Aphids are a pest many gardeners are familiar with. They are a consistent threat season after season, attacking thousands of garden plants and inducing thousands of sighs from gardeners worldwide. Aphids are so common because there are so many species, each with a different look and preferences for different plants.
Understanding which type of aphid you are dealing with can help you assess potential damage and determine the best ways to resolve the problem. There are too many aphid species to discuss each in detail, so let’s look at the most common culprits in home gardens.
Watch out for these 11 different types of aphids in your backyard – you’ll come across at least one of them. Fortunately, most of them can be controlled with the same methods covered in this video:
Cabbage aphids pose a significant threat to your brassica plants and could result in complete crop loss.
Anyone with experience growing brassicas will be well-versed in the damage the cabbage aphid can do. This species (Brevicoryne brassicae) affects all members of the brassica group but is particularly problematic for popular vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Cabbage aphids are a greyish-green color. However, they usually appear more grey or white up close due to the waxy coating on their bodies. Nymphs may have a brighter green hue until this waxy coating develops. But if you spot aphids on your brassicas, you can be reasonably certain this species is the culprit.
During the cooler months, aphids lay eggs in the nooks of brassica leaves, hatching in spring and causing havoc around the garden. Newly planted brassicas are more vulnerable to damage, as these aphids love to attack tasty and tender new growth.
With a cabbage aphid infestation, you’ll see wrinkled or deformed leaves, discoloration, and eventually stunted growth. They can also transmit damaging diseases like cauliflower mosaic virus and cabbage ring spot virus, potentially ruining your entire crop for the season.
Troublesome melon aphids are often found gathered beneath leaves.
Also known as the cotton aphid, Aphis gossypii is a common garden pest attacking various plants. You may think they are mainly problematic for melons or cotton due to their common name, but they can also attack citrus, carrots, and various ornamental plants in the garden.
When it comes to color, most are light or dark green – so dark that they appear almost black. Younger aphids can appear almost yellow in color. You’ll spot these pests congregating around the undersides of leaves, where they rapidly reproduce in winged and wingless bugs to spread around the garden.
Melon aphids stunt the growth of plants by feeding on new leaves and the tips of stems, preventing further development and weakening the plant. Along with this physical damage, they can also bring issues with sooty mold or diseases like watermelon and cucumber mosaic virus.
While many aphids are deterred by extreme heat and slow their reproduction in summer, melon aphids are not bothered by high temperatures, becoming particularly dangerous for gardeners in warmer zones across spring and summer.
Potato aphids can induce wrinkling in leaves and drooping of stems by consuming fresh growth.
Two types of aphids are common on potato plants – the potato aphid and the species covered next, the green peach aphid. Potato aphids are slightly less common than green peach aphids, but they can still seriously damage your potatoes, tomatoes, and various other crops.
Macrosiphum euphorbiae are quite easy to spot thanks to their large size and bright color. There are pink and green forms, and young nymphs are just as bright. They also secrete lots of honeydew that attracts ants and leads to the development of sooty mold on all parts of the plant.
Potato aphids feed on new growth, causing the leaves to wrinkle and the stems to droop. In large numbers, their feeding can also result in stunted growth that impacts overall development, potentially risking your harvests.
Small colonies of potato aphids aren’t always a major concern, and natural predators will often get to them before they can decimate a plant. However, you’ll need to step in if natural predators are limited and an infestation gets out of control.
Green Peach Aphid
Green peach aphids can move from one plant to another.
One of the most common garden aphids is Myzus persicae, the green peach aphid. This pest attacks many plants, including potatoes, peppers, spinach, corn, lettuce, and stone fruits. You will also find them on your ornamental plants, such as asters and dahlias.
Mature green peach aphids are typically a pale green or brown color, while nymphs have a lighter green or yellow hue. Winged adults are the same pale color but have a black head and blotch on the abdomen. Infestations often start on the lower leaves of the plants, making them slightly harder to spot.
Green peach aphids can cause similar physical damage to plants to other aphids, including deformed leaves and weak stems. However, their real danger lies in their ability to spread diseases rapidly from one plant to the next.
This species is a vector and carrier for many plant viruses and prefers spreading to various plants rather than congregating on just one. Winged green peach aphids travel frequently from one plant to the next, becoming a serious concern (especially in edible gardens).
Invite natural predators into your garden to limit the damage caused by artichoke aphids.
The artichoke aphid is found on many plants – particularly trees and shrubs. But when it comes to edible plants, the most damage is done to artichokes. Overwintering on host trees like oleaster, the winged adults move to artichoke plants in the warmer months, where they quickly weaken buds.
This species (Capitophorous elaeagni) looks quite similar to the green peach aphid. The bugs tend to be a paler green or yellow, almost translucent against green foliage. They are one of the primary pests of artichoke plants, doing serious damage if not controlled early.
Like other aphids, this species hides between the leaves and sucks on the sap of the foliage and stems. This causes the leaves to wrinkle and change color, indicating stress. This stress and damage draw energy away from the plant and weaken bud development, causing the stems to droop under their weight.
Encouraging predators of this species into the garden before they take hold is one of the best ways to limit damage. A few beetles and lacewings love munching on artichoke aphids, so make sure they feel at home in your backyard. Yarrow and flowering dill are some great companion plants for artichokes.
