Super Aphids?

bake-neko(6b)April 6, 2012

Seriously, this is pretty disturbing. First, they're attacking one of my mints, which they have never touched before - in fact I've never seen any aphids on any of my 3 mint cultivars.

Insult to injury - diatomaceous earth is not killing them! Until I can get my hands on some neem oil or garlic spray this weekend, I have had to resort to killing them by hand. Nothing else is coming close to even controlling them. Ick.

Normally they wouldn't be a problem until later in the year anyway, but this spring has thrown everything off. If it were warmer out I could get some aphid lions, but temps are back closer to normal now and they wouldn't survive the nights yet.

The d. earth is the same brand I always have used in early spring and has always been effective in the past. There's nothing else out at the moment to test it on though, but I'm pretty certain it's still viable. It's been kept in a very dry place, so it hasn't gotten wet, and I brush it on using a calligraphy brush. Often directly on to the aphids, as well as all surfaces of each leaf and stem.

Has anyone else had issues with these crazy super-aphids? They're the larger, green variety in my case - never seen any other species around my deck plants. Any suggestions aside from neem oil or garlic? I kind of want to be prepared in case they don't work. Never had to resort to anything aside from d. earth and aphid lions before...

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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

You asked: "Any suggestions aside from neem oil or garlic?"

Direct hits of insecticidal soap diluted according to label directions. Repeat applications as needed.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 11:53PM
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Ah, I hadn't thought of that, wasn't sure if it worked on aphids, as a lot of insecticides don't work on them. Thanks. =)

Is it true you could use a general soap? Like dish detergent watered down a bit? Or must it be a specific product from a nursery?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 12:22AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Dish detergents can do damage to plant tissues and may not be effective. After all, how much do you use?? I strongly suggest that you spring for the commercial product, read and follow the directions. Consider about 2 teaspoons of vinegar per gallon of water into the mix to increase efficacy.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 12:27AM
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Thank you. =)
Sorry if my questions seem naive or strange, but this is a new experience for me. I never use any kind of commercial chemicals on any of my plants, largely because I'm next to a watershed, but also just because I prefer not to. But needs must, as they say.

I was not aware that dish soap was so harsh, especially not diluted. Wow. Many brands are advertised as very gentle. Figures.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 12:41AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Insecticidal soaps are 'true soaps', nothing added that can harm plant tissues such as de-greasers, fragrances, etc. They are very safe to use and are considered organic. Dish soaps are not soaps, but detergents with a lot of additives. They are much more of a 'chemical' than the insecticidal soap.

Doesn't it make more sense to use a product that is designed to do the best job with the least impact? Your DE can have a residual effect on beneficials, but the soap won't...once it dries.

You can also go after them with a fairly sharp spray from the hose, just to knock of a few hundred or so. I appreciate what a challenge they can be and also appreciate your efforts to practice environmentally sound gardening.

I think that every organic gardener should have a few commercial products on hand: cold pressed neem, insecticidal soap, horticultural oil of some sort....just to mention three. I also use DE, but never outside of the garage and storage shed where the black widows live and raise their children. (Sigh. Amazing what you can get used to.)

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 1:15AM
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The simplest and least expensive control for Aphids is a sharp stream of water to knock them off the plant. Many people think, because more appear, they simply return but that is the next generation not the ones you knocked off. Because of the prodigious birth rate by the time you even see Aphids you can have 5 or more generations waiting. About all the Insecticidal Soap really does is knock the wee buggers off the plant anyway.
Note in the link where it says to watch the amount of Nitrogen used in the garden since plants growing where the soil has too much are more attractive to Aphids.

Here is a link that might be useful: About Aphids

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 7:29AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

Sorry if my questions seem naive or strange, but this is a new experience for me.

===>>> are we sure on the ID???

the info is nearly useless.. if you have the wrong bug..

and i dont understand why DE would work on a sucking insect??

is it possible that it is something in the nymph stage that looks like an aphid???

just playing devils advocate ..


