Say Adios to Aphids: 5 Organic Pest Control Techniques

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Aphids on a chilli plant

When you’re growing, well, just about anything, there’s one pest that rears its head time and again: the ever-present aphid! These tiny, soft-bodied insects will attack many plants, leaving them weakened and prone to disease. But as a gardener you have the power to fight back, without resorting to pesticides.

What are Aphids?

Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects. All types are less than a tenth of an inch (3mm) long but there are many different species, from the black bean aphid to the rose aphid or greenfly. They come in a range of colors, from white or grey, to green through to black.

Aphids can be quite secretive. Look for them on new growth, in leaf crevices, clustered on buds, along stems or under leaves. The tiny insects are usually found in groups and you may find some with wings – a sign that the colony is about to disperse onto new host plants. Wooly aphids are easier to spot; they shield themselves in a mass of white, wooly wax on tree branches.

Aphids suck plant juices, which weakens the host plant, causing slow and stunted growth. Leaves may become mottled, yellowed or curled, and prolonged feeding may eventually kill the plant. Some aphids also transmit harmful plant diseases.

Aphids on a gooseberry

Controlling Aphids Organically

Most gardens will see the first aphids appear by early summer. Thankfully it’s easy to stop aphids from ruining your crops. Here are some ideas to banish these bothersome bugs.

1. Squash and Remove

Start by checking plants regularly for any signs of aphids. As soon as you spot any, squash them by hand. Clusters of locally concentrated aphids, for example at the tips of shoots, may be nipped off in their entirety and destroyed. Pinch out the tips of fava beans once the first pods appear to make the plants less attractive to black bean aphids.

2. Blast Them Off

Try blasting small infestations of aphids off your plants with a jet of water from a hosepipe. Adjust the nozzle or cover the end of the pipe with your finger to force the water out at higher pressure. The aphids will be knocked off and fall to the ground, and will be unlikely to return to the plant.

3. Spray Soapy Water

Or, spray infected plants with soapy water. Add a couple of drops of dish soap to a spray bottle, top up with water and shake to dissolve. Spray the solution liberally over the plant, remembering to reach all parts of the plant, including the undersides of leaves. The soapy water traps and suffocates the aphids.

Aphids trapped in soapy water

4. Cover Vulnerable Vegetables

Winged aphids can quickly spread plant diseases such as cucumber mosaic virus. To avoid this, cover susceptible plants with row covers in midsummer, when the risk of this disease is highest. Vulnerable plants include cucumber, spinach and celery, so prioritize covers for these vegetables.

5. Attract Aphid Predators

Where you find aphids, you’ll also find aphid predators. Ladybugs (especially their larvae) have a voracious appetite for these soft-bodied insects. Hoverfly larvae also munch their way through aphids, as do lacewings and many types of tiny parasitic wasp.

You can attract these beneficial insects to your garden by planting a range of flowering plants. Plants with simple, single flowers are best, for instance poached egg plant, marigolds, calendula, alyssum, buckwheat and echinacea. Flowering herbs such as dill, fennel, parsley, thyme and mint are also a magnet for predators. Grow these plants next to your vegetables so that beneficial bugs come to feed – and bring their appetite for aphids with them!

Cabbage aphids on kale

Aphids are part and parcel of growing your own food, but they needn’t gain the upper hand. Of course, if you have other methods you use to banish aphids, do share them by posting a comment below.

We’d also love you to take part in The Big Bug Hunt, an international research project we’re running to track the spread of all bugs, including aphids. Pop by the website and report any bugs you find in your garden. By tracking where and when bugs appear, we aim to develop a pest early warning system for gardeners – something I know I could certainly do with!

