Aphids are common prey for many garden insects, and they are also known for causing damage to your plants. Is that because they eat the plants themselves, or perhaps do they feast on insect life living on your plants? And are aphids herbivores, omnivores or insectivores?
Yes, aphids are herbivores because they consume plant sap. Although they do not actually eat the plant itself, they are classified as herbivores by consuming a plant product.
What Do Aphids Eat?
To know whether aphids are herbivores, we first have to know what they eat.
Aphids actually eat more sugar than any form of protein, be that plant or animal protein. They are able to get the protein they need from the sugar itself. This sugar is obtained through plant or tree sap.
This sap can be extracted from plant stems, plant leaves and plant roots.
Aphids will primarily focus on getting the sap from the leaves or stems of plants and trees rather than the roots. They do not eat the plant leaves themselves as it does not provide them with any nutritional benefits.
So, if you find chewed holes in your plant leaves and stems, then aphids may not be your biggest problem!
Are Aphids Classified as Herbivores?
So, whilst aphids eat the sap from the plants they inhabit, they don’t actually eat the plants themselves.
Does this mean that they are still classified as herbivores considering they don’t eat plants? Yes, they are.
Being a herbivore means that an animal consumes plants or plant products, including sap, and that they do not consume any fauna. This is the case for aphids as they do not eat any other insects or animals.
What Do Aphids Excrete?
Aphids excrete a substance called honeydew. This is a very sweet substance that is a favoured food of insects including ants. They can only produce this substance with subsequent amounts of sugar which they get from their sap intake.
This honeydew actually looks somewhat similar to the sap that can be extracted from plants. But the honeydew remains on the outside of the plant rather than the inside.
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Does an Aphid’s Diet Damage the Plant?
An aphid doesn’t consume the leaves or stems of a plant, but it does cause damage to the plant it inhabits. Is this because of its sap-based diet?
A few aphids consuming plant sap will not do any harm to the plant, but if there are a large number of individuals on a weaker plant, their feeding habits can cause it damage.
Aphids are effectively removing the nutrients that the plant needs causing the plant to have insufficient supplies to survive.
Their diet does also provide a way for plant diseases to spread between your gardens.
If a plant has a disease then its sap is infected and an aphid that consumes it then becomes a carrier of that disease. Certain species of aphids can fly and if a carrier flies to another plant and feeds off of that plant, it will then infect its new habitat and the cycle continues.
To prevent this, if you have any diseased plant, make sure to monitor it for any aphid activity to prevent the disease from spreading. Apart from spreading potential diseases, aphids do cause health problems to plants that do not have diseases. They cause this damage because of their excrement.
Does an Aphid’s Excrement Damage Plants?
As we know, an aphid excretes a sweet substance called honeydew. This honeydew does not cause direct harm to the plant, but it does stay on the leaves and stems of the plants.
The sticky substance can cause damage by creating mould that sits on the plant. This mould can eventually cover a large area which will damage the plant’s ability to photosynthesise by blocking out the sunlight.
Much like sap, honeydew is a sticky substance that is difficult to remove from plants. So, if possible, you will want to prevent aphids from leaving honeydew on your plants more than you will want to try and remove the honeydew they leave behind.
Do you still have questions about whether aphids are herbivores or not? Then check these out:
Yes, greenflies are herbivores. Greenflies are just another name for aphids (particularly those that are green). They only eat the sap from plants.
Blackflies are herbivores because they only eat the sap from plants. They do not eat anything else. They do not even eat the plant itself.
Ryan is a keen gardener from the UK who’s spent years dealing with countless, common pests over the years so knows the ins and outs of how to deal with pests in the garden