    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 11:21AM
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Thank you both, rhizo1 and kimmsr, for your responses and information. =)

Thank you for the informative link on aphids, kimmsr, but none of the info in it is news to me. I am a biologist and an amateur entomologist - I hope one day to go back to school and pursue a masters (at the least) in entomology. I work in research and because it's something I love, I always research anything and everything that is of interest to me very thoroughly. Arthropod garden pests and their predators is a very large interest of mine. =) I guess I need to update my profile with this info, very sorry. =)

I know about spraying with water, but as you observe it will not get every one of them and they multiply very fast. in my town water is expensive, and just making sure all my garden is watered makes my bill pretty high during the growing season, so adding aphid control that way as any kind of regular solution, ends up not as cheap as Neem or Insecticidal soap. I've also found spraying young, tender potted plants (and also some types of plants that don't like water on their leaves or prefer drier soils) too often with sharp water blasts causes them problems - could just be me doin' it wrong though? Short term, when I am caught unawares, it has been useful on some of my plants though.

I never really looked into Insecticidal soap, rhizo, that's really good to know. I never even considered them since reading some very interesting soil studies about how soap antimicrobial agents are building up in our soils, and the damage they are doing downstream in soil ecosystems and lakes. I didn't know they are not the same thing as Insecticidal soaps at all. That's a relief. But won't it harm beneficials too? I know it only works on small, soft-bodied insects, and I've seen it mentioned that green lacewings and ladybugs are not harmed - but those are the adult forms. Aphid Lions and Syrphid larvae are small and soft-bodied, would it harm them?

You are right of course, its best to have standby tools for these occasions, even if rare. I may get some this afternoon when I get the Neem at the nursery. Thanks. =)

So far, my procedure every year has worked just fine for controls. I use d. earth in the early spring, and Sc Nematodes in seedling pots - I do heat organic soils in an attempt to kill the fungus gnat eggs first, but it never seems to work completely for me. Some always seem to survive and before you know it... >_Once it's warm enough at night for beneficial bugs to survive I buy my first round of benes, and any potteds outside on my deck, and a few garden plants, get a little bath to take off any d. earth. The benes don't end up affected by the d. earth as I do not use it once the benes come in. I have not had any need for other pesticides of any kind, and have even found wild benes I can't buy are now attracted to my yard. Last year I a had a lot of wild Syrphids in my roses and didn't need to use any lions or flower bugs on them at all.

I had the wake from dormancy, d. earth, bene release timing down perfectly until this year happened. I had full blooms on all my roses in December, my potteds were only in dormancy for a month, and several of my garden plants started to grow only to be frozen then start again, freeze again... now the ends of their leaf buds are burnt. Once that 70's - 80's snap happened last month, everything went straight to heck. Looks like a drought year now too. Yay.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 11:24AM
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Ken said:
"===>>> are we sure on the ID???
the info is nearly useless.. if you have the wrong bug.."

I appreciate playing devils advocate Ken. =) and I realize you have no information on my background at all and don't know me. I also appreciate that I can make any claims at all about my experience and training and it can be false - the interwebs is just that kind of place.

That said, even to anyone with only a couple years of outdoor gardening experience, regardless of where they garden, Aphids are pretty unmistakeable. To a life-long amateur entomology enthusiast or any experienced outdoor gardener, there is absolutely no question the second you see them.

"i dont understand why DE would work on a sucking insect??"

You're kidding, right? Horticultural DE works on pretty much all arthropods if applied properly for the type of arthropod you're trying to control. You do know what it's made of and how/why it works, right? Give it a try, but you must use horticultural DE. Any soft bodied insect like an Aphid is far more vulnerable to it than hard shelled arthropods. They're toast once the diatom shells hit them. Or that's usually how it goes, anyway.

This year many of them do fall to the DE, but not as many or as fast as in prior years. I wonder if I'm contributing to a harder-shelled adaptation in green aphids in my area. Scary thought. There just seem to be more of them, they're more aggressive, and they're not dying as quickly with my usual methods of control. This is all probably due to the very warm winter/spring we've had though.

