Man vs Aphid: ALL OUT WAR

So, last year I got upset at the thought of my precious little babies being attacked by Whiteflies, or, Aphid scum as I now call them, in polite company at least, I have other words for my more private moments…

This year, I’ve come to accept them as inevitable part of growing Chilli plants. Basically, if you’re growing Chilli plants, they’re going to come. There is little you can do about it, all you can really do is take preventative measures and give them a good fight.

The main problem with Aphids is that they’ve adapted to various pesticides that have been thrown at them, if you consult the Wiki page on them you quickly become disheartened at how much of pest they are, lines like “Whitefly control is difficult and complex, as whiteflies rapidly gain resistance to chemical pesticides.” don’t fill an amateur gardener with much confidence.

Aphids are a soft bodied insect (they squish, really, really easily 😉 ) and they come to plants (not just Chilli plants) looking for sap to feed off. They can be Orange, Black, Brown but mostly Green (there are over 1,000 different types!) – They’re literally born with the next generation already inside them, ready for what you’re going to throw at it next.

If you’re seeing this kind of thing on the underside of your leaves, then I regret to inform you that you’ve got an infection 🙁

Aphid eggs under leaf

So, this year I’ve made a concerted effort to combat them the best I can and just try and control them the best I can. There is advice all over the Internet about the best way to deal with them, but these are just a few of the ones I’ve tried and the results I’ve had with them.

Home Made Bug Spray
Home Made Bug Spray
One of the things I tried last year was to create my own Bug Spray from instructions found on the Web. It did seem to work at first, and they dropped like, well, flies. It was a simple solution of water. washing up liquid and cayenne powder. The one problem I did have was dissolving the cayenne powder enough so it didn’t block the nozzle on the spray. I’ve since learnt that it’s the washing up liquid that is the most important part to this solution, definitely the most consistent and so this year I’ve just gone with a Fairy washing up liquid mixed with water solution.

It’s VERY important that you get the right kind of washing up liquid though, I used Original Fairy and it was fine, but a fellow gardening Blogger, Mark Willis, who I advised to do this, used the wrong kind of ‘Original Fairy’ and nearly killed his plants. Needless to say I was devastated at his news. You can read his own experiences of this > here < (Sorry, again, Mark!)

I started off using quite a high dose of liquid to water, a levelish teaspoon to 500ml of water but as I got the infestation under control I reduced it down to a couple of drops in 500ml of water which seems to work as a control method.

Don’t let up though, the little blighters like to hide in the soil so even when you think you’ve won, or are winning then you’re probably not.

I changed the soil on one of my plants that seemed to have a particularly bad infection after I was sure I’d killed most of them, it seemed to benefit quite a lot from that.

Glue Traps
Glue Traps
This is more control than prevention, but, it’s also strangely satisfying. This was suggested to me on my Facebook page

They’re simple enough to understand, Aphids are attracted to the colour yellow, coat a yellow piece of card in sticky glue and they can’t get off once they’ve jumped on them. They’re obscenely cheap to get hold of (check eBay rather than a Garden Centre) and as you can see, they work quite well at catching and holding them.

They can be used indoor and outdoor, they’re double sided and the little holes you see are so that you can hang them from somewhere and they can “float” near your plants. The square grid is so you can target where they are most likely to be coming from if you need to do.

It should be noted that Ladybirds, Bees and Butterflies can also get stuck to these, which is of course bad, as such I’m only using this method “out of season” for our flying friends.

Carnivorous Plants
This is my most recent introduction to the war, Fly Traps. I’d not considered these before but a recent Tweet from one of the Chilli growers I follow on Twitter;

The boys from Clifton Chilli Club jumped into the conversation that it also what they recommended to use on their own Chilli Growing Guide – That was enough for me…

I wanted in, naturally.

So, within two days I had…
Fly Traps

Top left, Dionaea (Venus Fly Trap) I bought two of those from Avant Garden Centre as Mrs. Diaries had remembered seeing them there from a previous trip, and, that’s all I knew of at the time. Then the following day we ended up at Birkacre Garden Centre and they had the plant on the bottom left, Nepenthes (Monkey Cups), which I’d never even heard of before. And then when I’d posted that picture up on my Facebook page, one of the people that follow me on there mentioned that they used the plant on the far right, Drosera (Sundews), which I’d also never heard, but after quickly Googling I recognised it as one of the other plants I’d seen at Birkacre – I also noticed when I picked it up it was already covered in small flies, which was very encouraging.

The only thing with these plants is that they’re, well. Ugly. I don’t like them, at all. But, if they’re going to join my war efforts then I need to know how to look after them. And they’re nothing like the plants I’m used to. Great.

For a start they need an entirely different kind of soil, they prefer acidic soil, to be wet all of the time and you can’t use tap water with them, you need rain or distilled water. Not what I’m used to at all! I found a great little guide for these kinds of plants on the Better Homes and Gardens website and I’ve been pouring over all kinds of different sites for different information. No surprise to learn that there is conflicting information about them all over the place but I’ve gotten pretty good at filtering out the noise. mostly.

Neem Oil
One of the most common soloutions according to the Internet is Neem Oil, It’s another organic soloution to the Aphid War, which is great. It is derived from the Neem tree and works by interupting the Aphids ability to reproduce. I was suffering a late onset of Aphid attack on one of my plants in November and so I decided to give it a go an ordered a small bottle off eBay.
Neem Oil

There doesn’t seem to be any hard and fast rules about how much Neem Oil to use in your water but the information I found suggested that 0.5% to 1% ratio is enough, if it’s a particularly bad attack then you might need to increased it, so for a litre of water you want to be adding 5ml of Neem Oil. With it being an oil I used warm water to help it spread out a bit.

Also, it stinks! It really does have a horrible smell to it – BUT – This is also a deterrant for many of the creatures that would do harm to our lovely plants, so, I can put up with that!

Did it work? I’d have to say a resounding yes. I barely saw any more Aphids after this and very few eggs. I’ll be using this throughout the summer now as part of my feeding regime. 

The most perfect solution is of course natures own, the humble Ladybird, most summed up, for me at least, by this cartoon I found courtesy of Unearthed Comics.
Ladybird Cartoon

Unfortunately with my plants spending much of the time indoors at the moment due to the atrocious British Summer Time this year, it’s not really an option for me. However, Mrs. Diaries has been building a wild flower area in our garden which will naturally attract them (along with Butterflies and Bumble Bees). We’ve also purchased some little houses for them to stay in and seek shelter, we’re basically trying to bribe them with a place to stay and plenty of food!
Bug HouseAt least I hope that’s a Wildflower garden growing and not just a bunch of regular old ugly nasty weeds!

Now, this is probably more aimed at Professionals than it is people like me, but, there is another option, which I’ve not tried but I have seen proper Chilli Farmers rave about, Shield Diffusers.

I can’t personally say they work, but it’s another option that you might want to research yourselves, I just wanted to mention that they were out there if you’d really had enough of Aphids (and other stuff)

So. Those are (mostly) my efforts so far, I think I’ve covered most of the bases on this thing, if not all. There is always something new to learn in this business of growing plants, but that’s what makes it all so interesting!

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7 thoughts on “Man vs Aphid: ALL OUT WAR

  1. Kristen

    I wanted to thank you for this fantastic read!!
    I definitely loved every little bit of it. I have you saved as a favorite
    to look at new things you

  2. Arron Hodder

    Apparently, white fly hate French marigolds so it might be worth trying them dotted around too. I will be growing some to help my tomatoes stay bug free this year.


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