Aphids are the most common insect pests of outdoor and indoor plants. They gather around new growths and tender parts of houseplants. Aphids live on the underside of leaves and often go unnoticed while purchasing indoor plants. Once they go unnoticed, aphids on indoor houseplants have enough time to suck out nutrients and reproduce.
Healthy pothos plant due to good care and optimum indoor conditions that repel insect pests Photo Credit
Aphids continuously feed off the nutrients from plant tissues and quickly reproduce. Therefore, it is challenging to control aphids on indoor houseplants. However, there are many ways (natural and chemical) that can kill aphids, thus, preventing plants from their damage.
Aphids on indoor houseplants Photo Credit
This write-up will shed light on aphids, their damage to indoor plants and outdoors, and their life cycle. Most importantly, we’ll provide information on different methods to control aphids.
What are Aphids?
Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects with pear-shaped bodies. These tiny pests have various body colors; some have white fluffy body coverings while others have black bodies. They have piercing-sucking mouthparts to suck sap from host plant tissues.
Aphids belong to the insect family Aphididae (all members are sucking insects)—the Aphididae hosts almost 5,000 species, which are all a problem for agriculture and indoor gardens.
Green-colored aphids with pear-shaped bodies. Photo Credit
Aphids have varied body colors from orange black to pink, but the most common aphid populations on the indoor plant are light green with pear-shaped bodies. While feeding on the host plants, adult aphids secrete a sticky substance (honeydew) on affected plants, which encourages the growth of sooty mold.
The honeydew secretions attract other indoor plant pests such as fungal pathogens (root rot and sooty mold) and black ants. However, even these black ants protect the aphid colonies from producing more honeydew, a food source for ants.
Moreover, the colonies of winged aphids appear from the underside of infected leaves when they are fully established and ready to infect new plants.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Aphid Infestation on Indoor Plants?
Aphids or plant lice are termed indoor garden intruders. They have long sap-sucking syringe-like mouth parts that suck out plant juices. Aphids feed on soft and new growths of indoor plants, and they usually munch on host plants in large colonies.
A group of black-colored aphids sucking sap from tender growths. At the same time, the black ants are busy working for their protection. Photo Credit
They feed on the underside of leaves and cause curling and rolling of infested foliage. During feeding, aphids constantly exude sticky honeydews on leaves which attract black ants and other fungal pathogens. That’s why black ants tend the aphids. The honeydew secretions make leaves shiny, moist, and sticky.
During higher infestation of aphids, they restrict the growth of an entire plant and lead to stunted growth with one or two to no leaves.
Note: One of the first signs related to aphis infestation is the presence of black ants around or on the infested plants. At the same time, the second important clue of aphis infestations is sticky leaves due to honeydew.
Life Cycle of Aphids
The aphid eggs survive the winter in outdoor plants by attaching to adjoining twigs and leaves. During early spring, the egg hatches into female aphids or sap-sucking insects. The female aphids can give birth to nymphs without mating.
The female produces three to six young nymphs per day and rapidly increases the aphid population. The nymphs are similar to adult aphids but smaller in size, start sucking the sap of plant tissues right after birth.
During feeding on the underside of leaves, the young undergo three to four molting stages and grow into adults. The skin shedding in aphids is also a clue of their infestations on household plants.
The complete life cycle of flying aphids Photo Credit
In indoor house plants, controlling aphids is a crucial and challenging process because aphids grow and reproduce speedily in these environments due to warm, humid conditions. On the other hand, the winter temperatures slow down the egg-laying process in outdoor plants. Therefore, the aphids in outdoor environments are only present in spring and summer.
How to Get Rid of Aphids?
To control aphids on indoor and outdoor plants is difficult—when they go unnoticed and easy—when they get early detection by plant owners. However, killing aphids in indoor and outdoor environments is essential to save the entire plant from their damage. The following are the best methods to get rid of aphids.
- Use of insecticidal soap to kill aphids
- Neem oil spray to get rid of aphids
- Soapy water spray to wash off the aphids
- Horticultural oil spray
- Natural predators
- Diatomaceous earth
- Prune off the damaged plant parts
- Use rubbing alcohol to clean off the aphids
- Homemade spray to control aphids
- Use sticky traps
- Chemical spray on indoor house plants against tiny bugs
Materials & Tools Required for Various Aphid Control Options
The following supplies are helpful during various options to remove aphid infestations:
- Spray bottle
- Sticky traps
- Cotton swab
- Dish detergent
- Set of bowls
Let’s describe all these methods in detail for effective management.
Note: Like most houseplant pests, the best line of defense against aphids is to keep plants healthy. Healthy plants are less susceptible to pest infestations than weaker ones. So the general rule is to maintain your indoor house plants healthy to keep the problems away.
Monitoring of Houseplants for Aphids
One of the best and most effective methods to get rid of aphids is the early detection of pests. Therefore, regularly monitor your houseplants, mainly the underside of leaves, at least once or twice a week. In this way, the aphids infestations can be eliminated early.
Once the aphid populations go unnoticed, they reproduce quickly during warm temperatures such as late summer. Aphids damage and curl the leaves, and these distorted leaves become the shelter of aphids and prevent them from insecticides and beneficial insects.
Moreover, keep the newly purchased plants outdoors for at least two weeks and carefully monitor them for aphid infestations. Also, check the foliage of the plant upside and underneath. Then, shift the plants indoors.
