Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Aphids and Spirea Don't Mix

Imagine my puzzlement when I glanced at one of my two spireas and saw empty branches. This was a plant that was flushing out with its reddish amber to golden leaves just a couple days ago. The leaves around the tips were completely intact but some of the stems were nearly naked.


What caused the damage? Aphids.


These nasty little green insects in the picture above were clumping all over the spirea's stems devouring the leaves. Aphids enjoy sucking on the plant juices that come from fresh leaves and stems. As they eat they secrete a substance known as honeydew. It's such a nice sounding word for something that comes as a waste product from an insect. The honeydew then can attract a mold to further destroy your plant. Aphids can also introduce harmful diseases to your plants. You can see that even though they are small little creatures they are big pests.

What is crazy about aphids is their reproductive cycle. The little green girls in the above picture (and girls they are, nymphs) are hatched from eggs that are laid in the fall. In spring when they hatch the aphids become stem mothers and produce more females which will continue to reproduce more offspring. In the fall when the days are shorter and the temperatures are cooler the aphids will produce young with both females and males. The aphids mate and lay eggs then the cycle begins again.

What can you do about aphids? Insecticidal soap works well. I've used it many times on our lemon trees (in pots, they aren't hardy for Tennessee winters) and it usually takes care of them. A blast from a garden hose will knock them off your plants or you can rely on natural predators like lady bugs and lacewings who like to munch on aphids. You could go with a variety of pesticides but insecticidal soap will do the job fine and it is more ecologically friendly than most pesticides.

We didn't plant this little guy but we like him since he kind of regrew from nothing in the aftermath of the previous occupants of our home. Before we bought the house the front garden was stripped of everything that was there except for the nandina and apparently our little friend who sprung up out of nowhere. Although I suspect this little spirea is really a 'Magic Carpet' spirea (Spirea japonica) I would be tempted to rename it the Phoenix since it regrew from nothing. Now with our help this phoenix will rise again!


Be on the watch for these pests on new growth. If you suddenly notice leaves dropping or stem damage look a little closer and you may find what's bugging you!

Here is some good information on the little buggers.

10 comments :

  1. Yes, those little boogers can be so bad. I have them on some calla lillies too. They love the fresh new growth. Hope you get rid of them.

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  2. Destructive little beasts! Thanks for the tips.

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  3. I haven't had too many problems with them, luckily. Thanks for the tips!

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  4. I really get the creeps from the little soft bodies but was compelled to keep reading. Glad you won the battle! They love my rose The Fairy and I hose them off each year.

    Gail

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  5. Looks like magic carpet to me. We have tons of it, it roots like crazy wherever a branch touches the ground so I have spread it hither and yon. It will grow in any condition sun, shade, wet or dry. I will have to run out to look for those little bad girls on mine.

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  6. Hi Dave .. aren't you on my deck ? LOL
    Aphids .. YES ... every year I am in a battle with those little so and so's .. Gold Mock Orange is one of their favorites .. and yes .. Spirea, I have a few .. I took out my Honeysuckle because it was just too much to handle with them ... ugh ! I use the jet stream to wash them off and let the natural preditors have lunch on me !
    Joy

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  7. Thanks for the info! Aphids can cause a lot of damage. They have been difficult to eradicate on my daylily plants because they bury themselves deep inside the fans and are hard to eliminate completely. I did find a good homemade recipe that works fairly effectively with detergent, oil, and water.

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  8. I had them on a shrimp plant one time! Got sticky stuff all over my furniture! arggg

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  9. Aphids are my nemesis. It seems like nothing keeps them away for very long. They absolutely cover the new growth of the Van Houtte spiraeas here in the spring.

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  10. Tina,

    From what I've read they tend to stick with one type of plant at a time. They may like your calla lilies but they shouldn't spread to other plants in your garden just calla lilies. Strange behavior for strange creatures!

    Nancy and Karen,

    Your welcome, they certainly are a pain!

    Gail,

    I haven't won the battle just yet but I will in the end! I checked them this morning and most of them have died but I sprayed again in case I missed any.

    Frances,

    Thanks for the second opinion on the spirea! I propagated a couple last fall but neglect took them. Sometimes you just forget about stuff! Definitely check for them on yours you don't want them to get too established!

    Joy,

    I decided to move south! Too much snow up there. ;) I'm sure the lady bugs (beetles) enjoyed your feast!

    Chey,

    I can definitely see where that would make them difficult to get rid of. They are so small they can get into those crevices really easily. Do you use equal proportions for your recipe? This would probably be a lot of trouble, but if you divide your day lilies have a bucket of your mixture on hand and dip the entire lily before you replant. That may help!

    Skeeter,

    You have experienced the honeydew effect! Icky stuff isn't it?

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