How To Get Rid Of Aphids On Your Milkweeds For Good? The Ultimate Guide

You may have planted milkweed in your yard to lure gorgeous butterflies, but butterflies aren’t the only thing that milkweeds attract. Some pests are particularly drawn to milkweed, so be on the lookout for little yellow insects that will quickly drain the plant of its nectar and leave the butterflies with nothing to feed on. Milkweed aphids, also known as oleander aphids, are one of these pests that feed on your milkweed plants like vampires. In this article, let’s take a closer look at how to effectively get rid of aphids on milkweed.

aphids on milkweed

Photo Credit Aphis nerii, often known as the oleander aphid, is a common aphid species that attacks milkweed plants.

Aphids destroy not only milkweed gardens but also rob the plants of their vigor. These pests breed rapidly and can establish a colony on milkweed in a single day. Therefore, it is essential to monitor for aphids carefully and promptly remove them if you find any.

Aphids on milkweeds can be treated using natural, organic, biological, or chemical methods. For instance, you can remove them by hand or wash them off with a water hose. Homemade spray or neem oil sprays can also eliminate aphids on milkweeds. Attracting beneficial insects (aphid predators) to your garden is yet another way to keep the aphid population under control and prevent aphids from coming back.  

However, if the infestation goes out of control despite all your efforts, you can resort to chemical control but beware, it has several side effects. Read on to learn more!

How To Identify Milkweed Aphids?

How To Identify Milkweed Aphids?

Photo Credit Aphids, which have small, squishy bodies, feed primarily on plant sap and come in various colors.

Although aphids come in many colors, milkweed aphids are easily identifiable thanks to their bright yellow or orange bodies and black legs. Milkweed aphids are more generally referred to as oleander aphids. The size of a typical oleander aphid, also known as a milkweed aphid, can range anywhere from 2 and 3 millimeters in length. 

However, common aphids are slightly larger than these (4 mm). Aphids, notably milkweed aphids, can reproduce rapidly due to their ability to create offspring without a mate (asexual reproduction). If your milkweed gets infected, it will look as if aphids appeared out of nowhere on your milkweed plants in a single night. 

As a result, prompt treatment is critical. It would help if you eliminated milkweed aphids before they took control of the entire milkweed garden.

Related: Aphids Vs. Thrips | Which Is Worse And How You Can Get Rid Of Them?

Life Cycle Of Aphids

aphids on milkweed

Photo Credit In her 25-day lifespan, a female aphid is capable of spawning up to 80 offspring.

The life cycle of an aphid can be broken down into three stages: the egg, the nymph, and the adult stage. However, there is one more cycle that aphids go through during their life, and that is the cycle of changing the plants that serve as their hosts. 

And based on their hosts, aphids can be divided into two categories. Some aphids, known as non-host-alternating aphids, will only feed on one host and will not move from their original location. While others, referred to as host-alternating aphids, keep changing their hosts.

Aphids that switch hosts annually begin the egg-laying process on their initial host in the fall. In the early spring, these eggs will hatch into nymphs, assuming control of the territory.

These aphids quickly reproduce and practically double in number after only a short time. After that, the aphids will go on to their second host, which will most likely be milkweed or another succulent plant, and continue to feed on that host until the end of the summer season.

Then in the autumn, the aphids will return to their original host to deposit their eggs, and the life cycle will begin all over again.

How Do Aphids Damage Milkweed Plants?

How Do Aphids Damage Milkweed Plants? - aphids on milkweed

Photo Credit Small numbers of aphids don’t do much damage to plants, but a heavy infestation can ruin a milkweed plant.

A few aphids on milkweed often do not pose a significant problem. They won’t be able to destroy the plant. However, if their population is allowed to keep expanding unchecked, they can become a considerable threat and ruin your whole garden in a matter of few days.

Milkweed aphids cause damage to the plant by sucking the milkweed’s delicious juices through the piercing mouthparts. If the infestation is severe and there are large colonies of milkweed aphids, they can cause a shortage of nutrients in the milkweed, resulting in the plant becoming pale with yellowish spots.

