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Aphids or Plant Lice


Aphids are one of the most common insect pests found in yards and gardens. They are small, only about 1/8 inch in length, slow-moving, generally wingless and have soft bodies. Aphids can be white, pink, green, black or red. They are sap sucking insects that feed under leaves or on young tender shoots. One of the first signs of a problem is often curled leaves which when uncurled reveal the insects. A sticky, sugary substance on the leaves called honeydew is often another visible sign. In high humidity a black, sooty mold will grow on the honeydew.

Several methods can be used to control aphids. First, heavily infected tips can be pruned off and disposed of and the plants then sprayed with a strong spray of water. This will reduce the population and allow natural predators to move in. Indoor plants can be washed in the shower or out of doors. Leaves can also be washed with soapy water or sprayed with an insecticidal soap. Horticultural oil, another least-toxic control, is also effective. Garden centers carry a range of pesticides that will control aphids. Check the label and follow directions. Some pesticides can damage sensitive plants. This information will also be on the label. Make sure if you plan to use the pesticide indoors that the pesticide is labeled for indoor use and the plant you wish to spray is listed on the label. Check plants weekly after spraying and reapply if aphids remain active.

Missouri Botanical Garden, 2001-2011