7 things you may not know about your common garden pest, the Aphid

1) Aphids have a variety of names such as plant lice, greenflies, black flies and white flies and can also be brown, orange, red or yellow in colour. They can be found on a wide range of plants and feed by sucking on the sap of plants. This gives them protein they need to survive whilst excreting the unwanted sugary waste. This waste is known as honeydew, a food source for other insects! It is a sticky substance and tends to fall on to lower leaves, attracting black looking mould, which surprisingly is not harmful to the plant.

2) Aphids spend most of the summer on just one plant and will only move away before the cold of winter sets in.

3) They are among the most destructive insect pests found in our gardens today because of the damage they do to our plants and vegetation.  They will attack any part of a plant and the younger plants are the most susceptible, for all its food needs (sap). They congregate close together and if their numbers are very high they will kill off the plant they are living on. Aphids feed by puncturing and tapping into the plants veins by jabbing their long sharp mouths into the plants soft areas allowing them to feed on the plants sap. Although spending most time on their host plant, they will winter on a different plant than that which they eat off of.

4) Adult females can produce daughters without mating and those daughters can do the same, which allows for the population to grow very quickly. Each adult female can produce 12 off spring, each day. As the season moves on, some but not all, produce sons as well as daughters that have wings. Although they cannot fly, they do have the ability to ‘float’ on the wind to other plants.

5) In spring, their population rise rapidly as female aphids are able to give birth to live young as well as laying eggs. These tiny insects can be anything from 1mm-7mm long, are soft bellied, elliptical in shape and because their life cycle is considered to be complex, allows for a rapid rate of reproduction as the seasonal temperature increases.

6) Their life span is between a few weeks and a few months and tends to stay in one spot once food has been found, feeding day and night. These colonies will grow large quite quickly and will attack a wide variety of plants and will cover various areas such as; sections of stems, the undersides of leaves on flower buds, tips of stems and will be noticeable by the darkness of the colony itself, visible to the naked eye. As they are slow moving, once they have found a source of food, they will stay there as long as possible.

7) Aphids have an alarm, if in trouble. They release a chemical smell, which others recognise allowing them to hide or take cover if they can. It is believed that one of their predators; a beetle may have learnt the signal code and just follows the smell to where the food is!