Pest Control in the Garden: Aphids

Pest Control in the Garden

I’ve been looking at some of the natural methods of pest control in the garden. I got to wondering if there’s some connection between spit bugs (you know, those little white foamy bits that look like someone’s been spitting in your plants) and aphid infestations. Seem to be lots of both in certain areas of the gardens this spring.

pest control in the garden

Spittle Bug or Spit Bug

As for the spit bugs (aka spittlebugs and froghoppers), they never do a whole lot of damage. It’s the nymph stage of the pest, and they exude the foam as a protective covering, keeping them moist and hidden at the same time. They may slow plant growth but rarely will do a lot of damage to a plant.

A jet of water will dislodge them and destroy the foamy covering. Alternatively, squish them between your fingers (kinda yucky, but it works).

Aphid control:

Almost every one of my feverfew plants has been infested with oodles of sap-sucking aphids, ringing the new growing tips below the flower buds. Lots of little tiny ants run up and down the stems, just herding and farming them (see below). I’ve been pinching off the sprigs below the aphids and it’s worked to keep them in control. (Helps in getting the plants to branch out, too).

Aphid colony with Ant

Aphid colony

For more serious aphid infestations, one of the best ways of pest control in the garden is a strong jet of water to dislodge them. Once off, they can’t return to the plant. Alternatively, an insecticidal soap spray will get rid of them, or use a water and dishsoap mix (2 tsp soap to a spray bottle full of water) and spray it on.

Make sure you get it up under leaves to get them all. The soap will destroy their protective coating, and the aphids will dehydrate and die.

Natural Pest Control in the Garden

There is a plethora of commercial sprays available to battle aphids, from pyretherin based ones to insecticidal soaps and oils to growth regulators. The growth regulators work by interfering with the growth cycles so the aphids don’t mature, or else by preventing the molting.

Soaps and oils are more earth-friendly and less aggressive but still effective. Let the soap sprays sit on the plant for a couple of hours, and then rinse it off with clear water. Whatever you use, make certain to wash any vegetables or fruits that have been sprayed.

You can also encourage the natural aphid predators – ladybugs, lacewings, hoverflies wrens, and chickadees. Put up some birdhouses to attract the birds, plant some parsley, alyssum, clover, or yarrow to attract the hoverflies. If you don’t have many ladybugs in your garden, you can buy them online.

Early Aphid Detection:

Aphids are inconspicuous little pests.

They can quickly produce colonies of offspring and will do it over and over. Your veggies, flowers, shrubs and trees can be destroyed before you even realize they’re there. Aphids can be green (little chameleons!), black, red, brown or even yellow.

There are thousands of species.

And they pierce the plant, sucking up the juices and transmitting diseases at the same time. The ‘honeydew’ they secrete is loved by ants, so you’ll often see ants running up and down the stems of your plants – a sure sign of aphids somewhere. The honeydew is also a great fungus attractor.

pest control in the garden

Aphids on new plant growth

So, walk through your garden several times a week paying close attention to the underside of leaves and the newest growth, including flower buds. Look for any new leaves that are stunted and curled under – they’re likely hosting a bunch of aphids. Examine any newly purchased plants and transplants before you set them into the garden.


Most ladybugs are predators. They eat other insects, most of which are considered pests to gardeners. They are often called a ‘gardener’s best friend’.

The most common insects that ladybugs eat are aphids, which are serious plant pests. That’s why ladybugs can be the gardener’s best friend. They will control the pest insects in the garden without the gardener having to use chemical pesticides. Even larval ladybugs eat aphids. They also eat other insects that have soft bodies, like mites, white flies, and scale insects – all of which are pests of plants.

No ladybugs? Did you know you can buy them? Click the image below, and you’re on your way to pest control in the garden – organically.

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