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Aphid Brainstorming Thread!

 
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This thread is for brainstorming ideas, concepts, and known practices for controlling aphid populations. In this thread we will focus on wholistic, long term, management of aphid populations.

That means:

- No Spraying
- No Squishing
- No DE
- No traps
- No purchasing lady bugs/other predators

If you know a way of mitigating aphid populations by:

- Attracting Aphid predators
- Discouraging aphids
- Drawing aphids away

Or something else very cleaver, please post it here!



Cheers!
 
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Just yesterday at the plant store, the person helping me shared that the "Alyssum" flowers in my hand help with aphids.

He explained there's a tiny wasp that preys on aphids, but the adult needs some pollen in its diet, too, and the teensy tiny Alyssum flowers provide that. I think he called them a "brachted wasp," but googling was not much help.

He said, "plant the Alyssum next to your cabbages, and you'll have fewer aphids."

Here's a pic of the flowers in case Alyssum is just a regional name:
IMG_20200420_083531_4.jpg
Alyssum flowers, technically next to the cabbage right now
Alyssum flowers, technically next to the cabbage right now
 
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I always plant French Marigolds, tagetes to discourage aphids and their farmers the ants.  If you can keep the ants away you will have a head start to not get aphids.

I have also heard that chives work also.





 
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I have sugar snap peas in 2 spots, planted at the same time. 1 is infested with aphids, the other is not. It could be coincidental, and the aphids just happened to have found the one spot first and invited their friends over. But the second spot has weedier areas close by with a diverse variety of plants, including many mustards/brassicas and is only lightly mulched. The first spot is mostly sheet mulched, and the closest weedy areas are just grass and sheep sorrel.
 
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Worm excrements contain chitinase, plants absorb this through their roots and can use it to fend off insects. Chitinase weakens their exoskeleton, so they prefer to move on to another food source. Create a worm friendly environment !

A few years ago i walked under my peach tree and got sugercoated by aphids pissing down, clouds of flies where enjoying the treat. I couldn't bring myself to do something. Ants were moving babys about to any new leave in sight. An ant highway the branches were. It had frosted that year, all fruit was lost, it put all of its energy into producing soft foliage ideal for aphids
The peach must have called ladybirds to it, because it was covered in them, it didn't dent the aphid population, which was lucky for the invasion of predatory wasps that followed after. I saw pirate bugs and some fly, could have been lace wing, feasting on them. Since then, these insects have taken up residence in my garden.

I do move the larvae of ladybugs around, they're easy to spot on my hops plant which almost yearly has some infestation of aphids, which it doesn't seem to mind too much. Those larvae are great, they don't fly off like their parents, you drop them and they have to start eating. If you get them small they have to still change quite some skins, if you get them bigger they might hide out in a pupa for a bit to come back winged. Sometimes they hang around to find the love of their life while eating aphids. Then they drop eggs, screaming yellow, easily to spot those. I've moved leaves with those eggs attached as well and attached them to an infected plant.

I try to save my own seeds, the plants that have the least pests get biggest and produce most seeds. So i guess that helps to get a more resistant crop on the go.  It's probably not the most tender. Aphids like weak and tender leaves.
LADYBIRDLARVAE.jpg
[Thumbnail for LADYBIRDLARVAE.jpg]
 
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It may seem strange but one way to deal with aphids is to not mess with them. Though this is assuming you have planted wild flowers plus flowers in general and that you don't spray toxic stuff and that you have "wild" areas with mulch, downed wood, etc.

Predators take time to show up and if you remove the aphids before the predators show up then you will never give the predators time to get established. But you also have to create habitat for the predators to stick around on your property. This is where the flowers and wild areas with mulch, downed wood, etc. comes into play.

Last year I had a lot of aphids on some of my flowers but I left them alone and despite losing some of the flowers eventually predators like ladybugs showed up and soon the aphids were gone. This year the aphids are just starting to show up but the ladybugs are already there and eating them. No lag at all this year so I'm hoping the aphids remain in balance.

If I hadn't waited and given the predators time last year I likely wouldn't be seeing them already this year.

I plant a lot of native flowers like lupines which seem to attract aphids and I have also had a lot of luck with nasturtiums drawing in aphids. In both cases ladybugs showed up to eat the aphids and are doing so again this year.

Just remember that predators won't be there if there aren't any prey for them to eat. My view is a balance is the best goal and not elimination.