I should add that the affected potted plants have been brought indoors until I can get the aphids under better control - don't need to deal with newcomers setting up house on them too. =)

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 11:52AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

To a life-long amateur entomology enthusiast

==>> ya kinda didnt mention that.. did ya?? ... lol

too many of the peeps we get popping in here.. are on their third or fourth nuclear application.. on stuff i would not give a second glance at ...

as i said.. just playing devils advocate.. and insuring you started by properly ID'ing the pest ...



ps: on my 5 acres.. the suckers can suck on anything they want ... i am no longer proactive in battling mother nature on this level ... and if the plant fails.. well.. i didnt want that foo foo piece of carp anyway .. .lol ...

now mint on the other hand.. you could probably use a car tire to squish the bugs.. and end up healing in the mint.. and having a couple hundred extra come next year .. lol ...

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 4:20PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Yikes, don't listen to Kimmsr about the efficacy of insecticidal soaps! I believe that he is judging the usefulness of such products based on his homemade versions, which include some version of 'real' soap and water. If you follow the directions, soaps do a terrific job at controlling soft bodied critters, whose exoskeletons are practically melted (my term) when contact is made with the liquid.

Ken, bake is absolutely right about DE. It's a product that does not rely on the feeding habits of any arthropod, because it acts in a purely physical manner, not physiological. All that needs to happen is for the critter to come into contact with the DE. I'll disagree, however, that it is best suited for soft bodied insects. The particles can readily scarify the harder shells of tough insects, especially around the joints. It can also be absorbed (inhaled) into spiracles. I think of it as an equal opportunity pesticide.

bake, your comments about bigger, stronger aphids are very interesting. We know with certainty that insects are absolute marvels of evolution, even able to adapt in a single generation. The thought of one of our most prolific of all insect species now becoming less vulnerable to simple controls is scary!

I don't know if you found the attached fact sheet in your research about insecticidal soaps, so I'll attach it for you. It gives some guidance about how to use the products in the most effective manner possible.

Here is a link that might be useful: Click here for information

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 4:40PM
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Ken Said:
"==>> ya kinda didnt mention that.. did ya?? ... lol"

Yeah, I didn't, and my sincere apologies. I'm kind of a personal privacy freak online, it's become second nature not to volunteer information about myself. I tend to forget that there are some cases that some information is very relevant and necessary. Also I tend to ramble, so in the process of trying to keep myself brief and not write a book every time I post somewhere, I also can tend to miss vital information. Sorry for not being more specific sometimes. =) I've updated my profile with relevant info too, and next maybe I can make it readable. LOL

I know what you mean too about people coming in with questions or problems, without having done homework, frantically flailing for any answer, and either using ineffective methods or even damaging ones. I've seen it in the technical forums I frequent too. So, really I should know how to give pertinent information by now, but somehow I always miss key things.

It's also true there are some aphid forms that can be tricky to ID at first sight, like woolly aphids.

"ps: on my 5 acres.. the suckers can suck on anything they want ... i am no longer proactive in battling mother nature on this level ... and if the plant fails.. well.. i didnt want that foo foo piece of carp anyway .. .lol ... "

I am jealous of your space! =) My yard isn't that large, as we don't own the land between us and the shore of the lake, but it's still a lot for me to handle since it's so young and in many areas still undeveloped. The yard was a pit of grubs, moths, ants, weeds and gravelly silt when I started though. One day I will wish I had more room to spread out and garden. ^_^ Still, it's a lot more than I've had for a long time, and I really missed it.

