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I used to think aphids were super cute with their tear-drop-like shape, tiny beady eyes, bright colors, and silly little butt antennae… Until they got into my indoor plants that is :( Now, despite their cuteness, they are on my squash list.

This has been a really, really, good year for the aphids at my place. Likely due to the hotter, more humid conditions stressing the plants more than usual this year. Aphids (family = Aphididae), or plant lice, are a type of plant sap-sucking insect that feed on a plant’s phloem (aka plant juices or blood). There are over 1,300 species of Aphid found in North America, with numerous, numerous host plants. Aphids can have both winged and non-winged (“apterous” if you want to impress your friends) variations within the same species. They can have really complicated reproductive cycles too, with most aphid species capable of both sexual reproduction and asexual reproduction (clones!). Clone mothers are even capable of live birth. And you thought all insects laid eggs… Besides multiple reproductive strategies, Aphids are the bane of many a greenhouse manager, farmer, and intrepid gardener.

Aphids on my goldenrod plants outside

It appears I have at least four different species of aphids at my house. The Coriander Aphid, Hyadaphis coriandri, or the Green Peach Aphid, Myzus persicae (aphids are really hard to identify to species), which was on my cilantro, pepper, and parsley plants; the Poplar Leaf Aphid, Chaitophorus populicola, which was on my volunteer aspen saplings; the Spirea aphid, Aphis spiraecola, which was on my spirea plants; and the Goldenrod Aphid, Uroleucon solidaginis, which was on some of my goldenrods. I also had aphids that got into the oregano and thyme plants I had inside, which I suppose could be additional species, but since they were right next to my peppers and parsley, I’m guessing they are just more of the Coriander/Green Peach Aphids that got confused. It’s the Coriander/Green Peach Aphid that I take particular issue with though.

Aphids (with ant) on my cilantro plant in the garden

I have (had) a number of pepper, eggplant, and parsley plants that I kept inside with the idea to overwinter them. Just to get a jump-start on the next year’s growing season and possibly have some fresh herbs/produce over the winter… Yeah. That’s not happening apparently. Not with the current batch of plants I had indoors. Somehow the sneaky little buggers managed to get inside the house. And find their way to my herb and veggie plants (heggies? Can I call herb + veggie plants heggies? I think I might…). Thankfully my houseplants (of which I have quite a number of) don’t seem to be bothered by the aphids, because they really did a number on my heggies. Nope. That just sounds weird. Back to herbs and veggies… I think I can salvage a few of my indoor herb and veggie plants, maybe, but they definitely killed the others.

Aphids on my pepper plant indoors

The aphids on the little pepper plants in the laundry room even had ants taking care of them! Normally ants are great predators, but they do have a soft spot for aphids and the honeydew they produce out of their butt (read about ants caring for aphids here)…. Besides hurting/killing your plants, aphids can also make quite a mess! See that white stuff all over my plants and surrounding area in the photo below? That’s all dead shedded skin (exuviae in bug nerd talk) from the aphids as they grow and molt. Gross right?

Shedded aphid skins (exuviae) everywhere

So, yes. I know I probably should have been a better plant parent and stopped the aphids when I first noticed them, but, well, I didn’t really think they would do that much damage. Apparently they do. They already did. They quickly reproduce to huge numbers and overwhelm the infected plant (especially when it is indoors without any of the beneficial predators that would normally eat them outside). Yep, we are definitely under an aphid attack this year.

Aphids on my spirea plants

Want to read more about aphids? Check out these resources:

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Written by an entomologist for the enjoyment of all... The goal is to post 1 new story every week or so. Stay tuned!