In addition to sucking the plant’s sap for nourishment, milkweed aphids secrete a sweet substance called honeydew. This sticky and delicious honeydew, in turn, attracts other pests, namely ants, which may be detrimental to the milkweed and also create a scene that is both unpleasant and unsightly. Ants on milkweed strongly indicate that the plant is infested with aphids, so keep an eye out for them.

Related: Aphids on Indoor Houseplants: 10+ Smart Ways to Get Rid of Them!

How To Get Rid Of Aphids On Milkweed

How To Get Rid Of Aphids On Milkweed

Photo Credit Aphids on milkweed can be easily eradicated using a solution of dish soap and water.

If you want to get rid of aphids on milkweed before there is a full-blown infestation, you will need to start the treatment in the late summer. This will allow you to stay one step ahead of the situation. That is the time aphids begin laying eggs on their host plants.

There are numerous ways you can control aphids on milkweed. We will concentrate on simple, natural, and organic approaches for permanently removing aphids from milkweed and discuss the chemical control, in brief, at the end.

Getting Rid Of Aphids On Milkweed Using Water

You may get rid of aphids and their eggs by washing your plants with a water hose every day to keep aphid populations under check. In other words, you can hose them to doze them.

This strategy, however, is only helpful and should be utilized in the late summer. This is because that is the time of year when aphids lay their eggs on your milkweed plants. You just need to wash their eggs off of the milkweed to prevent them from developing and put them to sleep.

Removing Milkweed Aphids By Hand

Have you heard that it’s possible to battle milkweed aphids “man to man”? Simply rub them off with your hands, and they will come off. If you are not repelled or repulsed by the sight of these revolting-appearing vermin, you may quickly put on a pair of gloves and take pleasure in destroying them one by one.

Milkweed plants are poisonous and can also cause skin irritation. So it is essential to protect yourself when handling them by donning gloves. Milkweed plants 

Homemade Insecticidal Spray For Aphids

A DIY insecticide spray is yet another straightforward treatment option for aphid infestations on milkweed. You can easily make an insecticidal spray by mixing two tablespoons of dishwashing liquid with one gallon of water. Fill up your spray bottle with this concoction, then spray it directly on the milkweed plants where the aphids are located. 

After a reasonable amount of time has passed, rinse the area with clean water. This will ensure that other beneficial insects are not harmed.

Using Neem Oil To Get Rid Of Aphids

Neem oil is a great natural pesticide. In addition to preventing aphid females from breeding, neem oil disrupts the aphids’ feeding mechanism. As a direct consequence of this, they perish from starvation. You can whip up a quick batch of neem oil spray at home in no time. 

In one gallon of water, combine two tablespoons of neem oil and three tablespoons of dishwashing liquid, and the resulting mixture is ready to use. Because neem oil can cause damage to leaves when exposed to direct sunlight, it is best to apply this treatment first thing in the morning.

How To Control Aphids On Milkweed Biologically

The milkweed garden might benefit from a biological treatment, which entails either attracting or releasing beneficial insects. These beneficial insects prey on aphids and eat them. 

How cool is that? 

These beneficial insects have an insatiable appetite and consume whatever they find, leaving little in their wake. Ladybugs, hoverflies, parasitic wasps, and lacewings are all examples of insects that are beneficial to the environment and gardens. 

You can purchase these beneficial insects online or bring them to your garden by creating an environment that is conducive to the health and well-being of insects.

Kill Aphids On Milkweeds Using Diatomaceous Earth

This method is very effective and safe if you have pets in your house. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the milkweed and directly on the aphids. The aphids’ delicate bodies are sliced open and perish due to the razor-sharp particles found in diatomaceous earth. 

When working in your garden using diatomaceous earth, take care not to cover any milkweed blooms; doing so will kill the beneficial insects that are essential to the health of your garden.

What About Controlling Aphids Chemically? 

In the event of a full-blown aphid infestation on milkweeds, the use of chemical control measures may become necessary. You might want to try applying malathion, acephate, or permethrin-containing products as a pesticide in such situations. 

However, we cannot stress enough how strongly we advise against applying any chemicals to ornamental plants. The whole point of having milkweeds in your garden is to attracts beautiful butterflies. If you use chemicals to get rid of milkweed aphids, you will also get rid of these lovely and beneficial insects. Therefore, use natural and organic methods and only resort to chemical options as your last line of defense.