I love your approach too. I have an area I'm designating for nature to just keep hold, so caterpillars can stay there and aphids too. But it's small, again. I do try and stick with things that grow easily wild here, in as many cases as I can, and where I have some plants that require more care, I try to make sure they're pretty hardy. I hope to have my garden pretty self-sufficient at some point, requiring basic care, scouting and enjoyment mostly. =) Actually, just last summer I started a new addition that I have seen growing alongside roads since I was little - lovely flowers, a shade of blue that almost glows. Not knowing what it was, I just went out and dug a healthy wild one up. later I found out I didn't need to, I could have bought the seed. No kidding was it Chicory. LOL

My peppermint and catmint have never struck me as that aggressive, though they do spring back when cut back hard, pretty quickly. But the chocolate mint... that one's a little scary, it grows like a fast ground-cover. I can easily believe you could stomp all over it and it would spring back up faster and bigger than before. Man, does it smell heavenly though. I bought it thinking it would look nice in the garden, then reconsidered quickly. It's now in a container on my deck - well, when it's not being attacked by aphids anyway. This is the first year they've touched it, and they have never gone after a mint I have owned.

Rhizo, thank you so much for that link! I eventually found most of that info, but that is nice an concise and answers the last of my questions I couldn't easily find answers to. Awesome, it looks like this is going to be come a regular new tool in my arsenal.

I got some this afternoon which also contains Neem. Bon-Neem. =D So far so good, those buggers that were left started dropping, so I guess we'll see by tomorrow. It will come in especially handy as generations of new beneficials are swapping out.

I do wonder at the continued efficacy of DE on arthropods, when most have so many generations so quickly, and they tend to adapt to chemical and bacteriological controls relatively fast. It would be very interesting to see a study on genetic drift in common aphid species. They may actually lend better to it than most arthropods - you still need a good amount of tissue for individual genetic sequencing and genotyping - more than is usual available in a single individual insect. Since most aphids are almost entirely parthenogenic, it would be easy to get dna that's, if not exactly the same, then close enough to the original as to make such a study viable... ooh, now I have to go look for any studies on aphids. LOL

Their being largely parthenogenic may also contribute to them not adapting as quickly to change? Though that seems hard to believe considering how successful they are as a superfamily.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 1:20AM
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Sorry, I forgot to say, I only meant that DE tends to be more effective in soft-bodied insects because they have more surface area that can be directly effected by the DE. Hard-shelled arthropods are effected at the joints of segments and limbs and by what they end up breathing in, as you note, but that surface area is small enough that it takes longer to work, is all. =) I agree it's still just as effective in the end.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 1:36AM
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You could have had them eradicated with just one spraying of Malathion and saved yourself alot of typing. Malathion is available in every nursery I've ever been in and has been on the market for decades. If your mint is something you eat then I wouldn't use it but otherwise it is fantastic for ornamentals.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 5:30PM
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Thanks scottys, but I know what Malathion is. You could have saved yourself some typing too, had you read.

I asked for an Organic solution. Malathion is not Organic, it is an Organophosphate. These are two very different things.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 10:36PM
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Sorry, that strikes me now as much more snark than I intended. I meant to be a bit tongue in cheek, and ended up rude. My apologies, scottys.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 10:52PM
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Don't worry about it. I actually only read your initial posting (4/6/12 23:09) and not the entire chain and you initially never stated you were looking for an organic solution which is why I suggested Malathion, especially since you wrote " Nothing else is coming close to even controlling them. Ick. "
Sorry, but I'm old school and rely on conventional chemicals to rid my garden of pests on ornamentals, shrubs and non other non edibles. I was only trying to help you.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 12:31AM
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I have stubborn aphids too. I've hit them with the insect soap to slow them down. I'm pissed now and I'm ready to hit them with sevin now. This DE you talk about. Is it like the DE you use in an aquarium filter? If so I have some. Just dust them with it? Death to aphids!!! I say!!

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 12:32AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

The DE for aquarium or pool filters is useless in controlling pests.

Horticultural grade or food grade is what is used for pest control, though I don't believe that it would be very helpful in aphid control. According to the original poster, it has not been at all effective.

Sevin is one of those pesticides that will lock you into chemical use. The more you use, the more you will HAVE to use, sadly. It kills all of the beneficial insects, as well as pests. Sadly, some pests have become resistant to Sevin and will enjoy a population explosion with its use. This particular chemical is deadly to bees as well as earthworms.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 5:45AM
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