Aphids are one of the worst spring time pests, but most people don’t notice them chewing their plants to bits until it’s too late, and then it’s, well, too late. Unfortunately, severely infested plants need to be removed completely, as the damage can be devastating. The good news is that aphids are one of the easiest pests to manage, as they are just now emerging! You can find aphids on the growing tips of your plum and maple trees, or underneath the leaves of newly planted tomatoes.
Aphids are easy to spot as they stick around during the day on the backs of leaves, or the growing tips of all most any plant.
They come in a variety of colors from green, white, black and red. Which variety you have is less of a concern than what you do next — the best defense against aphids is a good offense.
In April and May I constantly check the indicator plants I have in my yard, that is, the plants that get hit by aphids first. I have two plum trees (I can almost taste the jam), and both get aphids first. Also check your rose buds, as these are also a favorite early food.
When I spot aphids on them, or the tiny aphid flies around them, I also check for ants. That’s because ants and aphids live symbiotically — the ants help spread aphid larvae to new plants and feed off the sweet juices produced by the aphids. They also protect aphids from their natural predators.
You have to attack both aggressively and early to prevent widespread destruction. Aphids reproduce extremely fast and when you pair this with the strong backs and steadfast nature of our local black ants, you have quite the potent concoction.
So what do we do? Spray aphids using insecticidal soap, and don’t stop until they are gone. I use a commercial product called Orchard Spray at half strength. (I never use any product at full strength, even fertilizers, but more on this later.)
Orchard Spray is available at Sloat but is not listed as organic. Don’t panic though, the reason for that is because it contains sulfur as an active ingredient against fungus and therefor cannot be labeled as organic. However, it is safe to use up to the day of harvest, and last I checked sulfur is as natural as it gets.
Attack the ants using a boric acid bait like Drax or by spreading a sticky goo around the base of your trees. Any nursery carries multiple varieties of these pest management tools, but I prefer Sloat as their sales people tend to know more about pests and products for pests, especially the management.