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LeBeau Bamboo Nursery      Medford, Oregon 541-499-4992

Getting Rid of Aphids on Bamboo and Other Plants

Posted on October 25th, 2015 by LeBeau Bamboo Nursery in Bamboo Care and Maintenance

Aphid Damage

Aphids are one of the most common pests and affect almost all vegetable, fruit, and landscape plants in some degree. Luckily, they rarely cause severe damage to plants and are usually no more than an aestetic problem. Aphids also seem to affect some plants more than others, and for most plants in the garden it is uncommon to see large numbers to the point where they are even noticeable without looking for them. For bamboo, Phyllostachys bambusoides is the most commonly affected species. We have also seen aphids on Semiarundinaria fastuosa, Phyllostachys aureosulcata, Phyllostachys angusta, and Phyllostachys vivax. The aphids are usually found on the unrolled newly emerging leaves, or the underside of leaves no more than a few weeks old. They don't seem to bother the older leaves except in severe infestations.

For us, the most common damage from aphids on bamboo and other plants is the development of sooty mold. Aphids excrete honeydoo, a sugary substance that coats the leaves, branches, and canes and is perfect for encouraging sooty mold growth during wet months. The sooty mold will coat the leaves and canes in black mold, which in severe infestations can make the plant look unhealthy until new leaves form in the summer. For both landscape plants and nursery stock, this is something we all would like to avoid and so if you notice large numbers of aphids appearing on plants, it is usually time to do something about them.

Luckily, there are several methods to get rid of aphids.

Getting Rid of Aphids - Light and Severe Infestations

Biological Control
Aphids are a favorite food source for many predators, so encouraging habitat for or purchasing these insects can be a good long term solution. We grow a diverse number of plants together, which encourages a larger variety of insects to thrive in our garden. A larger variety of insects means that there are already several species of predatory insects around to search for any new aphid populations that may arise.
MarienkäferEier 03
Ladybug eggs on the underside of a leaf. These will hatch into ladybug larvae, which eat far more aphids than adults.
Source: Wikipedia
Ladybug larva (Coccinellidae)
Ladybug larvae eat lots of aphids! Although they look kind of scary...
Source: Wikipedia
A large number of predatory insects feed off of aphids, including spiders, ladybugs, lacewings, and praying mantis. Many of these can be purchased in bulk at local garden or pest supply stores and are a good way to kick up your garden's population of beneficial insects.

Soap Spray
Regular dish soap, like Ivory brand, will smother the aphids but leave most beneficial insects alone. This method is sometimes the best choice if you have large numbers of plants which are affected by aphids and they are starting to cause damage. We add about a tea spoon to a quart of water and mix well, then soak the entire plant by spraying with a hand sprayer. Be sure to focus on the underside of leaves, as this is usually where aphids spend most of their time. After the plant is dripping wet from the soap spray and a few minutes have gone by, we then get a hose with a nozzle and spray the plant with water from as many angles as possible. Spraying down with water is helpful for making sure as much of the plant has been coated in soap as possible by washing the soapy water over the plant before it starts to get washed off. The force of the water will also knock a lot of the aphids off the plant, which works well even without the soap. And the spray also washes the soap off of the plant, which takes any honeydoo that has been excreted by the aphids with it. This is important for preventing sooty mold growth even after the plant is aphid free.

Additional applications might need to be repeated every week or so, as aphid populations can bounce back fast. Often, spraying with soap can be a good way to bring down a population before introducing predator insects to keep the population down. Using predatory insects is usually a far more permanent method of keeping aphids under control.

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