Ants and aphids are ready to prey! Here are some of our tried and true fixes for these garden and greenhouse pests. The best preventative measure is integrated pest management. What does that mean? For starters, when you go out to water or enjoy your morning coffee, lean in for a closer look. Ants are easy to detect because of their colony clustering near mounds, whereas aphids tend to collect on the undersides of leaves and colonies are prevalent on newer growth and buds (Pests prey on sick or weaker plants that may be experiencing drought stress or lack of fertilizer so keep your eye out for these plants too). A simple five to ten minute inspection each day can save you and your crop. Prune and destroy the most infested, chlorotic (yellow) or necrotic (black) leaves and infested buds from your plants as this will not only eliminate a portion of the problem but will help prevent diseases from spreading.
Consider preventative measures. If you’re finding repeat performances on fruit trees, etc. spray dormant oil/horticultural oil in the spring to kill hibernating eggs. Dormant oil will also help with mites, scales, and a number of other insects. Getting back to the problem these days of everything already being infested let’s start with a natural management for the problem. After you have pruned take a strong jet of water and rinse off the plant in its entirety. This knocks the aphids off the plants and makes it difficult for them to find their way back. This will help reduce aphid populations but to stay on top of it you must do this every few days.
If your plants are too far gone for this method, your next option involves either biological or chemical control. Ladybugs prey on soft bodied insects and can eat up to 100 pests a day and 5000 in their life span, so they are an excellent solution! Release them at night, fresh from the refrigerator, as this will keep them subdued making them last longer. Make sure to spray your plants with a light mist first which gives them a stick to surface as well as a drink after their hibernation. If your plants (such as cucumbers) don’t like water on the leaves a pool of water nearby works too! 1 bag of 250 ladybugs can cover up to 10 medium size shrubs.
Another quick control In the garden or greenhouse is yellow sticky traps, doubled sided tape that can be placed on the sides of pots and or along the gardens edge to trap aphids. Consider planting Sweet alyssum, yarrow, and herbs in the carrot family next year to encourage predator insects to your garden.
For chemical control: insecticidal soaps, malathion, pyrethrin, and natural gum resin all help with aphids, Gum resin aims to control ants that protect the aphids. Ants herd aphids because of their production of honey dew, which is no good for your plants either! Let them herd the aphids to one area, then you can spray them all off. Beforehand follow the ants back to their main entrance and you can deal with them too! A natural solution for ants is to boil water for about 5 minutes then pour it down the hole. This will kill and collapse their tunnels and hopefully get rid of your problem. If they are too far gone a chemical but friendly solution is Ant Out. It controls all life stages of ants and is derived from essential oils and natural products. I hope this helps some of your pest problems, and don’t forget to sit back and enjoy all your hard work!
Author: Colleen Tanner