Organic pest management of aphids

Description

The following tools and techniques are meant to provide some examples of organic pest management (IPM) tactics for various species of aphids using the Four T method. For the purpose of this sample, green peach aphids (Myzus persicae) are the target used.

Target

Our target is the aphid. Any aphid should be a target. Green peach aphids are tiny, green aphids that tend to hang out under leaves and at flowers.

Timing

General calendar time: adults emerge anytime during mid to late spring / they may be present all year long in greenhouses or other indoor growing situations
Degree days: n/a (control begins when adults are observed on plants

Aphids present an unusual problem on plants because they have the unique ability to give live birth during the growing season without mating. Yes, all adult aphids observed on plants during the bulk of the growing season are females with the ability to clone themselves.

There is really no need to use the degree day formula for aphids. The time to respond is when they are observed.

Tool(s)

Tool #1: Syringing (Type of tool: Mechanical/Water pressure)

Syringing is a fancy word for taking your garden hose with a spray nozzle and spraying down your plants (preferably while you water them so the water you spray is able to be used by the plants) to remove aphids.

  1. Spray your plants using pressure that knocks aphids loose, but that doesn’t damage the plants.
  2. This tool works well with potted plants and mature seedlings that you can place on their side.
  3. If you can knock aphids onto a dirt, rock or concrete surface for extra effectiveness.
  4. Repeat technique the following day or two days to prevent aphid infestations from rebounding.

Tool #2: Crush aphids with your bare hands (Type of tool: Ninja moves)

You can prevent early small aphid infestations from developing into large aphid infestations simply by crushing small infestations before small “revolts” turn into a widespread revolution. A small amount of finger pressure will crush their small bodies. It sounds kind of cruel, but aphid infestations have a way of building slowly and gradually. If you don’t nip them in the bud, they will sense your weakness and walk all over your plants and clone themselves.

If it helps you take control of the situation, you may imagine yourself as Bruce Lee walking through your growing area and encountering groups of other aphid-fighters who you can take on by the hundreds without breaking a sweat. If Bruce Lee is not your cup of tea, imagine yourself as Uma Thurman taking on the Kill Bill hordes…whatever works.

Tool #3: Spray insecticidal soap (Type of tool: Chemical)

Insecticidal soap works well with aphids because it isn’t a poison or a nerve toxin…it is a formulation of soap that is designed for use on plants. The “insecticidal” part comes from its mode of action…that works especially well on soft-bodied aphids…because insecticidal soap dissolves their outer shell in a way that causes them to dry out from loss of moisture. Use once on Monday, rinse on Tuesday, and then repeat on Thursday, rinse on Friday.

Tool #4: Release beneficial insects (Type of tool: Biological)

You do not want to use just any beneficial insect. You want an insect that will actually consume aphids on the plants in your growing area. Releasing ladybeetles for aphids might sound nice, but chances are really good that they adults will fly away. Better to release green lacewing eggs that will hatch into legged (not winged) larvae that are ravenous for aphids as well as other small insects, like thrips and eggs of other plant-feeding insects.

if you had a large growing area that had indoor plants that are prone to aphids, you might consider investing in green lacewing eggs as well as parasitic wasps in the genus Aphidius. By introducing green lacewing larvae AND winged parasitic wasps, you would provide serious pressure on aphids and ensure that there would be enough pressure to prevent outbreaks.

Technique(s)

Technique for tool #1

Use more than once for maximum effect.

Technique for tool #2

After crushing insurgent aphids, proceed to wash your hands before moving into other growing areas to prevent spreading aphids from one area to another.

Technique for tool #3

Let the insecticidal soap sit on the plants for at least 2 to 3 hours in the late afternoon or early morning. Spray off to ensure that the plant is able to recover from the infestation.

Technique for tool #4

Release beneficial in the early morning hours or the late night. Make sure there is plenty of water to help them through the night

Control measures outside of the season

Plant cup plants and goldenrod near your growing area. These plants attract a specific kind of aphid that attracts a wide range of beneficial insects.

For more information

Contact Green Noise LLC at leavesofnoise@gmail.com

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