Good luck!
 
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Good ideas! Last year, by accident, I saw the benefit of planting buckwheat in a high tunnel. By the time my arugula and other leafy greens were starting to take off, the buckwheat was blooming some. I saw aphids all over the arugula and decided to ignore it, but only because I didn't feel like dealing with it. A week later, I revisited the arugula which had ample new growth and no aphids. But TONS of ladybug larvae! All summer I found lacewings and their dainty eggs in the tunnel. The syrphid fly http://www.beneficialbugs.org/bugs/Hover_flies/Syrphid_Fly/syrphid_flies.htm also had a steady presence due to flowers of multiple kinds.
 
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I had a hop plant get absolutely covered in aphids last year. My solutions was to do nothing! I gave it one spritz of neem oil before I thought better of it and put the bottle away. I was moving out of that house and figured if it can’t survive in its own then there’s no use in it being there. That aphid swarm quickly gave way to a ladybug swarm. Those ladybugs quickly became food for a family of birds nesting in a nearby tree. We had fewer slugs than any of the years before, I assume because of the birds. And the one tiny area that did get spritzed with neem oil produced 1/2-1/3 the flowers that the rest of the plant did.
 
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Very timely -- I was just thinking about my aphid experience last year.  My nasturtiums were absolutely covered with aphids last year.  At least I think they were aphids - they were black, not green.  And the year before, my calendulas were massively attacked.  Were these indeed aphids?

Also, regarding ladybugs, I rather thought there is a lady bug look-alike that is actually a pest, and I've been concerned that I wouldn't know the difference.  Can anyone give clarification?

So glad someone posted a picture of a ladybug larva, so I know what to look for!
 
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I suspect most people fear that if they leave one plant with aphids, they will spread to ALL of the plants in a green, sticky aphid-apocalypse. I haven't found that to be the case.  There is a risk of disease spread, I suppose, but I haven't had that happen in a big way in a diverse garden.

I use a similar strategies to the "leave it alone" approach many report, but slightly different when it's happening on an annual vegetable plant.  

I've observed that oftentimes there is one plant that gets the most infested.  If I leave that one plant to the aphids it usually develops an incredible aphid problem in a few weeks (ant farming? an inherent weakness in that one plant?) - almost like it's the sacrificial plant.  

Then at the peak I put that one in the compost. Unless a ton of ladybugs have come in - that's too late.  I try to do it right before the ladybugs lay their eggs, to beat when the ladybugs have shown up en masse.  The point is so the ladybugs spread around the garden, rather than just focus on the one most infested plant.

Then the ladybug larvae appear on other plants and seem to eat the small amounts of aphids that are sprinkled around the rest of  the garden. I imagine that the aphid covered plant might have acted like a predator attractant. Then if I get rid of the bulk of the prey that are concentrated in one spot and have the help of the ants, the predator bugs seem to spread around that garden rather than focus on just one aphid-ridden plant.

That was in western Oregon.  Now in the Desert SW it happened differently - the aphid infestation hit a perennial sage plant. I wasn't going to compost the whole thing, though I could have trimmed it I suppose.  But I wanted to see what would happen.  

It became horribly infested with aphids.  It even withered a bit and looks burnt.  I felt sorry for it (!), but still waited out the process.  

Flies showed up for the liquids. Ladybug larvae appeared all over the plant and nearby ones. The sage is now covered in the second generation adult ladybugs and those ladybugs are everywhere. And interestingly again, that one sage was the only one badly affected.  Now a few aphids made it to a neighboring agastache, but the ladybugs jumped on that right away. They are going to clear that plant of the tiny amount of aphids pretty quickly. My annual veggies garden seems untouched by aphids thus far, and it has some peas in it, plus another plant that aphids love.

Here are current pictures of the sage and neighboring agastache:

IMG_0413.jpg
The sage that was the prime target of aphids - it was dripping from them
The sage that was the prime target of aphids - it was dripping from them
IMG_0414.jpg
This sage is now a ladybug love-nest for the second generation adults
This sage is now a ladybug love-nest for the second generation adults
IMG_0412.jpg
An agastache next to it has only a small amount of aphids and a lot of ladybugs
An agastache next to it has only a small amount of aphids and a lot of ladybugs
 
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I feel that biggest problem is the soil health. When plant are strong, aphids can't do much damage and won't be attracted to the plant. So I think we need to focus on the soil health. Which is not as easy either as there could be micronutrients missing from our soil, so the compost made from plants growing in deficient soil, won't have those either.
 
