I hate Aphids

Asked September 18, 2016, 2:54 AM EDT

I have tried several "organic" solutions to treat a nagging aphid population on my Zuccinni squash and my basil. Is there a knock out punch for these pest! Preferably organic.

San Joaquin County California integrated pest management vegetable gardening

1 Response

Thanks for your insecticide question! There are (at least) 2 organic solutions for aphids. One is Neem oil which, in addition to killing insects, also kills fungi and mites. You can find it in any garden store; it's usually sold as 70% Neem oil, and you dilute it according to package directions. The second category is insecticidal soaps (also called horticultural soaps.)

Unlike systemic insecticides, that get taken up through the plant's roots and become part of every plant cell (including the ones with pollen and nectar, which bees and other pollinators eat), these are both topical applications. Kind of like putting on an anti-itch cream rather than taking pills.

They operate by suffocating the insects, mites and fungi (yes; fungi breathe just like we do!) The thing is, you need to spray them on the aphids/mites/fungi while they're wherever they are: leaves, buds, stems, etc. Once they dry, they are absolutely harmless to any other insect that lands and/or feeds on the plant--including bees!

Some people complain about Neem oil's smell. I find it refreshing, but to each his/her own. You can smell it at the store and decide. (And it's not like you're going to spray it around your house!)

There are two other options, by the way, both physical rather than chemical. One is just pinching a few; they squish easily. Science says the dying aphids emit a phermone (a smell) that other aphids can detect, and they know they're being attacked, so they jump off. Also, just spraying a strong jet of water to the affected areas will blast them off.

Here's a link to a UC IPM (integrated pest management) article about aphid control that is far more expansive than my text.

Good luck!