Sanitary Practices to Get Rid of Aphids
Remove dead and fallen leaves near houseplants; otherwise, household pests use them as shelter. And maintain proper distance between houseplants and rightly position them for more sunlight exposure.
Use Water to Wash off the Aphids
Apply a strong stream of water to wash off the aphids by bug blaster. It will instantly remove the aphids from the entire plant, thus limiting the damage by aphids.
Also, use a wet cloth or cotton swab to remove aphids manually. After each water stream, carefully observe the delicate foliage and other new growths for aphids, eggs, and nymphs.
Use Sticky Traps
The use of sticky traps is another practical approach to controlling aphids. These traps are helpful in the management of flying or winged aphids. Use sticky houseplant stakes to capture aphids and other pests.
Sticky traps to capture and control aphids—best alternative to harsh chemicals Photo Credit
The setting of yellow sticky traps in outdoor and indoor environments will trap all kinds of household pests with no toxicity to the environment.
Use Neem Oil to Get Rid of Aphids
Neem oil spray is adequate for aphids on indoor houseplants and most indoor plant pests. The drizzle of neem oil is broad-spectrum and protects plants from mites, fungal pathogens, and houseplant pests.
Neem oil spray controls high populations of aphids successfully Photo Credit
Neem oil is derived from neem trees, and that’s why it is purely organic. It functions as an antidepressant and repellent. Furthermore, it kills insects through suffocation. And neem oil spray is beneficial at all insect life stages and throughout the growing season.
To make neem oil spray, take two tablespoons of neem oil and two tablespoons of dish soap with a quart of water. Thoroughly mix all ingredients in a bowl and pour into a spray bottle. Apply this mixture regularly on heavily infested plants.
Use Insecticidal Soap
The chemical detergents dissolve the aphid’s protective covering and kill them. The use of insecticidal soap is a practical and eco-friendly approach to managing insect pests of houseplants. So to use them, always make sure not over apply them; otherwise, their applications will burn the plant foliage.
Safer’s Insecticidal soap that kills aphids by working on their protective body coverings Photo Credit
To make insecticidal soap spray, mix one or two tablespoons per gallon of water. Then, pour the mixture into a spray bottle and apply it to the plant. While using insecticidal soap on plants, make sure the plant is entirely wet, mainly the underside of leaves.
Note: Do not apply insecticidal soap and neem oil spray during midday when the temperature is high because it will burn the leaves. The best time of application is early morning and evening because, at that time, the beneficial insects are dormant.
Homemade Spray to Kill Aphids
The household or light green aphids do not cause much damage to houseplants until they do not expose the plants to secondary pests.
Ingredients of homemade spray Photo Credit
Homemade spray is the best option. To prepare DIY,
- Take one onion, one garlic clove, half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and vegetable oil.
- Put all ingredients in the blender with a quart of water and grind.
- Strain the mixture in a bowl and pour it into a spray bottle.
Apply this homemade spray every day when the infestations are high. Once the aphid numbers are under control, only apply once a week.
Use Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol such as 70 percent isopropyl is an effective method for managing aphids. Dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and coat leaves of houseplants to kill and repel aphids.
Cutting off the Infested Plants
The cutting and removal of infected and diseased plant parts help control aphids and prevent further spread and destruction. To prune off the diseased areas, simply use a pair of scissors and remove foliage and branches.
Are Aphids Bad For Houseplants?
Yes, aphids are destructive for houseplants because their indoor infestations impact the aesthetic value of plants. In addition to that, aphid’s feeding causes downward curling and yellowing of foliage. They also secrete sticky substances while feeding on the underside of leaves. The honeydew attracts secondary pests such as sooty mold fungus and black ants. These pests turn the leaf surfaces black, moist, and shiny.
What Is the Best Aphid Killer?
Neem oil is the best aphid killer. It is a triple-action organic pesticide that efficiently manages aphids and other sap-sucking insects. However, to achieve the best results, apply neem tree oil spray in the morning or evening and ensure the foliage is dripping wet.
What Time of Year Are Aphids Most Active?
In indoor environments, the aphids remain active throughout the year and reproduce quickly because the interior spaces have optimum conditions. While in outdoor environments, the aphids overwinter as eggs and emerge in early spring as adults. Then, they start egg-laying after mating.
Do Aphids Overwinter in the Soil?
Aphids do not overwinter in the soil. However, in winter, when the temperature is low outside, the aphid overwinters as eggs by attaching to the stems, branches, or underside of leaves.
Are Orange Peels Good for Houseplants?
Orange peels are a great source of nutrients such as magnesium, nitrogen, sulfur, and calcium. They act as super-pack food for houseplants and give them a nutrient boost. Not only this, but they also repel pests and other harmful microbes.
Sources for Further Reading
- Planet Natural. (2019b, November 12). How to Get Rid of Aphids. Retrieved March 16, 2022, from https://www.planetnatural.com/pest-problem-solver/lawn-pests/aphid-control/
- Aphids on Indoor Plants. (n.d.). The University of Maryland Extension. Retrieved March 16, 2022, from https://extension.umd.edu/resource/aphids-indoor-plants
- Aphids – indoors. (n.d.). Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved March 16, 2022, from https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/help-for-the-home-gardener/advice-tips-resources/pests-and-problems/insects/aphids/aphids-indoors.aspx
Do you have other tips on how to control aphids on indoor houseplants? Share it with us below. Also, read our tips on how to control other plant bugs: