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Aphids Got You Down?

Posted on 20 March 2011



Anna Bellamie, Denver Landscape Network                                        March 19, 2011

You’ve put so much work into making your landscaping and gardens colorful, luscious, and thriving.  The hours of toil, weeding, watering, and pruning have paid off.  Then you start to notice some of your plants are ailing… aphids have arrived.  These teeny tiny creatures, also known as “plant lice”, are among the most destructive pests of cultivated plants in most regions.  With over 4,400 species, these soft-bodied plant-snackers, can take down a happy flower garden with ease.

Don’t despair!  The good news is that you can combat an aphid problem without using any harmful chemicals, with another insect, the adorable yet fierce ladybug.  A member of the beetle family, ladybugs will eat up to 60 aphids a day, and a variety of other pests, including mites and mealy bugs.  They are natural enemies of a long list of insects, and they eat and eat and eat… til the bad guys are gone.  When aphids as a food source run out, they will also stock up on pollen and store for fall/winter hibernation.

There are a couple of ways you can make sure you’ve got some of these “good guys” in your garden.  First, use plants they are naturally attracted to, including ones with umbrella-shaped flowers like fennel, cilantro, caraway, and dill (which are also all wonderful for your Culinary Landscape).  They also like geraniums and cosmos.  By avoiding the use of insecticides, you’ll also promote your ladybug population.  Here’s the tricky part, though:  you’re going to have to have at least some aphid-affected plants in your garden to keep up the food source of your little red-and-black friends.  Once you’ve got a bigger aphid problem under control, though, that shouldn’t be too hard.  As long as they’ve got something to eat, they will continue their life cycles in your garden, laying eggs.

If you are unsuccessful in attracting them naturally at first, consider purchasing ladybugs to get them established.  For under $15 at your local garden supply store (or online), you can get about a thousand ladybugs.  Once you have them, put the bag in a cool place until late in the day or very early morning (before the sun is up).  Give their new home a good shower of water.  Release them at sundown as they do not fly at night, gently scattering them so they can start snacking immediately.

It may take a couple of tries, so be patient.  If they don’t like their new environment, they may leave, but with a little luck from Mother Nature, the bugs who remain will stay awhile and begin laying eggs, too.  If your garden has various flowering plants with pollen that you keep watered well, you should have no problems.  With a gentle hand, you can move the ladybugs all over the garden, and you’ll be saying, “What aphids?” in no time.


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