General Description and Location
Aphids generally refer to a species of insects known as Aphidoldea. Depending on the part of the world, aphids are also often called greenflies, whiteflies, plant lice, and blackflies. Typically, these insects range in size from 1 to 10 millimeters. Since they range across well over 4000 species, it is often difficult to assign a precise color. That said, most are wingless insects with somewhat large, bent legs and two antenna. If you observe aphids, you will notice them sucking on plant stems in order to gain access to the sap. Unlike many other plant based parasites, some species of aphids migrate from one region to another. They can easily be transported from one area to another via rain and wind as well as when people and crops are transported from one region to another by mechanical means. Problems for Humans and Animals Overall, aphids pose no direct threat to humans or animals. On the other hand, they can cause serious problems to just about every kind of cultivated crop. Aside from robbing plants of vital nutrition, aphids also act as a disease vector to plants. Among other things, as they bite into plants, they can transmit viruses and bacteria. For example, potatoes, sugar beets, and citrus plants can all be killed by viruses transmitted via aphids. Natural Solutions Since aphids tend to hide under plant leaves, you should make it a point to examine these areas on a routine basis. Unfortunately, aphids can reproduce fairly quickly. In fact, one single aphid can produce as many as 80 offspring at one time. Since aphids are also capable of asexual reproduction, even one single insect can lead to an infestation in a very short period of time. If you notice aphids in your garden, you may want to try making use of natural predators to get rid of them. This includes lacewings, crab spiders, hoverfly larvae, and ladybirds. Many people have also noted that planting mint, marigolds, garlic, and catnip next to infected plants will often result in aphids leaving the area as quickly as possible. Individuals that are not allergic to queen anne's lace may also find this plant is useful for attracting predators that will feed on aphids. When you have a fairly large infestation of aphids, you can also try spraying them with a mild solution of laundry soap and water. Neem oil and shredded banana peels may also be of some use. In some cases, you may also need to cut back on fertilizers and other growth aides, since aphids tend to be drawn to plants that are growing at a faster rate than others around them. Recent Outbreaks At the current time, aphids infestations are affecting soybean crops in Michigan and other parts of the United States. Regardless of where you live, if you have a garden, you should always be aware that selecting clean nursery stock will not always protect you from an infestation of aphids. Since they can easily travel via a wide range of methods, you will always be well served by remaining vigilant and being prepared for an outbreak. Needless to say, if you live near a farm, you can always plant marigolds and other plants that tend to deter these parasites.