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Aphids aka Greenfly, Blackfly, Whitefly

Aphid is the universal name for the horrid little bugs we generally call Greenfly, Blackfly and Whitefly. There’s also Woolly Aphid (no relation to Woolly Green, but we’ve had them too!)

Greenfly

Horrible little things!

How to Spot them

Aphids are the rats of the Insect world, they carry disease and they spread like rumours about adulterous footballers.  Of the 4400 different species that we are aware of, about 250 are bad news for your garden.   They vary in size from 0.1 mm to a 1cm and they come in a huge variety of colours, but most commonly green, white, red, and black. You can recognise them by their exhaust pipes (cornicles), two little appendages at their rear which they use to create pheromones or other defensive secretions.

Blackfly

It’s party night on the plot for blackfly

Aphids also produce a waste product called honey dew and this sugary liquid can promote the growth of mould and fungi on your plants (and wreck your car!)  They generate honeydew by feeding on the sap from new plant stems and a colony of Aphids can badly affect plant growth. Seriously affected plants may lose leave as a result of aphid attacks.

These little monsters are very mobile and can spread quickly from plant to plant.  Ants, which feed on the honey dew they produce, are often said to carry aphids to new areas in a bid to establish new colonies leading to the suggestion they are actually farming them.

If left unchecked

Aphid Eater

Luckily there are predators….

Aphid prefer new growth and therefore will be at their worst in spring when your garden is at its greenest. These little vampires secrete chemicals into plants they are feeding on, which can cause their leaves to curl or deform. Plants which have been affected may appear stunted and the honey dew secretions will lead to infestations of mould. Some aphids also spread virus from plant to plant.

If you want to see them at work, have a look at this video – it’s one man’s attempt to catch a flower blooming in time lapse, which turned into a film about Aphid invasion

How to stop them

Power washing the little blighters off your plants can be an effective cure. A strong jet of water can be enough to dislodge minor infestations, as can manual raids with cotton buds or even your fingers. Some say soapy water does the trick – use a teaspoon of Fairy liquid to a couple of litres of water, but we think  Neem soap and Neem oil, a natural insecticide and fungicide is the best organic cure.