One common problem that every gardener faces at some point in time is that of dealing with pests. However, if we understand the association between pests and plants, it becomes possible to take some protective and remedial measures to fend a pest attack.
In today’s article, we will get ourselves acquainted with one such common pest found in the typical gardens having gourds and flowering plants. – AN APHID.
What is an Aphid?
Aphis Gossypii (aka Aphids) are small-bodied insects which belong to the family Aphidoidea and the order Hemiptera. Commonly known as plant louse, greenfly, and blackfly, they are also found in pink and brown color.
About 5000 species of aphids have been identified, and around 400 of these impact food and fodder crops. A majority of aphid species are flightless (wingless), but some species possess wings. These species prominently attack crop families like Cucurbitaceae (pumpkin, zucchini, watermelon, gourds, etc.), Malvaceae (okra, cotton, durian, many flowering plants), and Solanaceae (potato, eggplant, tomato, many medicinal and flowering plants) annoying the gardeners.
How Aphid harms plants?
Aphids attach themselves to the lower side of the leaves to avoid detection. They have a very short lifespan. It takes eight days for an aphid to reach its adulthood. It can multiply fast and can produce multiple generations in a year. There are three ways in which Aphid harm the plants:
- They suck the sap from the plants and make the plants weak.
- They act as the vectors for viral diseases transmissions.
- They secrete honeydew on plants which causes sooty mold This moldy growth indirectly reduces the rate of photosynthesis by shading the plant surface.
One of the first signs of aphid infestation in your garden is a sighting of a multitude of ants on the plants. Ants and aphids share a symbiotic relation.
When Aphids feed on the phloem tissue of the plant, they secrete honeydew which is a sugar-rich sticky liquid forced out of the anus. This honeydew is food much preferred by ants. Aphids produce sugary food for ants, and in turn, ants protect them from the predatory insects.
Symptoms of damage/ Signs to watch out for:
- Stunted growth
- Wilting or dieback of shoots
- Damage to/Destruction of new flush growth.
- Curling of tender shoots
One should actively start watching out for Aphid infestation 4-5 weeks post sowing the seeds. Following techniques can work as preventive measures:
- The simplest and the easiest – growing aphid-resistant
- Removal of weed plants, which acts as a host plant for an increase in aphid population.
- Placing aluminum foil around the base of the plant. The foil will reflect sunlight on to the underside of the leaves which will fend off aphids.
- Using oil or any other sticky substance around the tree trunk to prevent ant movement.
Depending upon the extent of the infestation, some of the following may help:
- Spraying the underside of leaves with a mild soap spray or neem oil.
- Introduce natural enemies (predators like wasp and ladybug) of aphids to your garden.
- Chemical management/spraying of insecticide (can be used for flowering plants but not preferred for food-bearing plants).
- If nothing else works, last option is to collect and destroy severely affected plants to ensure other plants can be saved.
Sushma completed her B. Sc. from College of Horticulture, Hiriyur and M. Sc. from College of Horticulture, Bengaluru. She is an avid gardener with expertise across soil based and soilless gardening techniques using substrates.