Learning how to get rid of aphids on plants can be the difference between saving your garden or scrapping it, hoping for better luck next time.
These pests can infiltrate an indoor or outdoor garden and can wreak havoc on your plants.
In this guide, we will teach you how to get rid of aphids on your plants if you do find them, along with how to prevent them in the first place.
But first, we need to teach you what aphids are, what they do, and how to identify them.
What are aphids?
Aphids are small, green bugs that can quite literally suck the life from your plants. They have tiny (less than ⅛”), pear-shaped bodies and are very fragile beings. They have a long beak which functions as a straw to consume your plant.
While they are most often green, certain species of aphids can appear yellow, orange, gray, black, or even white.
They have specialized mouths that are able to easily suck the fluids from your leaves and flowers.
While they are more typical in outdoor grows, they can infest an indoor grow as well. Not all aphids have wings, but some develop them later in life once they have sucked a host plant dry and need to move on to a new meal.
Are aphids bad for plants?
As you can probably tell, aphids are very bad for plants. An infestation can wreak havoc on your grow, sucking your plants dry and leaving them lifeless.
If these pests make their way to your roots, they can really do some damage, causing your plants to shrivel up. This is even more catastrophic on younger plants.
On top of the damage they actively cause, aphids are bad for plants because of the excretion they leave behind after eating. This is known as honeydew, and can ultimately cause the death of your plant. We’ll cover it more in-depth below.
How fast do aphids spread?
Another thing that makes an aphid infestation so chaotic is the rate at which females reproduce. All it takes is a few aphids on your plant, and within a week or two, you could have a full-on outbreak.
Females can birth 12 nymphs (baby aphids) per day. These nymphs can start reproducing on their own within a week. So while aphids life spans don’t last much longer than a week, you can see how they would still infest a plant pretty rapidly.
Think about it. One aphid can have 80+ offspring a week. During the 2nd and 3rd week, you could be dealing with thousands of aphids on your plants! This is why you must constantly be checking on your plants, and when you do notice aphids, you need to act fast.
How to identify aphids on plants
Identifying aphids on your pants isn’t always easy until it’s too late, unfortunately. They are incredibly small, and they like to hide on the undersides of your plants.
That means you need to be checking the bottoms of your leaves often. A pocket microscope can help you identify any movement on your leaves, especially when it comes to tiny pests.
But, aphids are large enough that you should be able to detect them with good enough lighting and the naked eye.
To distinguish these little guys from other green pests, look for the pear-shaped body with a long antenna on the front of their bodies (the straw-like shape).
You can also identify aphids based on the damage they’ve caused. If these pests have made their way to your roots, you may see a drooping and shriveling of your plant. This is an early sign it is dying.
Or, examine leaves. Since these are sucking insects, they will pull out all the moisture from your foliage, causing your plant’s leaves to curl up and look dried out.
A tell-tale sign of an aphid outbreak is the presence of honeydew. This is a sweet, sticky excretion they leave behind.
It’s clear, but once you see honeydew turning black, you have bigger problems. Honeydew can lead to a type of fungus called sooty mold.
This mold can lead to a ton of problems of its own. It interferes with your plant's ability to undergo photosynthesis, which can ultimately lead to death.
How to prevent aphids from getting on your plants
If you are growing outdoors, you will be at the mercy of the aphids when it comes to avoiding any sort of outbreak. You are growing in their home, and nothing is stopping them from choosing your plants as their next meal. But there are a few preventative measures you can take regardless of if you grow indoors or outdoors.
Preventative spraying for aphid control
Luckily enough for outdoor growers, there is one thing you can do to prevent aphids.
There are certain products you can spray on your plants that will repel aphids and many other pests from invading your garden.
Neem oil is a natural pesticide that growers use to discourage a wide range of bugs from messing with their plants.
It is completely safe for use for both you and your plant, as it is an organic repellant.
But, we do not recommend using neem oil during flower, unless you are super careful with your spraying. It can put a pretty nasty taste and smell on your buds.
If you want a concentrate, we recommend Earth Juice NeemShine Concentrate. If you want a pre-diluted formula, try the Monterey Lawn & Garden Neem Oil Ready-to-Use spray bottle.
Maintaining a proper growing environment
Keeping your grow room environment within an ideal range will do leaps and bounds for preventing any type of pest or disease. But, when it comes to aphids, this is a bit more complicated.
Aphids actually prefer temperatures between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit. This is, ironically enough, the temperatures you should keep your grow room anyways (70-80 degrees).
You also need to dial in your humidity to under 55-60% once you are done with propagation, as the excess moisture will attract all types of pests and fungi. You can learn more about grow room atmosphere and environment in our blog.
How to get rid of aphids on your plants fast
Sometimes, there is nothing you can do to prevent an aphid outbreak. After all, it only takes one or two winged aphids to find their way to your garden and start building a new colony. Once you are aware of an aphid problem, you need to act fast.
Physically removing aphids from your plants
No, we don’t mean you should grab a pair of tweezers and get to work. But, if your outbreak is centralized in one location on your plants, such as a few leaves or just one branch, you can just cut off that area!
Snipping a few leaves and carefully removing them from the growing space is an excellent way to control an aphid infestation without any type of spray or chemicals. This works best in the early stages of an infestation before it starts spreading, so be vigilant in the garden.
Spraying aphids to get rid of them
A more serious outbreak will require some chemical intervention. There are tons of natural, safe pesticides that are proven to work at controlling an aphid infestation.
If your plants are indoors, take them outside before spraying. Some products we recommend for spraying aphids are:
- General Hydroponics Exile Insecticide (OMRI-certified concentrate)
- General Hydroponics AzaMax Sprayer Concentrate (OMRI-certified pre-mixed)
- Safer Brand 3 in 1 Garden Spray (OMRI-certified concentrate broad use pesticide/fungicide)
If you don’t want to use any sort of chemicals on your plants, organic or not, we understand. Many growers swear by killing aphids with soapy water. You can try mixing a teaspoon of dish soap with a gallon of water and letting it steep for 24 hours.
After that, you can aggressively spray your plants, actively trying to “spray off” the bugs. This method will be much easier on your plants than a chemical product, but it doesn’t stay on as long, so you will need to spray more than once probably.
Using beneficial bugs to control aphid population
If you don’t want to spray ANYTHING on your plants, you still have another option! Beneficial bugs have long been used in the grow room and garden to control pest outbreaks. You can use bugs such as ladybugs, lady beetles, or lacewings to control aphids.
These bugs do have a drawback, though. They can fly away at any given time, and while you would think they would stick around to eat up the aphids, this isn’t always the case.
Plus, with the rate at which aphids are able to reproduce, this isn’t the most effective option. But, if you are deep in flower and don’t want to spray your plants with anything, it may be your only option!
Watch for ants too!
If you are dealing with an aphid infestation, you should also be on the lookout for a large number of ants congregating in your soil or near your plants.
Ants actually farm aphids, meaning they help them colonize and thrive. This is because they love the honeydew these aphids leave behind. So, the problem you are fighting is actually against two pests!
You can control ants with orange peel extracts, by placing these around your plants and in the media. Ants can't stand these oils and will scurry away from their scent. You can also just use plain old ant traps, as these work well too.
Final thoughts on how to get rid of aphids on plants
Now that you know how to get rid of aphids on plants, you don't need to panic if you ever run into them.
These pesky little buggers can do a lot of damage, but if you catch the infestation early, you can take a number of steps to eradicate them from your growing environment.
If you think you are dealing with another type of bug or illness, check out our complete guide on pests and diseases!