There are several species of aphids, which are small insects. In fact, they can be somewhat difficult to see as their color blends with the color of most plants, including succulents. They have a sharp mouth-like part that they use to feed on the sap of leaves. The thick sap of succulents is prime feeding grounds.
Aphids can do a lot of harm to plants. Some carry diseases with them. These can damage the leaves and weaken the plant. They produce a thick, sugary waste product called honeydew. This can encourage black mold, which can further damage the succulent. It also attracts ants, who love to feed on this waste product.
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The Lifecycle Of An Aphid
The lifecycle of an aphid infestation usually starts with winged adults. They land on a likely looking succulent leaf and lay eggs before flying off to do more of the same. They can attack an entire garden this way. The young hatch and begin feeding on the leaf. They may stay on the same plant for a few lifecycles before winged adults hatch and they move off.
Aphids And Ants Symbiotic Relationship
Some species of ants are known to herd aphids. They protect the aphids on the plants and the aphids are ‘milked’ of their honeydew. The ants have chemicals that help keep the aphids calm and they have a special technique for getting the honeydew. These ants have been known to fight off other insects that think that the aphids would be a great banquet.
The reason knowing about the ant farmers is important because these ants will keep the aphids on the same plant, even if the leaves of the plant become sick. They will bite off any wings that form on the aphids so they can’t fly away. The ants can be as much of a problem for getting rid of aphids as the insects themselves.
Getting Rid Of Aphids In A Gentle Way
It may not be necessary to use harsh chemicals to get rid of these insects. They don’t do well when it is hot, so they may die out on their own. However, using a strong jet of water to rinse the aphids on succulent may be sufficient. Pruning off infested leaves may also get rid of the problem.
If these steps aren’t enough for a simple aphid infestation, or if the plant is too delicate for either, there is another method. This involves soapy water in a spray bottle. This doesn’t mean grabbing the dishwashing liquid from the kitchen. Dish soap usually has a lot of other things in it that aren’t good for the succulent.
Pure soap, such as Castile, is better. Not only is it free of other chemicals, but it also contains either vegetable oil or animal fat. That smothers the aphids, thus getting rid of the problem. Pure soaps may be hard, sold in bars. Grate three teaspoons of it and mix it with warm water in a spray bottle. Gently spray the plants and the aphids should go away.
Getting Rid of Ant Farmers
While these methods work for aphid infestations that don’t involve farming ants, they won’t help a lot when these ants are around. Any aphids left will be carefully moved to another leaf, sometimes on another plant in the garden. They will quickly breed and a new round of infestation will start. Instead, the ants have to go before the aphids can be taken care of.
If you know where the ant colony is, you can kill the problem there. It can be as simple as pouring boiling water into the anthill. In case there are more colonies, plant bright colored flowers near the colony and near the succulents. This will attract predators that will enjoy the ant buffet. You can also buy nematodes; they also have a hearty appetite for ants. Once the ants are gone, then you can get rid of the aphids.
Companion Planting For Aphids Prevention
Aphid prevention can also be done. For this, you might want to consider companion planting. There are plants that aphids don’t like. They produce strong phytochemicals that deter them from approaching succulents. They don’t necessarily have to be flowering plants, although a few of them are.
Garlic and onions are really good companion plants. The strong sulfur scent repels the aphids. They are also not particularly floral in nature, so they will blend in with a succulent garden. Several herbs can also be used. Mint, cilantro, and oregano all produce scents that aphids don’t like. These can serve dual-duty; they are also useful when cooking.
Here is one hint: don’t plant mint directly into the ground. It spreads by root runners and who knows where it will pop up. They are also known to travel under houses, driveways and across property lines onto other people’s property. The best way is planting it on a flowerpot and let it sit on the ground in the garden.
There are also plants that will lure aphids away from the succulents. Feverfew, a plant often used by herbalists for migraines, is one. People who grow roses are often urged to plant it so that the aphids will leave the rose bush alone. It does have some pretty, white flowers and interesting foliage.
Plants that attract aphid predators are also good companion plants for a succulent garden. Marigolds can serve dual duty here. Aphids don’t like the smell but their predators love the flowers. Nasturtiums and sunflowers can also attract aphid predators.
Essential oils can be mixed with water and sprayed on succulents. A combination of peppermint, thyme and clove oils would work the best. Five to six drops of each can be added to a spray bottle and gently applied to the succulents. Between the scent and the chemical reactions, the aphids will either die or move on.
There is one potential chemical aphid control. Pyrethrum, which is made from the chrysanthemum plant, may help fight them. This chemical is also used in a fly spray for horses and dogs as well as pest control for ants and other pests. If this is used, don’t allow pets or children into the area until the chemical spray has dried.
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Aphids infestation can devastate your plants. But using the methods above will help you to control the aphids especially on a succulent. You can also apply this procedure to other aphids-infested plants. Just select which one works best for you. In case you have any questions, write us your comment below.