Otherwise known as plant lice, aphids can be anything from mildly annoying in home landscapes to major scourges that threaten the lives of valuable landscape trees and shrubs. Areas under trees that have large aphid infestations are generally unpleasant places for humans to relax because of large deposits of honeydew, which is the sugary substance that aphids excrete.
Aphids feed on plants by piercing the sides of the stems and leaves and sucking out the juices. Their populations are largest during the spring months because their natural predators have not yet begun to appear in significant numbers. Healthy plants can generally withstand aphid infestations without too much damage. However, aphids often transmit plant pathogens. According to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University, aphids transmit more than 150 different kinds of plant viruses.
Aphids can be tough to see with the naked eye, so the best indication of their presence is a sticky layer of honeydew. This substance can cause significant damage to outdoor furniture, sidewalk and patio surfaces, and can ruin the paint job on vehicles that are parked under aphid-infested trees on a regular basis.
Aphid control can be accomplished by spraying affected plants with insecticidal soap. Strong sprays of water also help kill aphid populations, and keeping plants as healthy as possible helps them withstand aphid infestations. Practicing sugar ant control may also be instrumental in keeping aphid populations in check.
Homeowners who feel that the situation has gotten out of control should consider contacting a professional pest control company for assistance.