Hemiptera : Aphididae
Aphids are sap-sucking insects related to psyllids, whitefly, scale insects and mealybugs. Aphids are major pests of ornamental and productive plants, and some species (such as Green Peach Aphid) may spread viral diseases between plants.
If the weather is warm and moist, and food is abundant, the conditions are ideal for Aphid numbers to build rapidly. There are about 175 species of Aphids in Australia, and the vast majority of them are introduced species. You are more likely to find Aphids on vegetables and exotic ornamental plants than on native plants.
Aphids are difficult to control if you allow their colonies to build up into huge numbers. You need to keep an eye on your plants to spot Aphids, or evidence of Aphids, early (see Monitor).
Prevention is always better than cure. There are several things that you can do to prevent or minimise Aphid damage (see How to Prevent Aphids Appearing). The trick is to not let them build up in such high numbers that they are causing major damage (see Symptoms of Aphids).
A healthy garden will have a healthy population of Aphid natural enemies, therefore, beneficial insects. The most efficient of these are the little wasps that turn Aphids into ‘mummies’. If you find an Aphid colony it is a good idea to give these parasitic wasps a chance to do their thing before spraying or brushing off the Aphids (see beneficial wasps).
Predators such as hover fly larvae, lacewing larvae and ladybird beetles are also quite efficient and can decimate an Aphid colony in less than a week.
If treatment is required, spray with Yates Pyrethrum Insect Pest Gun. It’s ready to use and perfect for use on vegies, fruit and ornamental plants and there is only a one day withholding period. Yates Pyrethrum Insect Pest Gun contains natural pyrethrin extracts from the pyrethrum daisy and kills pests on contact. For large infestations on multiple plants, use Yates Nature’s Way Vegie & Herb Spray Concentrate. This insecticidal soap concentrate can be mixed and diluted in a sprayer, with the 200 mL pack making up to 13 litres of spray. It does not keep for more than 24 hours, so only make up what is required.
Image above: Aphids attacking new growth of rose
(Image courtesy of Elise Dando)
Aphids are common garden sap sucking pests. They can cause damage directly through their direct feeding or indirectly as vectors of plant viruses. Aphids excrete honeydew, which may cause a build up of sooty mould and attract ants.
There are about 175 species of Aphids which occur in Australia and the vast majority are introduced (i.e., not native to Australia). Common pest Aphids include Black Citrus Aphids (Toxoptera spp.), Black Peach Aphid (Brachycaudus persicae), Cabbage Aphid (Brevicoryne brassicae), Green Peach Aphid (Myzus persicae) and Rose Aphid (Macrosiphum rosae). All these Aphids are introduced pests.
Aphids are small pear-shaped sap-sucking insects usually less than 3 mm long, which may be winged or wingless in the adult form. Nymphs are typically miniature versions of the adults but without wings.
Aphids typically develop through a life cycle of gradual metamorphosis. Depending on the species adult Aphids may lay eggs some of the time and lay live young at other times, or not lay eggs at all. Many Aphid species are capable of reproducing without males (i.e., they reproduce parthenogenetically). Aphid colonies can increase in size so rapidly because female Aphids mostly lay live young and can do so without having to mate.
Wingless adults are the norm when the colony is not overcrowded. Winged adult Aphids develop when a colony must migrate from an over-wintering site, or from drying plants, or when conditions become too crowded.
Aphids typically pass through 4 nymph stages (instars) before the adult stage. As they moult, they leave behind their old skin casts that are easily visible in Aphid colonies as white objects. Aphid life cycles can be completed in 10 to 14 days in warm weather, and there may be more than 20 generations per year depending on the climate and the species.
Image above: adult female (left) and nymph (right)
Some Aphid species feed on a specific plant, or groups of plants, while others feed on a wide variety of plants.
Image above: Aphid exoskeletons or 'skin casts' shed after moulting
(Image courtesy of Elise Dando)