Joy Oasis
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Hugo Morvan wrote:Worm excrements contain chitinase, plants absorb this through their roots and can use it to fend off insects. Chitinase weakens their exoskeleton, so they prefer to move on to another food source. Create a worm friendly environment !



I read, that hair has similar compound, that makes plant very strong and because of that good to put in tomato planting hole to make their stems strong. Now I save hair from my hair brush and cut it up small to aid decomposition:)
 
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I see Asian beetles in some of the photos (not ladybugs as suggested). Asian beetles are thought of as a pest...but...I welcome them because they have been aggressive with taking out the aphids, more so than the ladybugs.

I do what I call 'guerilla gardening' in that you never know where you'll find a batch of onions or brocoli on this property. I mix it up all over the property and it's due to aphids. They will attack one patch one year and leave the others alone...following year, once they discover a new hiding spot I have, they will quickly multiply. I directly correlate this to ants setting in.

One of my spring combatants is to go out earlier in the morning and take a coffee can with a bit of water in it. I find the black mature aphids that over wintered laying their aphid eggs on my plants. They like to drop to the ground the minute they suspect you are aiming for them. I place the can underneath the leaf or portion of the plant where they are an thump them into the can (like I do with stink bugs). If I place a bit of oil into the water, nothing escapes, they swim around, get oily and drown in the water.

My aphid population stays well down if I get out consistently and gather these black bugs when it's cooler in the morning and they do not react to me as quickly.

I do notice, over the years that my aphid population directly relates to the ant colonies in the area. More ants, more aphids.
 
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To the OP, I don't mean to distract from the primary focus of the thread, but I had to inquire about your interpretation of permaculture.  There are many ways to practice permaculture out there, and I suspect that you and I might differ on a lot of the particulars.

Specifically, please explain why your view of permaculture precludes squishing, DE, and traps as means for pest control?  (Are there actually aphid traps on the market?  I wasn't aware.)

[NOTE the OP has since revised the verbiage that prompted my question so to more clearly define her goals for this thread and the desired PEP criteria, and to avoid broader implications as to what is or isn't a minimally acceptable permaculture technique]
 
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Ash Jackson wrote: I think he called them a "brachted wasp," but googling was not much help.
He said, "plant the Alyssum next to your cabbages, and you'll have fewer aphids."



I think he meant a bracketed wasp which lays eggs on hornworms.

There are, however, a couple other types of wasps that concentrate on aphids.

This thread seems pretty restrictive....in all the readings I've done on permaculture I don't
remember any refeence to the "Dhammapada"' but for those who wish to follow the teachings
this verse is probably most appropriate:

"All beings tremble before danger. All fear death. When you consider this, you will not kill or
cause someone else to kill. All beings fear before danger. Life is dear to all. When you consider this,
you will not kill or cause someone else to kill."


 
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This is kind of like my post last year "Give nature a chance"  Many times as lots of people have said the aphids end up ringing the dinner bell for other insects to come and remove them.  This like every other solution out there isn't full proof, but works most of the time.  I think it helps to plant lots of flowers and mix and match veggies.  Supposedly this makes it harder for the bad insects to find the plant of choice. Plus some times you get a plant that attracts the bad insects and leaves your veggies alone.  My Calendula is covered with aphids right now, but my peas and lettuces don't seen to have any.  It helps to make sure you have super soil, so your plants are very healthy.  Seems like the sickly plants attract the bugs, natures way of culling out the weak I guess.  If I have done all of the above and waited a good amount of time, and things are getting worse there is always spraying them with high pressure water, Dr. Bronner’s - Pure-Castile soap and water spray and neem oil.  I bought neem oil last year and it is still unopened.  It has lots of good quality's, and is organic, but it kills good insects as well as the bad, including the bees that we must protect.  So for me neem oil would be the very last resort.  Thank for the post I always learn something new with posts like this.
 
R Jay
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Had a problem with caterpillars on cherry trees until I plant black currant bushes nearby.  Those little
fur-balls would glom onto the currant bushes and almost strip them...but they left the cherry trees
alone.
 
Ashley Cottonwood
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Hey Mathew that's a great question!

