What are Aphids?

If you are a new gardener, it is important to know about the pests which may try to invade your garden. There are loads of insects you will come across that will harm your plants. One such insect which is common in gardens is aphids. So, what are aphids exactly?

Aphids are small, green insects that suck on plants to extract sap in order to survive.

Aphids are small insects, so it is not particularly easy to detect them. It becomes especially hard to tell whether you have aphids because most of them are green and can easily camouflage into leaves.

In addition, aphids often hide on the underside of the leaves. In order to detect them, you need to manually go around your garden lifting up leaves to see if you can spot any aphids.

What Do Aphids Look Like?

To confirm if you have aphids in your garden, you obviously should know what they look like

Aphids are small and are around 1/16 of an inch in diameter. These insects have bodies shaped like pears. Aphids can be of different colours, including yellow, black, green, red, and yellow. Aphids can have a furry appearance as they secrete honeydew, a waxy substance covering their bodies. 

It can become easy to get confused between aphids and other insects. You can tell that it is an aphid and not some other insect as they have cornicles at the end of their abdomen. Some aphids have small cornicles, while others have longer ones. 

What is the Life Cycle of an Aphid?

The aphid eggs hatch during the spring season, and all the baby aphids which are born are females. The baby aphids start to feed and mature. When the female aphids mature, they will shed their skins and become adults.

It only takes a week for aphids to become adults. 

The aphids that hatch are stem mothers. These female aphids have this name because they are responsible for producing a generation of aphids. Aphids have the ability to produce asexually or sexually.

The stem mother will reproduce on the host plant. Soon, the host plant has a lot of aphids. While some aphids choose to stay, others will move on to the next plant. 

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The aphids that are born do not have wings, but they can develop them with time. Therefore, the winged aphids move to a new plant to colonise it, and the cycle continues.

As the temperature begins to fall, female aphids will begin to produce male aphids. By the time summer ends, female aphids will lay eggs, leading the other aphids to overwinter.

When spring arrives, a new generation is waiting to hatch. 

This lifecycle will be different for aphids that live in warmer climates. The aphids will not lay eggs as there is no need to overwinter and will only produce females. 

How Do You Know You Have an Aphid Problem?

If you can recognise aphids among your plant leaves, then you can easily deal with them. However, other signs can tell that you may have an aphid problem. 

One of the main features of aphids is that they suck sap from plants. Aphids will feed on new seedlings and young leaves. There are some symptoms that indicate that aphids are feeding on your leaves. These signs include curling leaves, yellowing, stunting growth, and poor plant quality. 

When aphids suck on plant sap, they secrete a waste product called honeydew. Honeydew is sweet and attracts other insects like ants and wasps.

In addition, honeydew is found on the leaves, bark, and other objects around the plant. You can also tell from the honeydew on the plants that there are aphids in your garden.

One of the ways you can also tell that you might have an aphid problem is if there are too many ants. Aphids attract ants because of the honeydew they produce. As a result, the ants will congregate to protect the aphids and nurture them for honeydew.

If there are too many ants, they will protect the aphids causing the infestation to worsen. 

Honeydew also causes sooty mould, which is a fungus that causes dark spots on the leaves. Sometimes it can be too late to tell that you have aphids.

Summary 

Aphids are common insects that can damage the plants in your garden. Aphids are green looking insects that are just a few millimetres in size. These insects have a pear-shaped body with cornicles at the end of their abdomens.

You can tell that you have an aphid problem by the damage they cause. Aphids suck on plant sap which leads to curled yellow leaves and stunted growth. Aphids will also leave honeydew behind, which results in black soot on the leaves.

You can prevent aphids in your garden by introducing natural predators like ladybugs, wasps, and lacewings. If you believe you have an aphid problem then check out our extensive guide to getting rid of them here.

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