Aphids on a milkweed flower. ©jcleveland

Are Aphids Good for Your Garden?

Reading time: 2 Minutes

Aphids! What the heck? 

Aphids come in a few colors, but the ones that have infested my milkweed are bright yellow. They can also be brown, black or red. Since they are a pest, I insisted on getting rid of them on sight when they first appeared as a yellow blanket all over my milkweed. I have changed my mind since then.  After a lot of reading, I have come to understand that the aphid is the base meal of other beneficial beasties in the garden. However, that doesn’t mean let them infest your garden!

These little creatures suck the sap out of your plants, so their ultimate goal is to kill your plant. The good thing about them is that they do attract the ladybugs, a type of beetle, who are pest eaters in their own right. A ladybug can eat over 5,000 insects in their little life according to experts. Lacewing flies also like to munch on aphids. Both of these insects act as natural pesticides.

If you’re growing milkweed like I am, then you don’t want to use pesticides on the plants to kill the aphids on it. I do use a soap and water mixture to destroy aphids when they get to be too bad, but you can also kill the monarch eggs if you’re not careful. A good dousing with the water hose will do the trick, too.

I find that the best way to get rid of an abundance of aphids is to wet a paper towel and gently wipe down the leaves and stalks of the plants. The aphids are very delicate, so it is very easy to kill them.

Or, you could just let nature take its course and the next thing you will see is an army of these lizard-like things marching across your plant in search of aphids. These are baby ladybugs that look like tiny alligators before they mature into the cute red and black beetles we know and love.

Did you know you could buy ladybugs? Your local nursery may have them for sale in little containers like the ones we got earthworms in when we were kids. Or, they may be in bags like these from Amazon.

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Lacewing flies are not quite as voracious as the ladybug, but they do their own housekeeping. I have noticed that they are inclined to be around my flowering plant aphids as opposed to the milkweed aphids. The aphids are a bit different, so that may be why the lacewing flies are more inclined to hang out by my potted flowers.

Are aphids, good or bad for your garden? If they are not hurting your plants, and there are only a few of them, why not wait for the ladybugs to show up and lay eggs? You can observe another cycle of life while knowing that your plants are safe.

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