How to stop aphids and other bugs from attacking your plants
The aphid is a common garden pest that can weaken and kill your plants. They prefer soft new growth, especially if you use commercial fertilizers that make your plants grow very fast. This often results in lots and lots of lush, tender new leaves. Aphids will attack many common garden plants including squash and tomatoes. They secrete a chemical into the plant that can kill the area around each «bite» and result in stunted growth of new branches. They are also known to spread harmful viruses between plants. Aphids attack the plants by sucking the juices from the leaves, stems or blossoms. The juices they get from plants are so low in protein that they need to draw quite a bit from the plant in order to survive. The plant juices are however high in sugar and in order to survive the aphids pass this sugar out as waste. One sign of aphid infestation is a clear sticky residue of droplets on the leaves below them (or on the table surface beneath indoor potted plants). Ants love this sugar-rich residue and will often defend aphids from their natural predators in order to ensure their supply.
Aphids themselves are funny looking little green bugs. They are tiny at just about 1 millimeter in length. Their bodies, to me, resemble little water balloons filled with the liquids they have siphoned from the plants. They also can produce a winged variation when populations get too large or when continually exposed to threat. This helps them disperse the population to other plants. This is why I don’t recommend manually washing them off the plant. You’ll always miss a few, and the latest research shows that they give off an alarm chemical which increases the number of winged aphids from the next generation. More winged aphids means they can more easily spread throughout your garden and your yard. They reproduce VERY quickly and just a few aphids can virtually cover a leaf in a day or two. Each adult aphid can produce 10 or more live young each day! Amazingly, no males are needed for this sort of reproduction. Males will only be born toward the end of the year, when the females need them in order to produce the eggs which will lie dormant over winter to hatch next years population.
The ususal recommendation is to manually wash them off of the infested plant with an insecticidal soap to prevent re-infestation. This is difficult and time-consuming and usually is only a delaying tactic. Some recommend spraying them off with a garden hose, but this again just knocks them down, many
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