About a week ago i noticed that one of my plants (an orange habanero) was infested with aphids.
Aphids (sometimes called green plant lice) are small (usually, though they can vary in size quite a bit) green insects that feed on plants mainly in temperate regions. They quickly multiply and can be very destructive, usually feeding on regions of new growth on plants.
To the right is a picture I took of the habanero plant in question. You can see that the aphids are focused mainly on the areas of new growth. I’ve found in the past that they simply demolish the new leaves/flowers as they emerge and if left to do this they’ll eventually kill the plant.
Getting Rid of Aphids – Tips & Tricks
I often hear people talking about spraying their plants with a weak soap water solution to deter the aphids from eating the plants. I tried this last year and to be frank it deterred me from eating the chillies too! It also left my plants with a stick white residue from the soap suds.
One of the big problems with using insecticides to kill aphids is that they will also often kill the predators that eat the aphids meaning you only have a short term solution to your aphid problem.
This year I decided that i would opt for a much more natural approach to my aphid control. Perhaps the greenest way of pest control in gardening is to attract the natural predators of the aphids which include ladybirds, hoverfly and crab spiders amongst others.
Natural Solutions To Aphids
Much has been been made in the press recently about the invasion of harlequin ladybirds and how they are putting many species of insects at risk of extinction. Well the good news for us chili heads is that ladybirds are the number one predator of aphids.
So your number one strategy should be to attract more ladybirds. Believe it or not the easiest way to get more ladybirds onto your chillie plants is to simply buy ladybirds via the internet! I did this a couple of weeks ago and have had great success. I simply put the infected plant into the greenhouse and released the lady birds in there too and within two days the problem was gone!
Of course there is no guarantee that the ladybirds will stick around once they have no aphids left to eat.
Long Term Aphid Solutions
A longer term prevention strategy that has proved very effective to a good friend of mine is to buy a ladybird tower which provides any passing ladybirds with a ready made home in which to nest, ensuring you have an on site population of aphid munching beasts.
I’ve bought one of these little contraptions and placed it in the garden. I have yet to have a ladybird family move in (it has only been up about 2 weeks) but i hope that once I have some new tenants move in I should avoid any further aphid infestations in the future! I’ll keep you possted!