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Show Comments


asd on Wednesday 20 December 2017
"i plant chivies real close to my rose bushes and i don't get Aphids. if i find aphids on anything i shake some chili powder, or any hot seasoning on the plant, when they die i trim the plant to rid of them. also i have planted hot peppers real close to the squash plants and i don't get the squash bugs, i don't eat the hot peppers just grow them for the bugs, i pick the peppers and toss them in with the squash, or pumkin plants."
ajewel on Thursday 15 March 2018
"Thanks for your tips. Love the one about the chili powder - a great idea! Garlic also works really well when planted close to rose bushes."
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 15 March 2018
"Hi thanks For sharing valuable information for pest control related problems as this will help us to find the best solutions for keeping our harvest safe for these 24 hours eating pests.pest such as organic and rodents destroy lot of our harvest "
abhigaur on Thursday 19 April 2018
"lovely content for pest related problems a lot of people will take benefit from this as this will help him to get rid of harmful pests"
abhigaur on Wednesday 9 May 2018
"Can you advise on a solution for aphids on tomatoes? I do not wish to hose the tomatoes down as it may spread other disease, so is there any other way to compliment the efforts of natural predators?"
Jaco Schoeman on Wednesday 11 July 2018
"Hi Jaco. You have two options. First, you could spray your tomatoes with an organic pyrethrum-based insecticidal spray. Make sure you reach all leaf surfaces, not overlooking any corners, nooks or crannies where the aphids might be hiding. This does, however, run the risk of disrupting the natural balance in your garden. The second option is to introduce beneficial insects/biological controls such as lacewings, lady beetles/ladybirds, or parasitic wasps. These insects and their grubs will either eat the aphids or lay their eggs inside them, killing them in the process. Introduced biological controls may be bought and set up, but they really work best under cover in a greenhouse or polythene tunnel."
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 12 July 2018
"I've had soap spray work well and up to two weeks, but I've also had it burn the plants. Some of my pepper plants should be producing now but aren't because they got burned even when using the same spray I had used previously. I suspect some of the water had evaporated out, making it more concentrated. The best way I have found is to squirt them off with a spray bottle in the morning. That way any water evaporates from the sun during the day. I also am noticing lots of hoverflies and lacewings that I think are keeping them under control. They gravitate to my blooming parsley plant. I have let the parsley plant from the year before continue to grow and bloom the next year 3 years in a row now. The beneficial life it, and it reseeds itself every year. I haven't had to transplant parsley in several years"
Amber on Sunday 16 June 2019
"Hi Amber. Yes - those hoverflies and lacewings will be doing an incredible job of keeping aphids under control. And parsley is one of the very best plants for attracting them. Beautiful blooms that seem to be a very powerful magnet for them! "
Ben Vanheems on Sunday 16 June 2019
"I have gambled this year and mixed soapy water with a dash of malt vinegar and sprayed black aphids on broad beans no plant damage and aphids gone the next day try this at your own risk with caution"
Bill on Sunday 28 June 2020
"1Liter soapy water to 1Tbl spoon malt vinegar"
Bill on Sunday 28 June 2020
"Thanks for sharing your recipe there Bill."
Ben Vanheems on Sunday 28 June 2020
"This is all sound advice. It seems hopeless when you find them teeming over your plants but these methods really work and for long term, let their predators do the policing. Remember to check yourself for insects. I found what I swear was a black bean aphid stuck into the soft skin of my shoulder at the area where it meets my chest. Eww!"
Mary E Mignano on Wednesday 2 June 2021
"Absolutely Mary - get the predators to do the policing!"
Ben Vanheems on Monday 7 June 2021
"I was just loving my beautiful pot of Talinum. One morning I noticed a big herd of aphids. I searched my garden and patio for some small spiders. I just picked them up by their webs so I didn't hurt them. It only took a day or two until my plant was clean. No spraying, no ordering and the aphids have not returned."
Kerry on Sunday 4 July 2021
"That's brilliant Kerry! Natural biological control in action!"
Ben Vanheems on Monday 5 July 2021
"Aphids are attacking my board beans"
Paul Dolaghan on Sunday 3 October 2021
"Sorry to hear that Paul. Hopefully these control techniques might offer some help. You can also check out our pest guides on aphids - click on the Pests tab at the top of this page."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 4 October 2021
"What's your thinking on Neem Oil?"
Suzanne on Monday 12 June 2023
"Hi Suzanne. I've actually never used this before as I try to avoid spraying, preferring to put up barriers and encourage pest predators instead. But I have seen mixed reviews on neem oil, with some claiming it's not as effective as people make out. If you do decide to use it, make sure to use the pure, cold-pressed neem oil, which has the active ingredient in it you're after. "
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 13 June 2023
"Do the ants that are farming my broad bean aphids deter predators? I don't seem to see any. Or am I crushing them when I squash the aphids? Has anyone tried ant killer as a solution to aphids?"
Ian on Friday 16 June 2023
"In theory the ants are protecting the aphids, as they are 'farming' them. Whether or not they are deterring the natural predators of aphids is a very good question - I'm not entirely sure! I would love to know, so if anyone has experience of this, please do share."
Ben Vanheems on Friday 16 June 2023
"It's so refreshing to see comprehensive guides like this one on organic pest control techniques, especially when it comes to those pesky aphids. I've been trying to implement more eco-friendly solutions in my home and garden. Beyond garden pests, I've been exploring options for - bed bug control that align with sustainable practices. If anyone has organic or environmentally-friendly suggestions for that particular challenge, I'd be very grateful. Meanwhile, I'll be trying out these methods on aphids! Thank you for the invaluable advice and for promoting green solutions."
helen on Thursday 21 September 2023
"So pleased you've found this guide helpful Helen. :-)"
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 26 September 2023
"I moved to Israel 10 months ago and planted a host of fruit trees and carrots. The carrots were doing really well until the aphids stormed by. I noticed them today. Thanks so much for the soapy solution idea. It worked like a charm!!!!"
photomom on Tuesday 3 October 2023
"Further to my question about ants, there are a number of sources on the web that say that ants deter aphid predators, so dealing with the ants is a good way of deterring the aphids and may be all that is needed to control them (with the help of natural predators). I shall be trying this next year. . "
Ian Litterick on Wednesday 4 October 2023
"So pleased it's worked for you. Hope those aphids are knocked back for now and you enjoy a fab crop of carrots!"
Ben Vanheems on Wednesday 4 October 2023
"Hi Ian. That's definitely worth trying. Let us know how you get on. "
Ben Vanheems on Wednesday 4 October 2023

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