Food safe way to kill aphids from herbs??

rose_crazy(z5 MI)June 16, 2009

We've got a serious infestation of aphids on our Lemon Balm and were wondering if there was a way to kill them and still be able to use the leaves for cooking?

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Aphids are usually dislodged with spraying from a hose. You can also make a homemade spray of hot pepper/garlic and water. Make sure you strain this mixture well before putting into a spray bottle so the nozzle doesn't clog. You might want to wait a day or two before eating the lemon balm after spraying with hot pepper/garlic!

    Bookmark   June 16, 2009 at 4:44PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Try spraying with neem oil spray. It will kill the bugs and offer a very safe protection for any plants.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2009 at 6:03PM
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Mix 1 tablespoon liquid soap with one cup of vegetable oil. (this mix can be stored for some time). Mix 1 tablespoon of the mixture into 1 litre of water and use as a spray.
Add 2 generous handfuls of birds eye chillies to 1 litre water, and process in a food processor for several minutes. Strain. Add 1 litre water and a little liquid soap or dishwashing liquid to the liquid. Mix and use as a spray.
Mix together 1 teaspoon Condy's crystals (potassium permanganate), 1 tablespoon Epsom salts and 1 bucket water, and use to spray plants regularly. Once a week, tip a few cups of the mixture around the base of the plant. Discontinue once the aphids have gone.
Trap aphids in a bowl of detergent containing a few drops of yellow food colouring in it. Aphids are attracted to yellow, and they will land in the dish and drown.
Boil 1kg rhubarb leaves in 4 litres of water for an hour. Strain and mix in 1 tablespoon liquid soap into the water. Use immediately, and do not store leftovers.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2009 at 6:59PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Blast them with the hose and sloosh the stems with your hands while you do it. Alternatively, since lemon balm grows so fast you could just cut the lot down and let fresh growth start again.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 6:44AM
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natal(Louisiana 8b)

Another vote for the hose. Works like a charm!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 10:44AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Spraying with a hose is only very temporary. It will not kill them, it only lets them land elsewhere and fly to the same area they were feeding from. Its like trying to kill all the flies in a room with a fork. The use of safe insecticides is much better as a solution. Remember, the more bugs you dispose of, the less will be there. Spraying water only would not offer much of a solution and can also increase the aphid population.

Here, my dad used to feed chipmunks, as he thought they were cute? He would buy 50 pound bags of peanuts in shells and after several years had a constant supply of chipmunks. After he passed away, the next door neighbor's above ground pool had a big sink hole in the middle. It had to be drained and the sand base needed to be flattenen again. He found dozens of peanuts in the sink hole! I put out rat traps baited with grapes and in 4 years, trapped and killed over 300 chipmunks. This year, within 5 days I got 4 more. They used to steal my ripe srawberries. Dealing with animal and insect pests calls for some more positive approaches. I would also not use dish soap for a remedy. Castile soap, however, is much safer to use, and can be mixed with the neem oil to emulsify it in water. Neem is also used as an insect repellent. Its prized for its abilities and is grown as sacred trees in India.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 11:36AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

There are very few winged aphids produced at this time of year, and none of the pests that rose crazy is observing on her/his lemon balm will be winged. So forget the flying away theory. Aphids are not equipped to roam around in self-defense and high populations can readily be diminished without neem or other elixirs. Spraying with water AND squishing would truly be effective in this situation. They will NOT return to the scene of their crime.

The time to reach for the other stuff is if you have a lot of plants and/or the plants are large and not easily tended to by hand.

If the aphid population seems totally out of control, you could try an application of insecticidal soap...safer and more effective than homemade versions. And go for the Neem as a last resort.

I use neem as my pesticide of choice for many insect and disease problems, but not on my herbs. I may be wrong about this, but I'd fear that Neem would impart a flavor. I can always smell it for several days after I've applied it to, for example, my tomatoes for whitefly.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 12:09PM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)

Lady bugs, beetles love aphids. Buy some and release if you don't alredy have some around.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 12:41PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Lady bug LARVE love the aphids. If I had 1000 aphids on my plants, I doubt I would even try to squish each one. Its somply impossible unless you wich to stay around the plants all day while doing this laborrous task. Neem is avery effective on getting rid of them and can also repel the aphids. If I were to go out and manually attack every insect pest, It would be a whole summer project.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 2:17PM
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GardenSafe sells their Neem-Oil based products in Wal-Mart (light lime green bottle). They have a Miticide that works well for aphids, unless you have a wicked massive infestation of them. Then, i'd go with the ladybugs.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 2:57PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

krogers, be thoughtful when using that product you've linked us to. Both of the active ingredients involved are very broad spectrum and someone could take out a posse of ladybugs, bees, or other beneficials. I don't think that I would use it on aphids unless I knew for certain there weren't any beneficials around helping control the population. The DE probably remains on the plant for awhile, too. "Organic" doesn't mean that a product is the smartest option.