This brainstorming thread is to help develop the PEP program aka "Permaculture Education according to Paul"

So really I'm trying to reiterate someone else's perspective, you can look up Paul's work, but here is my brief summary in relation to aphids:

In this permaculture perspective, you are trying to identify if there is an imbalance in the system that you are managing. As many people have stated above, they have identified that there wasn't necessarily a in imbalance in the system, but rather an individual weak plant and 'doing nothing' was the solution. That the aphids weren't a problem but a functioning part of the system as a whole.

In other situations it may have been a soil health issue or a lack of habitat for beneficial. In these cases, putting in effort to mitigate the problem results in a long term impact on the system. Sort of a "one and done" solution, although you'd have to continue to make observations to see if your inputs were effective.

What this thread was trying to avoid was mitigating a problem by having to repeated apply an input: DE, sprays, squishing. This is because they are seen as a band-aid solution and not addressing the imbalance as a whole.

In short, aiming towards "wholistic management".

Hopefully that makes sense!
 
Matthew Nistico
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Ashley Cottonwood wrote:Hey Mathew that's a great question!

This brainstorming thread is to help develop the PEP program aka "Permaculture Education according to Paul"

So really I'm trying to reiterate someone else's perspective, you can look up Paul's work, but here is my brief summary in relation to aphids:

In this permaculture perspective, you are trying to identify if there is an imbalance in the system that you are managing. As many people have stated above, they have identified that there wasn't necessarily a in imbalance in the system, but rather an individual weak plant and 'doing nothing' was the solution. That the aphids weren't a problem but a functioning part of the system as a whole.

In other situations it may have been a soil health issue or a lack of habitat for beneficial. In these cases, putting in effort to mitigate the problem results in a long term impact on the system. Sort of a "one and done" solution, although you'd have to continue to make observations to see if your inputs were effective.

What this thread was trying to avoid was mitigating a problem by having to repeated apply an input: DE, sprays, squishing. This is because they are seen as a band-aid solution and not addressing the imbalance as a whole.

In short, aiming towards "wholistic management".

Hopefully that makes sense!



Thanks for responding to my question.  I totally get the idea of holistic management.  And I agree that often the best approach is to do little, observe the results, and then realign your future efforts closer to nature's patterns as they've been revealed to you through the observation.  Often if an element of your system is succumbing to pests (especially if it repeatedly faces the same pest problems), then this is a signal to you that the element was ill-chosen, was ill-placed, or that your support systems - the diversity of your polyculture, the quality of your soil, the proximity of trap crops, the presence of natural and/or domesticated predators - are inadequate.

I consider it the Aikido horticultural approach.  When nature focuses a "destructive" energy towards you (ex, aphids attack), roll with that energy and redirect it to your long-term advantage (ex, you gain knowledge and perhaps loose a poorly-suited element, to the enhancement of your future system performance); don't attempt to meet it head on with an equal-but-opposite energy (ex, you poison the aphids).

I agree with all that.

But I still fear it is overstating the case to declare that "the permaculture way means: no spraying, no squishing, no DE, no traps, no purchasing lady bugs/other predators."  [NOTE the OP has since revised this quoted verbiage to more clearly define her goals for this thread and the desired PEP criteria, and to avoid broader implications as to what is or isn't a minimally acceptable permaculture technique]  Any of these might be a perfectly acceptable solution within a permaculture system, depending on the circumstances: what are you spraying, how long are you depending on these efforts/inputs, how mature are your systems, etc.  Some of the measures you named I'd be willing to take when I'm getting a new system established; whereas if I'm forced to rely on them indefinitely, they represent too much trouble and I'd try to tweak my system instead, perhaps subbing out some elements for others.

To be sure, I'm NOT saying these would be the best solutions, nor the most elegant solutions, and not necessarily desirable long term solutions.  But I would hardly go so far as to say they are inconsistent with permaculture, which I thought you were implying.

Spraying... okay, I'll admit: the truth is I don't spray.  And I would shy away from even an organic pesticide - I think someone above mentioned neem oil - because beneficials succumb as well, and we all know very well how that starts the self-stroking cycle of herbivores (aphids) recovering more quickly than predators (ladybugs), which leads to more crop damage, which leads to more spraying, which only escalates the cycle.  But what about sprays like garlic/pepper solution intended to repel insects from particular plants?  I have a hard time seeing the down-side, provided you are willing to put in the effort.  What about spraying barrier films (ex, clay) on to ripening tree fruit?  I've heard lots of permies recommend that, and again I struggle to see the down-side.

