Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Aaaah! Aphids!

I'm a bad bad gardener!

A couple of weeks ago I noticed aphids on the little Hellebora that sits at our front doorstep and thought "hmmm, there's a lot of aphids on that plant, lucky they aren't going for our orchard trees or anything", then thought no more of it (as you do).

Then, Simon says, "I think there's aphids on the plum tree." I'm in denial. "Why would they be on the plum tree? Are you sure they're aphids?"

Sure enough, the poor plums were both covered brown with aphids!! Thank goodness for the Internet! :o) I searched for home remedies for aphids and came across this very practical website titled 'Getting Rid of Things' (including aphids). I noted the method and promptly emptied a pump spray bottle of detergent and lukewarm water over both our plum trees and Clancy's weeping apricot, all the while bemoaning my gardener neglect! More about aphids from the website:

There are many species and colors of aphids. They come in shades of green, red, brown, black and yellow and almost all have fat little pear shaped bodies with several little tubes poking up out of the back end called cornicles. They feed by piercing plants and sucking their juices. In doing so they can transmit viruses that cause yellowing, curling and distort growth. Aphids also secrete a sticky substance
called honeydew that often results in the colonization of an ugly sooty black fungus.

Aphids love new growth it seems (uh, duh!) and have a protective coating which deters birds and other predators from attacking them, especially when they clump in large numbers, as they tend to do. You can disperse them with a good jet of water, but our plum trees are so seriously covered that we'd empty a rainwater tank of water on them if we tried that way! :o)


We will see how the detergent and water trick goes. It's supposed to remove the aphids' protective coating and leave them not only vulnerable to ladybirds, spiders and ants, but also dehydrated, so they die. Ladybirds are a great biological control for aphids. The site suggests some ways to encourage ladybirds into your garden.

Postscript: Day 3 after spraying and so far, so good. The aphid movement has dropped dramatically. Another dose of detergent and lukewarm water in a few days should see the aphids take flight altogether to another poor soul's garden!

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