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Controlling Aphids in the Garden Naturally

Aphids are a common garden nuisance, but can be controlled using natural methods.

When we moved to Maine, we inherited a beautiful perennial flower bed full of lupine.

I had never grown lupine before, so it was a bit of a surprise to me that first summer to find them completely inundated with aphids.

The aphids ignored every other plant in the garden, but our lupine were just covered with them.

After doing a bit of research, I learned that while aphids will feast on many different types of plants, they do prefer lupine, nasturtium, roses and members of the cabbage and nightshade family, including tomatoes and peppers.

Aphids in the Garden

Aphids are a fairly common garden pest and there are several different types of aphids, but the common variety is pale green with a pear-shaped body and only measures about 1/8" in length. However, other varieties might be brown, tan, black, pink or gray.

Aphids are piercing pests - meaning that they use their sharp little mouths to suck the nectar out of the plant stems.

They are most commonly found on the underside of the leaves or on the stems of plants, especially around new growth.


Unfortunately the chickens don't seem interesting in eating the aphids - possibly because the lupine plant is toxic to them?

So I don't get any help in the aphid control department from them.

Aphid on Milkweed

I was also disappointed to see these yellow aphids on our milkweed plants! They're called oleander aphids because they target oleander ... and milkweed plants.

I specifically planted the milkweed for the monarch butterflies to reproduce on, so I definitely didn't want aphids all over the milkweed - and definitely didn't want to use any chemicals that might harm the butterflies.

But these yellow-colored aphids with black legs are incredibly damaging and emit a toxin which makes other insects unlikely to eat them. So something had to be done to control the aphids.

Controlling Aphids in the Garden Naturally

My first inclination is always to try to battle any garden pest naturally before turning to chemicals. I have tried several methods of aphid control over the last few years and have found these method to be the most effective, while still being safe for the environment and our pets. Try them and see which works for you.  

(You can even use the sprays in conjunction with the soil drench or DE.) Check your plants every few days and repeat the treatment as necessary until you don’t see any more aphids.

Here are some methods for controlling aphids in the garden naturally.

Soap Spray for Controlling Aphids

  • Shake the contents to mix well, then liberally spray the affected plants. 
  • Be sure to get the underside of the leaves as well as the stems. 
  • Wait an hour and then spray the plants with water to remove the soapy residue - which can burn your plants if left on too long. 

It's best not to spray in full sun or on a hot day. Wait for early morning or late afternoon and try to choose a cloudy day.

Garlic Juice Spray for Controlling Aphids

Many insects like aphids (and other garden pests) abhor the smell of garlic, so spraying your plants with a garlic spray can be an effective treatment against pest damage. You can purchase garlic juice or you can easily make your own.

Homemade Garlic Juice 

6 cloves fresh garlic, thinly sliced 
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil 
2 cup waters

  • Heat water in a saucepan until bubbles just start to form around the edges. Add the garlic and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and cool completely. 
  • Strain out the garlic and whisk the vegetable oil into the strained liquid.
  • Pour your garlic juice into a squirt bottle.

Spray your plants thoroughly, including the underside of the leaves and stems, concentrating where you see the pests. 

Avoid spraying in direct sunlight or in the middle of the day.The wet mixture can burn the leaves of your plant, so spray on a cloudy day - or early or late in the day.

Buying Source | Garlic Juice

Neem Oil Drench for Controlling Aphids

Neem is a natural pesticide that comes from a tree that grows in India.

All parts of the tree have antimicrobial and insecticidal properties that have been widely used for insect control.Safe for mammals and humans, it doesn't even kill insects on contact. Instead, the insects have to ingest it.

Because of this, it's considered fairly safe to use around pollinators and other "good" bugs that mostly feed on other insects. 

Neem oil's effect is mainly directed towards insects that suck plant juices (such as the aphid) and bug larvae that feed on leaves and buds.

  • To use Neem Oil, dilute it in water (2 Tablespoons per quart of water) and water your affected plants thoroughly around the base.
  • This will ensure that the plant "drinks" the mixture and it is carried to all parts of the plant. When the aphids suck the nectar from the plants, they will ingest it.

    Buying Source | Neem Oil

    Diatomaceous Earth Sprinkle for Controlling Aphids

    Hand picking aphids is another method of control. Brush or knock any aphids you see on your plants to the ground with your hand, or squash them between your fingers, then carefully sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth around the base of each plant.

    That way any aphids that try to climb back up the stalks will have to walk through the DE, which will pierce their shells and kill them.

    Since most aphids can’t fly, they will have to crawl back up the plant, right through the Diatomaceous Earth you have sprinkled.

    Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a fine powder that is widely used for insect control. It’s all natural and made of crushed fossils that pierce the bodies of insects so they dehydrate and die.

    It’s perfectly safe for humans and other mammals - although you want to avoid breathing the fine powder, which can cause respiratory irritation if inhaled.

    When you’re working with Diatomaceous Earth, you can wear a face mask to be on the safe side.

    Note:Since Diatomaceous Earth can also be harmful to bees and other beneficial bugs, you want to be careful to use it only around the base of your affected plants and not sprinkle any on the leaves or blossoms. 

    It’s best not to apply DE on a windy day. Diatomaceous Earth will get washed away by rain or watering and is also rendered ineffective once it gets wet (although will reactive once it dries completely), so plan on treating your plants when several days of dry weather are predicted or just after watering.

    Buying Source | DeSect Diatomaceous Earth

    Bug Warfare for Controlling Aphids

    Fortunately, there are lots of good bugs that love to eat aphids. In fact, a single ladybug can eat 5,000 aphids during its lifetime.

    Other insects that will prey on aphids include spiders, lacewings and parasitic wasps.

    By not squashing every bug you see in your garden and being aware of which bugs are beneficial, you'll actually make your job of aphid control easier.

    Bird Warfare for Controlling Aphids

    There are also a few types of wild birds that like to dine on aphids, so encouraging wild birds to your yard can also help with pest control. Titmice, warblers and chickadees in particular will gobble up all the aphids they can find.

    Hang feeders, set up a bird bath, put up bird houses and let your various plants flower and go to seed to provide an environment that the wild birds will enjoy to encourage them to stick around and eat some bugs! 

    Buying Sources | Bird Feeder and Birdbath 

    Like most natural remedies, these methods of aphid control might take several applications to completely eradicate the bugs, but in the long run not using chemicals is better for the environment, your yard, garden, family and pets. 

    For more advice on ridding pests from your garden and your chicken coop naturally, you’ll want to read about repelling coop critters naturally and natural pest control.

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    References/Further Reading

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