Squishing... If I'm walking through my garden and I see a stink bug on my squash, I'm going to squish it.  It's body goes into the mulch and becomes ant fodder.  If I see a fat tomato horn worm, I might squish it, or if it exhibits parasitic wasp eggs I might throw it far away.  It will succumb to ants, or birds, or to the wasp larvae if it lasts that long, but is unlikely to find its way back to my tomatoes.  The predator/prey balance has not been affected, no harmful chemicals have been introduced... I'm struggling to see the downside.  To be sure, I'm not spending hours patrolling the garden for pests to squish; that's just too much trouble.  And if one day I did find myself doing that, then I'd know that my systems are weak and consider it a wake-up call.  But squishing the random pest that crosses my path?  I don't see that as something a permaculturalist wouldn't do.

DE...  Paul is a huge advocate of DE.  He talks/writes about it all the time and has been doing so for years.  I've used it to attack the fire ant mounds we are subject to in the South.  I wouldn't flatter myself that I "eradicate" or even "kill" the fire ant colonies; at best I merely harass them to the point that they relocate their mounds 10 feet over, which might no longer be in my way.  I am happier, and my soil life has not been harmed.  Another example: okra growing in my kitchen garden sometimes get ant infestations.  The ants burrow into the flower buds and growing okra pods, resulting in what I call "club foot okra" and retarding the growth of the whole plant.  Gods only know what the ants are doing, but I've seen it more than once.  I respond with DE on the stems and leaves of the okra, and with a couple weeks of applications I can sometimes deter the ants long enough that the plant regains its strength and starts growing again.  The ants usually don't return to that plant.  I'll grant you that this is only a "band-aid measure" as you aptly put it.  But bare in mind that my garden is small and has only a few okra plants; if the ants overwhelm these, then I get zero okra harvest.  Some years the okra are strong all season and never show ant problems, so I know they are capable of thriving here.  In fact, okra is a prime choice for my climate.  Should a permaculturalist shy away from doing as I have done?  Again, if I found myself broadcasting pounds of DE across all my crops just to keep them alive, it would be a wake-up-call moment and I would re-evalute my situation.

No traps...  I suppose excessive use of traps could upset the predator/prey balance.  But I've not observed that most traps are that effective.  They usually provide a little local, targeted relief.  They don't decimate the prey population to the point that predators crash.  I've had decent results with the pheromone-bait-over-a-collection-bag style of Japanese Beetle traps, provided I put them far from the affected plants (otherwise, they just draw in and concentrate the JB population near to what you're trying to protect).  I give the full bags to my neighbor who feeds them to her chickens.  There are still JBs on my grapes after that, but not enough that the vines decline in vitality.  I should note that there have only been two years in the past eight when JBs were a problem.  They just go crazy one summer and then mellow out the next summer.  I'd be willing to bet that these occasional surges and subsequent declines in their numbers reflect fluctuations in the regional environment, and nothing that I'm doing on my small property.

No purchasing lady bugs/other predators...  I'll concede that I've never been seriously tempted to do this.  I see no ecological downside to it, but it's most likely a waste of money.  If your systems aren't rich enough, the purchased predators won't stick around.  Whereas, if your systems are rich enough to support them, they will likely show up soon enough on their own.  If you feel like throwing money away, the neighborhood will never suffer from a bag full of extra lace wings or lady bugs, but your own short-term benefit will be minimal.

My apologies for muddying the waters and distracting from this thread's intended brainstorming exercise.  I am probably overreacting to a simple statement, taking it out of its intended context.  I know none of this has helped to develop the PEP criteria you are aiming for.  I do understand your desire to focus attention towards the more elegant, long-term solutions over the band-aid measures.  But I thought it worth stating that some of those band-aids have their uses.

I guess I just feared some permie newbie stumbling onto this thread, reading your original statement, and thinking "oh gosh, you mean practicing permaculture means I can never squish a bug?"
 
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Hey Matthew,

I don't think you're muddying the waters all at; in fact you raise a lot of great points. I think it's really important not to shame people out of using the methods you describe above just because someone says they're "not permaculture".

I guess my introduction for this thread could be interpreted that way.  I'll go back up and make some edits.

To clarify, this thread was not intended to state that DE, sprays, squishing, ect. are not permaculture 'worthy' but rather develop an education program that focus on wholistic methods that create long term solutions.
 
