Updated February 26, 2022 by Mark Marino
An aphid is a small, sap-sucking insect that is a member of the insect family Aphididae, and the superfamily Aphidoidea. There are approximately 5,000 different species, and several hundred of them are detrimental to gardening and agriculture. The adult version of these insects is pear-shaped and is less than 1/8” in length. The ones that are most often found on plants are light green- but you may also find black, grey, pink, or white ones on your houseplants. In some cases, winged aphids may appear when a colony is established and they fly to new plants to infect them.
So, now that you know that they are detrimental to your houseplants, you’re probably asking: how to get rid of aphids on houseplants? There are several things you can do, including: spray the plants with water, dip the plant in water if it can’t withstand spraying, apply neem oil. There are also several other options to get rid of those annoying insects.
You definitely want to get rid of aphids as soon as you realize they are moving into your plants.
How Do Aphids Damage Plants?
Unfortunately, when you notice there are aphids in your plants, you’re probably already got an infestation- they can happen fast! The insects are quite mobile and can move very quickly from one plant to another. Outdoors, the aphid colonies are often taken care of by ants. The ants feed on the honeydew that is secreted by the aphids as they feed on the sap of the plants. Indoors, the aphids move from one plant to the next by crawling or flying.
These insects damage the plants by sucking the sap from the new growth. They will usually cluster around the new growth, attaching themselves to the soft, green stem. This means the new foliage ends up looking stunted, and you can plainly see the aphids at the stem. If you have a bad enough infestation, the leaves will begin falling off the plant. Finally, the honeydew that is secreted by the aphids can cause mold and fungus to grow.
Lifecycle Of The Aphid
When outside, the aphid eggs are able to last through the winter by attaching to woody growth. When spring comes, the eggs hatch into females. The females give birth to nymphs, which rapidly mature into adults. The male aphids are born in the fall and will mate with the females to produce more eggs and then it starts all over again.
Inside there is no winter- so reproduction is never slowed down. This means that female aphids continue to give birth to nymphs year-round without stopping. This means that the aphid population can spiral out of control in your indoor garden.
How To Prevent/Deal With Aphids
Now we’ve reached the point where we can answer your question fully about how to get rid of aphids on your houseplants. Just as with most pests, the best way to control them is defensive. A plant that is healthy is less likely to become infested than one that is not healthy. Therefore, make sure your plants are healthy so you won’t have to deal with this issue.
If you do notice aphids on your plants, there are several options to control them- most of which are non-chemical.
- Use water to spray them off of your plants. Or you can take them off with your fingers or a cotton swab. This is only effective for a light infestation.
- If your plant can’t withstand spraying, you’ll want to dip it in a bucket of clean, room temperature water.
- You can purchase an insecticidal soap, or you can make your own with a mild dish detergent. You want to make sure it’s free of additives and perfumes, as those can damage plants. Spray the underside of the leaves on your plants.
- Use neem oil on your plants, which is an organic oil. You will need to read and follow the instructions that it comes with. The EPA says this oil is safe for use on ornamental plants and food plants.
- Make your own insect spray by combining 1 bulb of garlic, 1 small onion, 1 tsp of cayenne in your food processor. Then, mix into 1 qt of water and let sit for 1 hour. Then, strain the mixture through a cheesecloth and add 1 tbsp of mild dish detergent.
- While it may be time consuming, you can apply rubbing alcohol to your plant, which will instantly kill the aphids.
- If you have certain areas of your plant that are heavily infested, snip them off and throw them out.
- Purchase some sticky traps and hang them near your plants. These will not only catch the aphids that are flying to the next plant, they will catch any other insects that decide to fly in for a visit.
Finally, you can use a chemical spray as a last-ditch effort. This should always be avoided if possible, but if you have tried everything else and you’re still battling the aphid infestation, you’ll need to find an insecticide. Make sure that it contains pyrethroids, pyrethrins, or imidacloprid. The safest ones are pyrethrin-based since they have a lower toxicity level than the others. However, if you can’t find one, the others will work just as well.
Aphids are terrible for your plants and must be dealt with quickly once you notice that you have them. Try these tips next time you see them on your plants and you can be sure that your plants will be happier and healthier once they’re gone.