Aphids are one of the top 10 most common houseplant pests. They can come from a number of places, have several different appearances, can be tricky to spot, and can pose a significant threat to your houseplants. So, if you think you have aphids and are trying to figure out how to identify and get rid of them, you are in the right place! Here we will discuss how to get rid of aphids, what aphids look like, where they come from, and more.
What Are Aphids?
First off, let's start by answering the question of what are aphids. Aphids are small, sap-sucking insects that are members of the superfamily Aphidoidea. They feed on the tender leaves of your plants, sucking the life out of your plants until they have no energy left to give. Aphids are most commonly seen on outdoor trees, shrubs, or perennial plants, but they will happily feed on your tropical houseplants if given the opportunity. To learn more about how to get rid of aphids on your outdoor plants, check out this blog!
What Do Aphids Look Like?
What do aphids look like? Aphids are small, pear-shaped, soft-bodied insects that are larger than spider mites but generally smaller than scale insects. Aphids come in a variety of colors and can be green, black, red, yellow, brown, or gray, however green is perhaps one of the most common colors. Their color allows them to camouflage themselves against the green leaves of whatever plant they have infested, making them difficult to spot. Some adult aphids have wings, though not all of them do. This makes them able to easily spread from plant to plant. Aphids like to congregate on the undersides of leaves as this also helps them to avoid detection. The signs of aphids are often noticed before the aphids themselves are noticed. These signs can include yellowing leaves, curling or twisted leaves, leaf drop, stunted growth, or honeydew (small clear and sticky drops left behind by the aphids) collecting on the leaves of the plant.
Where Do Aphids Come From?
If you are wondering, "where do aphids come from," they most commonly make their way into your home via plants that have been put outside and then brought back indoors. Many people enjoy putting their beloved houseplants outdoors when the weather starts to warm up, and if there are already pests or insects nearby, they can very easily find their way to your houseplant. At first, the pests on your houseplant are likely so few in number that they are easily missed or overlooked, so the plant is brought back indoors where the aphid population is able to freely feed on your plant and spread to other plants in your home. It is also possible to contract an aphid infestation by bringing aphids into your home on a previously infested plant that was recently purchased. It is also possible for these winged houseplant pests to fly into your home when a door is left open, make their way through a screen, land on you or a pet and be carried into your home, and a number of different such sources, though these are less likely.
How to Treat Aphids on Plants
Treating aphids, like treating any other houseplant pests, while not difficult, requires persistence, consistency, and close attention to detail. Here are the steps we recommend for how to get rid of aphids on plants:
STEP 1: Spray Down Your Plant
As soon as you notice aphids on any of your houseplants, the first step to take is to move your plant either outdoors, into your bathtub or shower, or to a sink where you can thoroughly spray down the plant. Move the plant as gently as you can to avoid disturbing the aphids, causing any winged insects to fly off the plant. Spraying down your plant outdoors is ideal, as this can help avoid any aphids spreading to other plants in your home. Thoroughly spray down every leaf, being sure to target the undersides of the leaves.
STEP 2: Wipe Down Your Entire Plant
Next, you will want to wipe down the leaves and stems of your plant. Spraying down your plant may not get rid of all the aphids, so wiping down your plant can help to catch any stragglers. If your plant has tons of very small leaves and it is not realistic to try to wipe down every single leaf, this step can be skipped, though you will want to be sure to complete step 1 VERY thoroughly.
STEP 3: Treat Your Plant with Your Choice of Pest Control Product
Now that as many aphids have been removed from your plant as possible, it is time to treat your plant. A number of products are effective for use on aphids, however, our favorite pest control product is Bonide's Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew. This product uses a natural substance called spinosad to kill unwanted pests and is safe for use around children and pets. We recommend spraying down any affected plants every 2-3 days for around a week and then cutting treatments back to once per week for a month. Treating your plant once per month following this is recommended to help hinder any resurgence of the pest infestation. Systemic pest control products are also very effective. These work by watering your plants with a solution made from systemic granules. The plant will then soak up the solution and any pests that feed on the plant will ingest the toxins and be killed. Using both of these pest control products in tandem with each other is a highly effective way to get rid of aphids and any other houseplant pests.
STEP 4: Continue to Monitor Your Plant
Houseplant pests are tricky. They can hide easily and reappear months down the road after you thought they had been eradicated. This is why we suggest that you consistently monitor your plant for several months and continue monthly treatments even after you are sure the infestation has been handled. Nothing is more discouraging than thinking you dealt with the infestation only to find your plant struggling again several months down the road due to the same pests. So, consistently monitor your plant and continue monthly treatments for at least several months!
How to Prevent Aphids on Plants
While it is nearly impossible to prevent aphids and other pests from infesting your houseplants entirely, there are some things you can do to help decrease the likelihood of infestations. Here are a few suggestions we have for how to prevent aphids on houseplants.
1. Always Check/Treat New Plants
Whenever you bring a new plant home from the store, always check them thoroughly for pests. It is also a very good idea to treat new plants for pests regardless of whether you notice pests on the plant. So many houseplant pests are so small that they may be able to go undetected. So, thoroughly inspect your plant and treat it with Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew as well as a systemic pest control product before placing it among your other plants.
2. Be Aware of Your Plants and Check Them Regularly
Awareness is huge, and regularly checking your plants can help catch an infestation before it gets out of control. Become familiar with your plant's behavior, and if something seems out of the ordinary, pay special attention to that plant. While this may not prevent an infestation altogether, it will help to catch any pest populations early before they have a chance to really take over your plant or spread to other plants.
3. Quarantine/Treat Any Plants Left Outdoors
Aphids especially can easily be brought inside from the outdoors. If you place any plants outdoors during the warm months of the year, be sure to treat and quarantine them upon bringing them back indoors. Even if you cannot see pests on your plant, they can easily be hiding in your plant.
4. Conduct Periodic Treatments as a Preventative Measure
Conducting periodic treatments as a part of your monthly houseplant care routine is highly recommended, especially with plants that are more susceptible to houseplant pests or plants that have contracted infestations in the past. We recommend using Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew as well as a systemic pest control product once per month to help prevent aphids or any other houseplant pests from infesting your plants.