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i usually get mite and mealybug/scale on my plants which i bring indoors
this year however i had issues with aphids and thrips as well
physical squishing and a predator i bought (Delphastus catalinae)
were ineffective at stopping them so i ended up spraying soap and water on the plants during the night cycle.. it made all the difference
i had to remove dead and damages foliage and repeat several times but even after the first time it made a huge difference
i also ordered some yucca glauca seeds recently by chance and then came across a video reccomending natural saponins from multiple plant sources in rotation
some studies have suggested the saponins promote plant growth

anyhow sorry to muddy the water even more
definitely interested in peoples responses thus far and will try some of these tips
 
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I've been asked to chime in here.  Specifically about the relationship between permaculture and squishing aphids.  

Point 1:  when squishing aphids, use your thumb.  That way, you can hold your thumb up for everybody to see and say "see!  I have a green thumb!"

Points 2 through 7:  Ashley has been excellent at attending our very long and very detailed meetings about defining PEP badges and BBs.  And during those meetings, we might have four hours invested in aphids.  So the mission is to have a BB where a person demonstrates aphid control the permaculture way.  And there are many schools of thought under the permaculture umbrella.  Since this is PEP, I get a chance to raise the bar a bit according to my own standards.   I have squished many an aphid.  And I have laid down a lot of DE.  And I wish to do better!  Both of those things are a lot of work - and I think that if I can be more aligned with nature, then I will be able to be even lazier.  What are the steps so that I have a food forest, but I don't have to do anything but harvest.  Squishing and DE sound like work (and expense).  What is more natural?

Points 8 through 14:  I prefer building better soil, adding diversity to guilds (including species that discourage aphids and attract aphids (sacrifice plants) and attract aphid predators), creating aphid predator habitat, adding diversity to the soil, and diversity to the shape of the soil ....    

Point 15:  I think we are seeing some really excellent feedback and suggestions here.  

Point 16:  Thanks Ashley for creating this thread.  You clearly did an excellent job because you are getting a lot of feedback and a lot of ideas!
 
paul wheaton
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I think an important part of aphid control is ant control.   A lot of times, the ladybugs cannot get to the aphids as long as there are ants.  So the ant issue needs to be mitigated.  

Another angle:  I think it is an organic practice to squish aphids or use DE.   But my interpretation of sepp's words are that if you see a plant being overwhelmed by a pest, then it is important to drink in the lessons of nature - understand what, in the design failed so that you can improve your design.  

The organic gardener/farmer growing rows in a flat homogeneous space needs to be worried - they can lose a complete crop.  Because if a plant succombs to aphids in one place, there is a good chance that all the plants will be lost.   But a permie growing in guilds and land with crazy texture (picture wacky shaped 7 foot tall hugelkulturs) can see a plant being obliterated by aphids and think "well, I guess that was a bad spot for that plant - good thing I have lots of the same plant growing in lots of other spaces."    The aphids are part of nature - and we choose to work more with nature so we can be even lazier.  Nature is removing a plant that will do poorly in that spot, so that a different plant can do well in that spot.


 
Matthew Nistico
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paul wheaton wrote:Point 1:  when squishing aphids, use your thumb.  That way, you can hold your thumb up for everybody to see and say "see!  I have a green thumb!"



Nice  : )

paul wheaton wrote:I think an important part of aphid control is ant control.   A lot of times, the ladybugs cannot get to the aphids as long as there are ants.  So the ant issue needs to be mitigated.



Excellent point.  I've definitely observed ants engaged in aphid farming on my property.  In the past, this was when I pulled out the DE in order to temporarily repel the ants from the affected plant and give both plants and lady bugs a chance to strengthen and regroup.  This is admittedly infeasible on a large scale or for an extended duration, as it would require too much work.

So I'm eager to read what other more-passive techniques people here will suggest.  As I mentioned above, in my region we have fire ants, which can become a major nuisance.  Every year they're a more moderate presence on my property as my systems grow richer (fire ants specialize in poor soils).  Still, they aren't completely abandoning my property anytime soon.  My go-to solution for excess ants would be "get some guinea hens," but that's not an option in my suburban setting.
 
