Aphid Nation

 We gardeners can rarely control the challenges that seem to appear with every new season . Horrid plagues and pesky critters show up one year and disappear the next . Gophers,snails, spider mites, blackspot-they all come and go -though one wishes they would just go. Weedy afflictions such as oxalis and spotted  spurge are predictable and eradication proof-the only realistic outcome is reduction. There was a lot to like about my garden in 2023 but an unprecedented aphid invasion still leaves me a bit mystified .I fully expect aphids on the roses and sometimes on the hellebores and by June they are usually gone. This year they persisted well into fall . Cutting back the lilies in my front garden this past week I found still living aphids on the back side of foliage that was barely green.

 Who gets aphids on Lilies ?? It was a first for me. Every Lily in the front garden was covered in them .




 

First came the aphids, followed by honeydew and then the sooty mold. I got my box of latex gloves out of the car-previously used for putting gas in my car during Covid. I had many gloves left -didn't need to fill up very often in pandemic times.  I used the squish method but I had Lilies that were 6 feet tall and had lots of leaves. I concentrated on the flower buds. If I saw ladybugs or soldier beetles in the area I left the aphids intact for consumption by the predators. But the population was getting out of control and the honeydew was coating nearby plants as well.

 In the back yard-more aphids. This Melianthus 'Purple Haze' was particularly victimized especially the lower foliage deep inside the plant. Squishing wasn't a practical option due to the shape and texture of the leaves and there were a number of ladybugs and soldier beetles hanging around on the plant so I let it be for a few weeks. It soon became clear that the plant was too big and too infested for the beneficials to keep up so I used the sharp spray from the hose method to try and at least reduce the population. 


 These next two photos aren't very clear but basically this Cordyline 'Cha Cha' and the Aster divaricata below were covered with honeydew and subsequently sooty mold, though there were no aphids on the plants them selves.

 



 Meanwhile , aphids were busy colonizing on the bloom spike of  Agave 'Blue Glow'. WTH ? The sharp spray of water worked quite well for the Agave -it was my only victory of the season. 



In the front garden, the Lilies continued to be the most affected victims along with the Hellebores and honeydew was clinging to nearby plants as well .Moving into July and August and the damn things stayed. The Man Who Came to Dinner. 

 In  summer I typically park my car on the street  a couple days a week to facilitate full access to my tools and garden supplies  in the garage. One day I went out in the evening to pull my car back into the garage for the night and when I got into the drivers seat and looked out the windshield and found that it was covered with a fine film of honeydew. As was the entire car-the hood, the windshield, the roof, sticky. Sudden lightbulb moment occurred--street tree is a Crepe Myrtle. One and only backyard tree is a Crepe Myrtle. Both trees are a canopy above the worst aphid infestations in my garden, and the non-aphidized plants that are covered  with honeydew. Is there such a thing as Crepe Myrtle aphids ? Research ensued, and yes, in fact the CMs have their very own special aphid , the dreaded Tinocallis Kahwaluokalini. It kind of sounds like something from the cocktail menu in a Hawaiian resort bar, but it explained the coating of honeydew and sooty mold that was pretty much confined to the areas under these two trees. I got out my telescoping tree pruner and cut a small branch from as high as I could reach in the canopy, and there they were-aphids, honeydew, sooty mold. 


 One of the culprits.


  We've had an inch of rain in the last month and it has cleaned things up nicely-the backyard tree is almost devoid of leaves and the street tree in front (which is the variety 'Natchez') hasn't turned yet. I parked my car under it this week and no new honeydew was deposited. But what will happen next year ? Decades of gardening under my belt and aphids in trees that rain down honeydew on the garden and visit the plants below are a new and unwelcome experience. Do ladybugs and soldier beetles ever hang out in trees ? The only option that seems reasonable is to monitor the trees as soon as they start to leaf out in spring and use the trusty spray nozzle on the hose to shoot up into the canopy and dislodge the little devils before they get out of control. I hate to use up my precious  water for this , but at least we are in a drought pause and hopefully I can collect enough rainwater to cut down on using city water in spring. I foresee a battle ahead.  



 

 

Comments

  1. I've never heard of crepe myrtle aphids - yuck! At least you uncovered the source of the problem. I hope your approach resolves the issue. Meanwhile, now I'm reconsidering whether I really want to add the tree to my garden...

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  2. The sticky sooty mess describes my zone 10 garden. And never ever park under a jacaranda spring thru summer! I wonder if your winter was warmer last year? Speaking of which, did you see the new USDA zone numbers? My Oregon garden is now zone 9a...

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    1. Last winter was wet --which was good , but in between storms we had more dips into the mid to low twenties overnight than I can ever remember. As far as the USDA zones go , I don't think mine changed - honestly I don't know if I was a or b in z9 since I've always just described my garden as zone 9 . So now you are in the same climate zone as Austin !

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  3. I'm trying to comprehend Aphids on Hellebores ?!!?!?! Hellebores???? Leathery-leafed Hellebores??? Aphids run wild. We had lots of hoverflies here this year--aphid infestations were brief. Had a lot of sawflies on the roses this year but not for long--something cleared them out. Aphids on crape myrtles--yikes! --hb

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    1. Aphids are ALWAYS on my hellebores, every year.

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    2. Same as Loree Hoov-I always get them' usually later in spring and most are on the back sides of the leaves. Hard to knock off with water without getting soaked myself !

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  4. I feel your pain. This summer was the second year my Albizia julibrissin 'Summer Chocolate' has had it's own special infestation, Acizzia jamatonica. Nasty nasty things that rain down honeydew and little silk like threads. The first year I thought it was a fluke, but no. So, the albizia needs to come down. It's not a tree I love enough to do battle with the creature. The question is is it something I can talk Andrew into doing, or do I have to hire help? Ugh. I hope you have a much better outcome.

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    1. Oh that's too bad Loree ! Those have such great foliage. On the plus side it will be fun to have a new open planting space -and I assume more sun ? Get a quote from a tree guy-it may push Andrew into the "How much ?? I'll just do it myself " camp .

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  5. I suspect with the fluctuating climate conditions more and more of these infestations will materialize. We had August in May and June this Spring, super dry and hot. The flea beetles arrived and ate my all my perennial allysum to the ground. What will be next year's plague?

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    1. I guess it could be worse than aphids -but this year I also had a gopher for the first time-ate bout half of my Dahlias before I realized what was going on and then the surviving Dahlias were inundated with leaf miner. I got flowers but the plants looked horrible !

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