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Learn to Identify and Eliminate Aphids on Your Indoor Plants

Opt for organic, non-chemical controls whenever possible

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The Spruce / Phoebe Cheong

Aphids are tiny sucking insects from the insect family Aphididae. The group includes roughly 5,000 different species, with several hundred that may be a problem for agriculture and gardening. Adult aphids are pear-shaped, measuring less than 1/8 inch in length. The most common aphids on houseplants are the light green ones (pear aphids), but aphids can also be found colored pink, white, grey and black. Additionally, winged aphids can appear when colonies are established and fly to infect new plants. Juvenile aphids (nymphs) look like smaller versions of the adults.

How Aphids Damage Plants

Aphid infestations tend to develop quickly, and the insects are highly mobile: they rapidly travel from one plant to another. In the outdoor garden, aphid colonies are often tended by ants, which feed on aphid honeydew— a sugary liquid that is secreted by aphids as they feed on sap. Indoors, aphids spread between plants by flying or crawling.

Aphids cause damage by sucking sap from new growth on plants. They tend to cluster at the growth end of plants and attach themselves to the soft, green stems. As a result, the new foliage may look crinkled or stunted, with the aphids usually plainly visible around the stem. If the infestation is bad enough, the plant will begin to drop leaves. Finally, like mealy bugs, the honeydew secreted by aphids can encourage the growth of sooty mold and fungus.

The Aphid Lifecycle

Outside, aphid eggs survive the winter by attaching to woody growth. In the spring, the eggs hatch into females.   The females give birth to nymphs without mating, and these nymphs rapidly mature into adults (in about 10 days). Males are born in the fall and begin to mate with the females to produce eggs in preparation for the long winter. Indoors, however, there is no winter to slow their reproduction, and female aphids can continue to produce nymphs all year without pause. Thus, the aphid population can quickly get out of control on indoor plants.

Preventing and Dealing With Aphids

Like most pests, the best control for aphids is defensive. Healthy, vigorous plants are less susceptible to infestation than weak, under potted, and stressed plants. As a general rule, if you make sure your plants are healthy, you’re less likely to attract these annoying critters in the first place.

If you see aphids on your indoor plants, there are many control options, most of them non-chemical.

Learn how to identify and control pesky aphids on your indoor plants to prevent further damage and keep them from coming back.

How to Kill Aphids on Houseplants

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Aphids, tiny pear-shaped insects about 1/8 inch long, feed on your houseplants’ sap. They also secrete a sticky substance called honeydew, which ants love. Aphid infestations aren’t typically harmful to your plant’s overall health, but their feeding can make plants look unattractive and the honeydew they secrete can lead to sooty mold. Aphids aren’t difficult to kill, whether you use natural or chemical treatments, but heavy infestations will need repeated treatments for total eradication.

Natural Control

Take your houseplant outside and spray the foliage with a strong jet of water. This will remove aphids from your plant, and they will not be able to get back on.

Dip plants into a bucket of clean water to remove aphids if they have delicate foliage that may be damaged by spraying. Turn the plant upside down and submerge only the above-ground portions of the plant.

Cut away damaged or heavily infested plant parts and destroy them.

Rinse your houseplants with clean water weekly to remove newly hatched aphids and to prevent re-infestation.

Chemical Control

Apply rubbing alcohol to the foliage with a cotton swab to kill small groups of aphids on houseplants.

Mix a solution of insecticidal soap or horticultural oil and water, according to the label directions, and pour the solution into a spray bottle. Spray the plants with the solution, holding the sprayer at least 18 inches away from the plant to avoid damage. Cover the entire plant, including the undersides of the leaves with the spray. Leave the plant outside until the foliage has dried to limit pesticide exposure in the home.

Repeat applications of insecticides, as needed. In cases of severe infestations, it may require several applications to kill all aphids on your plant.

Treat severe infestations with an insecticide spray containing pyrethins, imidacloprid or pyrethroids. Pyrethrin-based sprays work well for indoor plants because pyrethrins are natural, fast-acting insecticides that have a short persistence and low toxicity.

Things You Will Need

Isolate new plants from your existing houseplants for at least 30 days to prevent aphid infestations. Use only slow-release fertilizers with moderate nitrogen content to reduce aphid populations. Aphids reproduce rapidly when there is an abundance of new growth, which high amounts of nitrogen tend to provide. When repotting or pruning your houseplants, wash your hands and sterilize tools before moving to a new plant. Inspect houseplants weekly for signs of insects so you can deal with them before they become a problem.

Warning

Follow all precautions listed on insecticide labels when treating indoor plants to prevent illness and plant injury. Use pesticides that are labeled for indoor use on houseplants, and whenever possible, carry plants outside to treat them. Do not treat plants suffering environmental stresses, such as drought, with insecticidal soaps or sprays.

How to Kill Aphids on Houseplants. Aphids, tiny pear-shaped insects about 1/8 inch long, feed on your houseplants’ sap. They also secrete a sticky substance called honeydew, which ants love. Aphid infestations aren’t typically harmful to your plant’s overall health, but their feeding can make plants look … ]]>