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Peaceful ladybugs
20200427_141933.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20200427_141933.jpg]
 
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Interesting that this was under animal care in the PEP forum. As mentioned by several posters ants care for aphids as their milk cows. I discovered them even bringing them in the barn for the winter. Back in the 1940's I discovered ants tending aphids on the ivy vines that had worked there way between the logs that made the upper part of our root cellar. It was winter time and too cold outside for aphids. Again in the 1980's When I was moving something heavy I dislodged a rock from the wall of a planting bead beside the side walk and there were ants tending aphids on a dandelion root during the winter.
Then there are the paper wasps that consider aphids their meat cows. Paper wasps are quite different in their habit than Yellow jackets and hornets. They are semi solitary often working together as a sisterhood rather than as a queen and workers. They do not close their nest with an outer covering and so are aware of your presence so you can talk to them and be respectful fellow gardeners. I have never been attacked by them and have even carefully move their nest when in an inappropriate location. I have only been stung by them 3 times in the many years of working together and that was because I was unaware that I was damaging their nest. Those stings were very shallow and just to let me know I was in the wrong.
 
paul wheaton
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I think I wrote this in 2002:   ants and aphids on my apple tree

And a photographer sent me this image:

 
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Actually, the alyssum plant attracts hoverflys, which are known to love aphids.  I have it growing in my raised beds.  This year I plan to plant it near a patch of milkweed, as my milkweed always gets covered with the dreaded aphids.  It will be a true experiment to see if indeed the alyssum works!
 
M. Phelps
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so i learned yesterday that natural saponins can be fatal to fish
they stated to never use them in aquaponics
it made me call into question using them up north as i am near a trout stream

also i like youre approach because i am like a slave to my plants currently
 
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Aphids were my first real test of holistic pest management, and it took me several years of squishing them to be brave enough to try it. We finally decided one spring to stop fighting the aphids and plant flowers to attract ladybugs instead (calendula, geranium, alyssum—we already had parsley, cilantro, dill, mint, and some others). Between the flowers and the banquet of aphids we were finally leaving available to them, the ladybugs showed up and stayed. Which meant we suddenly had a lot less work to do. A very satisfying proof of permaculture ideas all around.
 
Hans Quistorff
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Lady bugs and paper wasps need places hibernate in cold winter climates so greenhouses and shelter built out of reclaimed material with lots of gaps and crevices for them to over winter make a difference In how soon they show up for work. To insulate the north wall I covered the inside with carpet padding and strips of carpet. As soon as the greenhouse is warm enough for aphids it is also waking up the predators.
 
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Aphids attack my dandelions first. I let dandelions grow where nothing else should, like between paving. Makes it easier for me to keep an eye on them.

My mature chilli plants got attacked by aphids as soon as I planted them in the ground. Growing in situ could be a better strategy.
 
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Hi,

This is a great thread, and I wanted to share some thoughts an experiences we have learned about using nutrition to treat and prevent aphids showing up on crops, I shared some thoughts on this thread: https://permies.com/t/146343/prevent-manage-aphids-insects-managing
 
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What an awesome opportunity to examine our belief systems around what-we-have-been-told-culturally regarding "pests." What if there is no such thing as "pests"? Like "weeds," are they merely insects whose virtues have not yet been appreciated? I'm reminded: The Problem IS the Solution. I posit that aphids are not the problem, rather they are the solution to a problem. There are some great observations in this thread! Let's tie them together...

Much as beaver were long vilified for the "damage" they caused to trees and for flooding areas inconvenient-to-humans. Now they are being recognized as hydro-engineers of ecological systems, and essential components for restoring watersheds and addressing drought. Or consider dandelions: lawn inhabitants dreaded by many. Until we consider their great services—feeding bees early in the season, addressing soil compaction, drawing calcium and nutrients upward, even providing humans a good source of food and medicine in the hunger gap season. I suggest that aphids, too, are the solution and not the problem. And likely in more ways that one. Here are a few I've discovered.

Of the thousands of aphid species, the majority are denizens of forest trees in temperate regions and only a few are drawn to our garden plants.Aphids form trophic associations with dozens of organisms, not just ants.  Their soft bodies are an essential component in the food web, supporting populations of ladybirds, hoverfly larvae, and lacewing larvae. The carbohydrate-rich honeydew that aphids secrete is an important energy source for many organisms, especially ants, driving a mutualism whereby aphids supply honeydew and amino acids to ants in return for protection from predators and parasites.