Speaking of beneficials, let's not forget that there's a zillion of other insects out there controlling aphid populations, too. There are numerous predatory AND parasitic insects all working very hard on our behalf at all times. If we aren't careful in what we use kill aphids, we'll kill them, as well. And then we'll REALLY be in deep doo-doo!

Oh, one doesn't squish aphids one by one. That would be silly, and not nearly as much fun as wiping out hundreds of them with one good swooping motions up and down the stem, lol! Give me five minutes of squishing and I'll eliminate thousands of aphids.

Below is a link to a picture showing some aphid mummies, which have been parasitized by teeny wasp parasitoids. Anyone recognize these?

Attached is an image of the adult LB feeding on an aphid.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 4:06PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Rose crazy says 'our lemon balm' and I am assuming s/he has only one or just a few plants. So I'm with rhizo. For a single plant hosing and squashing (Wear gloves if you're squeamish) will do the job. Aphids are weak even when they are in a winged stage and once soaked and grounded not many will get back on the plants. I have just dealt with a heavy infestation of black aphids on my favas with the hose plus nerves of steal which meant I waited until the ladybirds came. And they did. The beans are now crawling with larvae. If I had used an insecticide I would have killed off the beneficials and pollinators too. Ergo no aphids .... and no beans either.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 4:41PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)


Reasoning, there is the 'posse' which only seems to be a pest aphid, and not the beneficial insects. I didn't state that the person should release preditary insects BEFORE spraying an insecticide, but instead, place preditary insects out a week or more AFTER the spray. Aphids do respond well to pyrethrins, which is quite safe for edible plants, as is neem. The wasps mentioned are usually sent out on a postage stamp sized piece of stiff cardboard that looks like it has gray sand paper on one side. That's the wasp eggs. I have not had much luck with them, or green lacewings either. I do have early pollinators, orchard mason bees (only for very early apple blossoms), and when the cukes start showing up, a whole honey bee hive colony seems to flock to the cuke flowers every year. Had another preditor, the infamous praying mantis. They would sit at the tops of the basil plants where the flowers would emerge and wait for a honey bee to come by. A second later that pantis has his fast meal, and waits for more. I take the mantis off the basil, and the next day its back to its favorte basil spot chomping on another bee. Nope, mo mantis here anymore, even if they eat a lot! Simply hosing down the plants will remove all the aphids but just allow the aphids more clean places to chew more. Your logic is flawed, and organic gardening is something not everyone knows a lot about, unless they have been able to control an insect pests, diseases, and unknown causes to losing plants. Years ago, I tried putting out japanese beetle traps and barely would have a year go bay that the foliage on everything looked like swiss cheese. My poor raspberry leaves were nearly all chewed off as were the horsradish leaves. I tried natural sprays too, with no luck. After a 10 year battle that I was simply losing, I put down milky spore around the outer perimeters of my garden, watered in beneficial nematodes for both grubs and fungus gnats (cost me a FORTUNE!), and tried neraly every kind of pest deterrent there is, including some battery operated LEDs that light up at night and are supposed to attact moths that lay looper eggs. They caught one single beetle on a whole summer, out goes that trap! I also had a lot of striped cucumber beetles and there, I use scent lures and sticky traps nearby the cuke vines. The traps get loaded within a month and always need replecement. Same with coddling moths on my apples, and there I use scent lures and red spheres. I spend more on control of insects and disease than I do on what my produce iw worth, and I would NEVER use garden hose and spray water on my herbs, tomatoes, peppers, cukes, or any other plants. The plant only see rain water on their foliage and my soaker hoses at ground level. I even have a fig tree that does well in its 85lb pot, but is just too heavy to deal with, so in the ground it goes this fall, once the leaves drop off.

You seem fixated on the words 'broad spectrum', when in fact an insect pest isn't a single entity, but is part of a BROAD SPECTRUM of insects and many are TRUE pests!

A pollinator doesn't have to be a honey bee, there are a many other tiny wasps and bees that love tiny flowers like the ones on dill plants. If I were to spray my fruit trees with something like Imidan, that would kill all bees and most any other beneficials, whereas the beneficials are barely harmed, if at all by diatomatious earth and a pyrethrin. ollinators dont chew on leaves that have insect sprays applied to them.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2009 at 1:46AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I beg your pardon, krogers. I find it very difficult to follow you. Who said anything about releasing beneficials?

They are already there, in great abundance, as long as we don't use broad spectrum pesticides. That term ('broad spectrum pesticide') isn't mine, by the way. It's used to categorize the products we use to keep insects, diseases, and weeds at bay. The term is part of the literature on pesticide labels.

Broad spectrum insecticides are simply those that can kill a wide range of insects. Period. Many organic pesticides fall into that category, such as pyrethrins, rotenone, and DE, to mention a few. Others are more SELECTIVE, such as Neem, Bt, and spinosad. Those three have to be ingested by the insect in order for them to work.

