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Northwest Gardening: Stalking Aphids

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Control aphids by pinching them where they cluster. You invite the cavalry to show up—in the form of ladybugs.

healthy, aphid-free roses with clematis

By Marianne Binetti

Aphids on the new growth of roses? Give them a pinch and see who shows up.

aphids on rose plant

I’ve been pinching the soft new growth tips on my rose plants for years, and this simple solution to controlling an aphid outbreak not only gives the instant gratification of rubbing out one’s enemies but also has a side benefit I’ll get to in a minute.

Aphids are sapsuckers that love the succulent new growth appearing at the tips of my rose plants each spring. Their preference for new growth on roses is also what makes these soft-bodied insects so easy to control.

pinching new rose foliage to kill aphids

I know right where to find the first aphid colonies each spring—I just turn over a new leaf, and also look for aphid outbreaks on the tips of new branches. A pinch here and a pinch there, a bit of rolling and squeezing of new leaves, and I just let my fingers do the stalking.

Editor’s note: for those who prefer a different method of aphid control, Lowe’s sells ready-to-use Garden Safe insecticidal soap, made from plant-derived fatty acids.

close up of red ladybug on leaf

It doesn’t matter if you use your bare fingertips or slip on a pair of gloves. What does matter is that you leave the mangled aphid bodies on the foliage. Injured or dead aphids help deter other aphid families from moving in and setting up colonies. Insects communicate, and the sound, sight and smell of a demolished aphid colony keep the relatives from moving into the neighborhood.

There’s an added bonus: Ladybugs appear on my rose plants a day or two later. I believe the aphid buffet I have just provided attracts them. If you doubt the effectiveness of this simple control method, try giving the aphids a pinch when you find them on your own rose plants. Return to the scene of the crime 48 hours later, and count how many ladybugs you find feasting.

two girls with ladybug wings

My record is attracting three new ladybugs in 24 hours. That doesn’t include these two! My grandkids love helping out in the rose garden and couldn’t resist when I gave a shout-out for more ladybugs.

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