Honeydew provides large amounts of biologically available carbon in the form of soluble sugars. When this honeydew drips or is washed by rain onto the ground, it feeds soil microorganisms, enriching their populations and diversity. I've planted many linden tree for this very reason: linden aphid results in rapid soil improvement under these trees. Honeydew is a crucial resource both above- and below-ground. This means aphids may very well be functioning as a keystone species.

John Kempf has reported on observations where aphids are drawn to plants that are unhealthy https://permies.com/t/146343/prevent-manage-aphids-insects-managing. Unhealthy plants—deficient in magnesium, sulfur, molybdenum, or boron—are more likely to invite aphids. And we know it's not the chemistry of the soil that matters, as Elaine Ingham has shown, but the biology. Microbes are needed to permit plant uptake of nutrients. So the aphids arrive to add carbon and boost soil biology, so sick plants can become healthy.

Might they also make sick humans healthy? In response to insect nibbling, a plant increases production of a wide spectrum of phytonutrients in its leaves, stems, roots, flowers, and seeds. These phytonutrients provide greater pest resistance in the host plant and can be shared via the rhizome/fungal plant-to-plant communication system, signalling nearby plants to increase their production of phytonutrients too. Phytonutrients, of which more than 4,000 have been discovered, are essential to the flavor profile and nutrient-density in the human diet. Phytonutrients have been shown to modify gene expression and optimize human health. Is this why industrial foods produced in systems void of insects (in closed greenhouses or heavily sprayed fields) have no real flavor and are regularly shown to be severely nutrient depleted? The year our nectarine tree had thrips (we made no effort to interfere), the taste of the fruits was beyond anything imagineable...people cried eating them (no exaggeration). I remember a gal in her late 50s, on a tour of our site who aptly explained "it seems I've never eaten a real nectarine before."

Nature has a wisdom beyond our understanding. I want to rejoice in the mystery of nature "fixing things," knowing the aphids are healing some imbalance in the landscape, know there's nothing I need to do but keep observing and learning and appreciating. Always fun to go down the rabbit hole exploring the ecological services provided by insects.


I so appreciate the Permies forums, the lively discussions, insights, and huge body of knowledge here! Thanks for taking a few moments to read my insights.
 
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I was thinking about this today as aphids have once again blanketed my plum tree. I do not typically have much of an aphid problem on the other plants, but one plum tree suffers greatly, despite attracting a good number of ladybugs. I am thinking there must be some imbalance affecting this tree in particular.

Today I was visited by a delightful flock of warblers. Beautiful and also big aphid-eaters!  It got me thinking that even though my yard supports many wild birds, they never seem to favor that tree with the aphids, even when I hung food for them there in the winter.  Then I noticed my neighbor's cat sitting in their window as it does, right on level with the plum tree some 4 feet away.  And the sparrows nesting in their vents which dive bomb smaller bird who encroach on their "territory." So I think at least a contributing factor to the intractable aphids is a specific location which, due to factors beyond my control, is hostile to aphid-eating birds.
 
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According to the French agro-expert Hervé Covès, the key to aphid control is to make sure you have aphids all season, especially early in the season! The reason plants like elderberry and nasturtium, which tend to have loads of aphids without being bothered by them is NOT that they "trap" aphids - the bugs on them are different types of aphid - but it feeds aphid predators.

Tiny flowers and umbellifers are especially useful to hoverflies and the tiny parasitic wasps.

He also points out that spraying the plant with a weak honey solution causes it to think it is attacked by aphids and thicken it's cell walls. However, this does come at a cost to the plant (but is better than being weakened by aphids).

Interestingly, he has observed that the presence of aphids without gap until the autumn has led to aphid predators eating the asian fruit fly drosophila suzukii, which is a recent arrival in Europe with a big impact on cherry, grape, and soft fruit.

https://www.permatheque.fr/2015/04/04/herve-coves-gestion-holistique-des-pucerons/

Therefore my goal is to make sure I have tiny flowers for tiny insects, and to make sure there are always aphids somewhere in the vicinity.
 
Hans Quistorff
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Interestingly, he has observed that the presence of aphids without gap until the autumn has led to aphid predators eating the asian fruit fly drosophila suzukii, which is a recent arrival in Europe with a big impact on cherry, grape, and soft fruit.


I have observed that with my high population of paper wasps they are getting the fruit fly maggots off the raspberry fruit before they borough dep into the fruit.
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