such as ladybirds,

SPRAY OPTIONS lake particular care when spraying tall bushes and trees . Avoid inhaling spray mist and protect yourself with goggles and a face mask. Keep spray off neighbours’ gardens. If you have fish in a pond, never spray water plants in the pond with insecticide. Instead, wipe aphids off the plants by hand or, if this is difficult, direct a strong jet of water to dislodge the pests.

Lacewings, hoverfly larvae, beetles, parasitic wasps and spiders. Keep a small, chemical-free /.one tor plants that encourage beneficial insects, such as marigolds, alyssum or auhrieta. You could grow specific plants, using some of the special seed mixes that are available, but even a patch of nettles will act as a reservoir for aphid-eaters over winter. Cut the nettles back in spring to encourage the aphid-eaters to move on to garden plants. Many garden birds will also eat aphids.

You can buy natural predators, such as Aphidoletes and Aphidius, to control aphids in the greenhouse.

In winter, clear away old primings and remove any surplus fruit and vegetables to help discourage aphids from overwintering on your territory. Aphid eggs often overwinter on bark, so spray fruit trees with a proprietary tar oil winter wash.

Sensible spraying

If you have a sprayer with an ad-justable nozzle, adjust it to give a mist which will stick to pests and nearby leaves – far more effective than directing a strong stream of insecticide at the pests. Spot treat infested plants, remembering the underside of leaves as well as the surface, rather than spraying the whole garden. Never apply a more concentrated solution than that recommended by the manufacturer – this is wasteful and could damage your plants. 1 fowever, it may be necessary to reapply insecticides if there are any survivors.

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