Related: How To Get Rid Of Mealybugs On Orchids For Good?

Conclusion

Aphids on milkweed may have a frightening appearance, but they cause almost no harm to the plants they feed on and the pollinators who feed on them. The majority of the time, treatment is not required, and doing so carries the danger of harming beneficial insects. 

However, in situations where aphid management is necessary, the most effective method consists of either physically removing the aphids or treating them with natural and organic compounds. The use of foliar pesticides is not something that we recommend. 

Instead, you should water the plants so that they are better equipped to withstand the feeding of the aphids. In addition to this, it is essential that the milkweed plants not be fertilized. Aphids tend to have a higher reproduction rate on plants with high concentrations of nitrogen.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I remove aphids from milkweed?

The brightly colored aphids that feed on milkweed are damaging, non-native insects. If you don’t get rid of them as soon as you see them, you risk an infestation that will make it hard for monarch butterflies to feed on the plant. We also propose only using natural ways of management, as spraying the plants with pesticides would be bad for the butterfly caterpillars.

How do I get rid of aphids on milkweed?

Mixing vinegar with water and Castile soap is an easy natural alternative for getting rid of aphids on milkweed. Aphids on milkweed plants can also be eradicated using a moderate dish soap and water solution. Small numbers of aphids don’t do much damage to plants, but a heavy infestation can ruin a milkweed plant.

How to prevent aphids on milkweed?

In general, aphids prefer plants with greater nitrogen content. Therefore, you shouldn’t fertilize milkweed. Aphids can be a problem early in the growing season, so it’s important to regularly keep an eye on your plants from the start of the season onward. 

Spraying your plants with a strong stream of water from your garden hose at least once a week is another straightforward approach to keep aphids at bay.

How do you get rid of aphids permanently?

Wiping or spraying the plant’s leaves with a moderate solution of water and a few drops of dish detergent can typically control aphids. However, they might come back. If you want to get rid of aphids for good, you can make your own insecticidal soap, a low-toxicity pest control remedy that will desiccate the soft bodies and kill the aphids without harming the milkweed plants.

Do aphids eat monarch eggs?

Aphids that feed on milkweed do not pose a threat to monarch butterflies. They do not prey upon the monarch caterpillars or consume the eggs of the monarch butterfly. 

Aphids, however, can negatively affect monarch caterpillars in several ways, including weakening milkweed plants and competing with monarch caterpillars for milkweed. However, these effects are quite minor.

Can I spray my milkweed with neem oil?

If you do decide to spray the aphids with neem oil, which is derived from the seeds of a tropical tree, you should wash down the milkweed as soon as possible afterward, particularly on days when the weather is hot and sunny.

Neem oil can cause damage to milkweed plants if it is allowed to remain on the plants for extended periods while they are exposed to sunlight.

Do ladybugs eat milkweed aphids?

These beneficial insects have insatiable appetites, and aphids are one of their most beloved sources of nutrition. A milkweed plant can be thoroughly cleaned in a single night by ladybugs, lacewings, and the larvae of both species. As a form of biological management, ladybugs are frequently utilized against insect pests such as aphids and Colorado potato beetles.

Sources For Further Reading

Orange Aphids on Milkweed | University of Maryland Extension. (2022). Retrieved 27 September 2022, from https://extension.umd.edu/resource/orange-aphids-milkweed#:~:text=Milkweeds%20are%20commonly%20infested%20by,and%20can%20even%20kill%20plants.

Aphids on Milkweed. (2021). Retrieved 27 September 2022, from https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/garden-scoop/2021-08-07-aphids-milkweed

Aphids & Milkweed | Gardening in the Panhandle. (2022). Retrieved 27 September 2022, from https://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/hort/2020/09/08/aphids-milkweed/

Are Aphids on Milkweed Really a Bad Thing? (2022). Retrieved 27 September 2022, from https://extension.sdstate.edu/are-aphids-milkweed-really-bad-thing

Will ants and aphids harm milkweed? – Cooperative Extension: Garden & Yard – University of Maine Cooperative Extension. (2022). Retrieved 27 September 2022, from https://extension.umaine.edu/gardening/2022/06/21/will-aphids-harm-milkweed/

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