This species primarily targets hardy plants, mostly causing cosmetic issues.
Scientifically known as Aphis nerii, the oleander aphid affects many ornamental plants common to home gardens. Evident in the name, oleander is a primary target, but they are also known to attack milkweeds (hence their other common name, milkweed aphid).
Oleander aphids are incredibly easy to spot due to their unique coloring. Their bodies are so bright yellow that they can be spotted from far away in large colonies. You’ll notice the legs and antennae are stark black when you get up close.
The plants this species attacks are quite resilient, meaning much of the concern is cosmetic. The colonies make the plant look unsightly and cause deformed leaves and growth tips that can impact the longevity of young plants in particular. You will also spot sooty mold on the leaves that can impact photosynthesis.
The main problem with oleander aphids is that they spread rapidly. Sexual reproduction is not necessary for offspring production in this species, allowing for exponential growth at quick rates.
Pea aphids are larger than most species, with green bodies and elongated legs.
Acyrthosiphon pisum is one of the most prominent pea pests, affecting other legume family plants.
Preferring cooler temperatures, you’re most likely to spot these aphids in the cooler days of spring soon after planting your legumes, with populations dwindling in the heat of summer. However, if not controlled early, they can return with a vengeance in the fall.
Pea aphids are quite large compared to other species, with green bodies and long legs. They can be tough to spot, hiding out between leaves. But once colonies grow and spread, you’ll notice them gathering together. You will also spot the deformed leaves and discoloration they leave behind.
Depending on what you want to plant, you can look for legume varieties resistant to these pests. If not, keep a close eye out for signs of infestation and remove them immediately.
Black Bean Aphid
Aphid predators play a crucial role in managing infestations.
Another aphid that attacks legumes, along with several other ornamental plants, is the black bean aphid. Aphis fabae appears on many bean plants and crops like spinach, beetroot, and celery. Also, look out for infestations on your nasturtiums.
Luckily, black bean aphids can easily be picked out due to their dark coloring. Most are either black (hence the common name) or dark brown and stand out on leafy green plants. They also like to stick together in dense groups, creating large dark clusters that signal a problem.
Smaller plants can quickly defoliate because they gather in large groups and suck the sap out of leaves and stems. Larger plants will develop curling leaves and stunted growth, with the physiological damage worsening as colonies grow. These aphids also carry viruses that can particularly damage your edible plants.
Aphid predators are incredibly helpful in managing infestations. Smaller groups can also be sprayed off the plant with a jet of water. But if your plants are struggling, stronger controls may be required.
Green Apple Aphid
Green apple aphids exhibit a pale green or yellowish hue and nearly translucent appearance.
Aphis pomi is a common pest of apple trees, specifically young trees that are still becoming established. While apples are the primary target, this species is also known to infest other trees like pears and hawthorn.
True to the name, green apple aphids are a pale green or yellowish color and can look almost translucent. The adults also have three black cornicles that stick out of the back of the abdomen, making this species relatively easy to identify.
Targeting new shoots and leaves, Aphis pomi is the most damaging to young trees. They can stunt growth early on and negatively impact fruiting, although established trees are usually tough enough to handle these bugs. If the infestation is severe, the colonies may spread to the fruits.
Since these aphids can overwinter on branches and spurs, removing them as soon as you spot them is best. The sooner you remove them, the stronger your trees will be, and by extension, the better your harvest.
Woolly Apple Aphid
To avoid future issues, removing aphids and taking preventive measures promptly is crucial.
Woolly apple aphids also affect apple and pear trees but are far more damaging than green apple aphids. They also look different – closer in appearance to mealybugs thanks to the waxy protective substance they produce.
Adult woolly apple aphids are purple or brown, but this color is hard to spot beneath the white strands of wax that cover the colonies and protect them from damage. This formation creates a woolly appearance that lends the species its name.
Woolly apple aphids are primed to attack young trees and any damaged areas of established trees. Once they find a weak point, the bugs settle in, covering branches and feeding on bark to further the problem.
Swollen areas will appear on smaller branches and can spread to the roots, worsening over time. It’s vital to prevent these problems by removing the aphids as soon as possible (with a strong blast of water or a diluted neem oil spray) and implementing preventative measures to avoid issues in the future.
Unless they reach uncontrollable numbers, aphids typically don’t cause significant harm to rose plants.
Rose lovers will likely already know about rose aphids, scientifically known as Macrosiphum rosae. These annoying bugs affect roses worldwide, particularly in the warmer months of spring and summer. They love to gather around new shoots and buds, negatively impacting new growth and flowering.
Macrosiphum rosae appears in varied colors, most commonly pink and green. They may blend in from afar but are easy to spot up close due to the dense groupings they form around vulnerable areas of new growth.
Aphids aren’t majorly destructive to rose plants unless they are present in uncontrollable numbers. Garden predators usually do the work for you in summer, allowing you to enjoy a flush of flowers before temperatures drop.
If you are worried about an early infestation, you can pick the bugs off by hand, spray them off with water, or use organic controls to manage their spread.
No one wants to deal with aphids in the garden. Unfortunately, as the variety between species indicates, these common bugs are hard to avoid. Knowing the different types can help you assess the potential damage and develop the ideal action plan.