DE (diatomaceous earth) is a broad spectrum pesticide. It works by cutting into the exoskeleton of insects, including hard bodied critters one would think safe. Bees and other pollinators are most certainly susceptible, as are any other insects that come into contact with the DE. Why wouldn't they be?

Pyrethrins are also a broad spectrum pesticide family. They are neurotoxins that have a potent affect on ALL insects. No exceptions. This large group of chemicals is considered highly toxic to all manner of insects. You need to know that if you're going to be spraying widely.

I personally believe very strongly that we all should know how these products work, how to use them in an intelligent manner, when to use them, and what some of the successful alternatives are. If we become informed about how these products behave, then we will be able to use them wisely and effectively...with little collateral damage to the beneficial posse. I use 'posse' as a descriptive term to indicate all the insects in the white hats, chasing after the guys in the black hats.

I rarely spend a dime on pest control, none so far this year. My arsenal includes insecticidal soap, horticultural oil and neem. I rarely use any of them. My gardens are teeming with insect life, in what can be called a healthy balance. Pest damage is at an absolute minimum.

Well, except for those monarch caterpillars all over my milkweed, lol.

I wish you all the best and great gardening success, krogers. You have a great deal to offer our friends here in this forum. Please don't be offended if I continue to offer correct information, effective alternatives, and warnings about safety issues.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2009 at 1:36PM
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natal(Louisiana 8b)

Oh, one doesn't squish aphids one by one. That would be silly, and not nearly as much fun as wiping out hundreds of them with one good swooping motions up and down the stem, lol! Give me five minutes of squishing and I'll eliminate thousands of aphids.

Rizzo, I'm in total agreement! And following with the hose is good too.

Ksrogers, I remember your negative and contrary opinions from the Harvest forum years ago. I knew there was something familiar about you when I first saw that tarragon thread.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2009 at 8:56PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)


So don't bother posting or reading. I FIERCLY defend my opinions and for people to address me directly like you have just done again, it just brings more negative feelings and defence. EVERYONE on this earth has the right to their own choices, conclusions, and opinions. NO ONE has the absolute right to oppose these opinions in any way. I write about beneficals and have always used them here, before starting on any kind of spray method, if they prove unsuccesful. I do NOT spray hap-hazardly, nor do I post anything untrue, or misleading. ALL the info I post is based on my OWN personal experience, and I have the right to share my research and experience as well as opinions with others if they care to read about it.


Negative and contrary opinions are a fact of life, so just live with it! Odd, the ONLY forum I feel good about is the HARVEST forum, and there, I have a very large and respected following, and post daily. If you don't like me, which seems very obvious, then just ignore me. Better yet, just shut up about your negative and contrary remarks..

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 12:46PM
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rose_crazy(z5 MI)

WOW! Thanks a million for all the useful suggestions!! We've only the one full grown plant but dozens of seedlings. So far the spraying/squishing seems to have worked, at least temporarily as there are no new aphids on the plant. We might try the hot pepper solution as between by Dad and my brother we've sure got a lot of hot pepper dust around the house. Again, thanks for all the varied and useful suggestions it was a real help!!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 1:38PM
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I realize that this in old thread, but I'm hoping you all can help me...

I have an entirely edible yard featuring 12 lemongrass bunches, each over 3 feet x 3 feet, plus sage, salad burnett, onions, chives, lovage, and thyme. Right now the lemongrass (yes, all of it) is badly infested with aphids, and they have spread to the onions and chives. I didn't believe it was aphids at first, because lemongrass oil is an organic aphid deterrent, but apparently these are just stubborn aphids, lol. I have used dish soap in a spray bottle for years to deal with aphids on roses, but i can't even remotely hope to spray all of the lemongrass that way. What would you all suggest for the big guns, understanding that I do want to be able to eat everything later, though i don't mind waiting a week or 2 to harvest.
Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 8:24PM
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I've read all the suggestions from those who responded to the original inquiry and I wonder if a dusting of diatomaceous earth would help.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 4:51PM
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All of the above would work. And as for the various sprays pretty much everything sounded natural (unlike raid, roundup, etc). I advocate the soap method and looking before you spray. I know that my garden has a cadre of predator bugs including mantises, wasps, assasin bugs, crab spiders, and lady bugs. They may not get every aphid, but close enough that I can call it a day. I pretty much only need the soap sprays for when I am rooting cuttings indoors and a population of the little b-tards hatches with the temperature change.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 2:14PM
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A great technique for keeping the aphid population from becoming an epidemic (it won't help much once you have a major problem) is to plant nicotiana affinis around your garden. It makes an enchanting fragrance at night, which attracts the aphids, and then they get stuck to its sticky stem. This is very effective, but like I say, is more of a preventative measure. See photographs and text about this method at the website below. Click on Techniques, then on Nicotiana. Alan Chadwick used this plant extensively in his demonstration organic garden at the University of California back in the sixties and early seventies.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 10:26PM
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