If you find an aphid infestation in your garden or landscape don’t panic and reach for the insecticides yet. Look closely at the aphids and check your plants carefully to see if any of the ‘good bugs’ (aphid predators) are already there feeding on them.
The most commonly recognized insect predator is the lady beetle, but do you recognize all the different life stages of lady beetles? Lady beetle eggs and larvae may be unwittingly mistaken as insects damaging your plants so being able to reconize them in different stages of development will help you to avoid using pesticides that will reduce the population. The immature and larval stages of insects have voracious appetites, just like our children and teens, so being able to identify them is an important step in letting nature take its course.
Lacewings are another predatory insect that aphids need to flee from in horror. The larva of lacewings look similar to lady beetle larva but are lighter in color. If you look at your plants closely you may be lucky enough to find one of their tiny eggs attached to a leaf on a little stalk.
Syrphid flies and midges are small members of the fly family. Their larvae are voracious feeders and destroyers of aphids. You have probably seen Syrphid flies hovering around the plants in your garden but didn’t know what they were. Midges are more difficult to find and identify but the larvae are usually a distinct bright orange color.
Some of the smallest predators are wasps that are easily overlooked in the garden environment. The signs that they have been among the aphids are easy to see. What you will find is what is most commonly called an ‘aphid mummy’, which is the result of an egg from a wasp being laid inside the aphid body. The aphid becomes swollen and light brownish in color and a perfect round exit hole can be seen after the new wasp emerges.
Follow good (IPM) Integrated Pest Management guidelines and take advantage of insect predators. They can find their prey in places that you are not able to see or reach. Recognizing them and using them to your advantage reduces the amount of controls that are needed and will give you peace of mind that the infestation can slow down or be controlled by nature when they are found.