Updated: Jan 15
Hii Fellow Wrigglers!
Merry Christmas to everyone and we hope to gift all of you with some ideas on how you can manage aphid infestations.
If you had tried to grow plants, especially chilli plants (hopefully from us hehe!), most of us would have suffered at the hands of Aphids. For those who were unaware of these evil creatures, read on to understand how we can combat them.
What are Aphids
Aphids are soft-bodied insects that use their piercing-sucking mouthparts to feed on plant sap. They normally reside at the underside of the plant leaves or clustered around the flower buds. By feeding on plant sap, they deprive the plants of necessary nutrients required to grow into strong and healthy plants.
How the downward spiral starts
Aphids are naturally present in Singapore and it doesn't help that they are airborne at a certain point in their life cycle; makes it easier for them to travel and invade our plants!
Infestations normally begin when a small number of winged aphids visits a plant that it wants to call "home". Here, they deposit their young ones who would happily begin feeding on the plant sap. They don't stay young for long though; it only takes approximately 7 - 10 days before they are mature enough to reproduce. Each one of them is capable of producing 40 - 60 sap-sucking babies! And this process is repeated every 1 - 2 weeks. It takes less than 12 aphid "colonizers" to produce hundreds to thousands of aphids on a plant in a few weeks, wow!
Sounds bad right, but it's not the end, some of these invaders will grow wings and hop on to your next plant to make it their new home and the cycle repeats.
Detection of aphids
Ever heard of the saying prevention is better than cure? That is way too applicable in this case. The most effective way to prevent loss of a plant due to aphid infestation is by early detection. As the flight of our fellow invaders cannot be predicted, a weekly examination of the plants is recommended (especially on the underside of the leaves or near the flower buds). As tedious as it is, we have not been able to find a better way.
Another clue that your plants is infected with aphids is if there are ants on the stems and the underleaves. Aphids produce large amounts of sugary liquid called "honeydew". The honeydew attracts ants that could be found farming the aphids. This is a terrible combination as the ants and aphids have a loving symbiotic relationship; Ants gets to feed their sugar addictions and at the same time, they also protect the aphids from natural aphid predators such as ladybugs.
Hence the need for human intervention to control the aphid population!
Control and Prevention
Once aphids have been detected, it's recommended to immediately get rid of them! Here are the few ways that we manage our aphid problem!
1) Insecticidal soap
We use sulphur soap to create our insecticidal soap - A teaspoon of sulfur soap shavings and 1 litre of water!
This method is not 100% effective but it does slow down the population growth of aphids!
We apply our insecticidal soap to the plants every evening after sunset to minimise stress on the plants.
2) Alcohol wipes
Once the population of aphids grows beyond a comfortable level, we use paper towels dipped in rubbing alcohol to wipe down the underside of the leaves and flower buds to eliminate all aphids.
This method is quite effective but it is very laborious.
Lastly, you can always opt for pesticides (such as Baba Mr Ganick or Bio - X) as they are much more effective. However, do ensure that you wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consumption and ensure that the pesticide used is food grade certified! Using non-food grade pesticides or consuming pesticides may have negative side effects on your health ><.
For us, as we are still small in scale and our family isn't comfortable with eating homegrown chillies that have been treated with pesticide, we opted for the pesticide-free approach (even though it is much more troublesome!). That way, we can also shout out that we remain organic :D! Killing two birds with one stone!
If you know a better and more effective way to manage the aphids, do share :D! We'd love to know.