Among a variety of pest problems, you probably face root aphids that typically reside at or above the soil line.
This near-cousin of aphids is now spreading through many areas and becomes a rising issue, particularly among indoor growers.
They are different from little colonies of green or other aphids that stay on leaves and stems. While they are pretty difficult to notice, these pests tend to get out of control easily.
These aphids are capable to reproduce very rapidly, keep unseen, and weaken the root systems of your favorite plants to kill them.
How to Identify Root Aphids in Your Plants
Originating from the Phylloxera family, these aphids are tiny and come with colors that are similar to soil or root.
You can find three kinds of root and crown aphids, including Dysaphis foeniculus, D. crataegi, and D. tulipae.
Dysaphis foeniculus refers to the Hawthorne aphids that come with grayish-white color.
On the other hand, D. Crataegi has a greenish or yellowish-gray color and features a look of a light waxy dusting.
Meanwhile, D. tulipae or tulip bulbs aphids appear like a mealybug since they are covered with white waxy powder.
A lot of gardeners misunderstand root aphids as mealybugs due to their white bodies.
However, you can notice the difference because the bugs are a bit bigger than the aphids.
Moreover, these aphids have a pear-like body shape and acquire two sharp protrusions or tailpipes on the abdomen ends.
Different from their aboveground cousins such as the melon and green peach aphids, these root insects are fairly motionless.
How to Notice Root Aphids Symptoms in Your Plants
You can identify the presence of these aphids by the masses of spongy, white tissues on affected plants where their colonies build in the roots.
Gardeners often mistake the damage of these aphids for other issues, particularly nutrient deficiencies.
In case you notice that your plants suffer from iron or magnesium deficiency, consider checking if the true problem is this insect.
If you grow your plants outdoors, ants may accompany the development of these aphids as they take interest in the colonies’ honeydew.
Furthermore, root aphids typically move from one area to another slowly. You may rarely notice them spread around the lower parts of the plant.
They may crawl up the stems of your plant and assault its body. However, they typically congregate in the roots.
If you love to grow asters, hosta, veronica plants, coreopsis, and any variety of sedum, you must not overlook these pests since they are among the aphids’ favorite plants.
Root Aphids Life Cycle and Reproduction
The lifecycle of these aphids may differ tremendously and they are unexpectedly adaptable, making it difficult to deal with them.
Throughout the growing season, these aphids reproduce asexually.
In warm conditions, their eggs are attached to the infested plants’ stems and foliages above the root line.
While the eggs overwinter in the garden, the immature aphids will come out in the spring and start to feed on young plants with their piercing-sucking mouthparts.
As they grow older, the aphids will attack the root and leave scars that make the plants prone to disease and mildew.
Once the infestations boost, they start crawling to the stem to feed.
When your plant is almost dead, some aphids will develop wings that allow them to travel to new plants.
During fall, the winged aphids typically mate in trees and generate more eggs. Ants also have a role in moving these pests from exhausted plants to fresh ones.
The Damage Caused by Root Aphid Infestations
What kind of damage do root aphids cause? In general, infected plants tend to wilt, turn yellow, and eventually die because of them.
If you leave their devastation unchecked, the aphids can multiply quickly and tear down your favorite plants in due course.
Keep in mind that removing this insect will be hard once it has been established in hydroponic or soil systems.
When they feed on all food sources, they will slim down and become winged root aphids that can start reproduction and continue to affect other plants.
You probably notice several winged aphids flying around in the autumn. Remember that they typically look like fungus gnats during this life stage.
Simply remember that these aphids come with tell-tale cornicles to set them apart from other pests or insects.
Aside from garden perennials, these aphids may harass rice crops and the roots of various trees including hickory, walnut, and fir.
Perennials herbs can fail to reach their general sizes when these aphids attack.
Flowers and fruits on aphid-infested plants tend to be stunted, tiny, and less desirable as well.
Tricks to Prevent Root Aphid Infestations
Since removing root aphids can be challenging, especially after being established in your plants, you will find out how to prevent them first.
The best method to avoid the infestations of aphids is to maintain your garden tools clean. Follow this routine by rotating crops recurrently.
You need to sterilize reusable planters and prevent cross-contamination between plants as well.
Schedule this routine while maintaining solid integrated pest management as well.
Because irrigation water running from one plant to another may encourage the movement of these aphids, make sure to practice good garden hygiene as well.
Keep in mind that observation in any aspect of cultivation may help to put off various types of dangerous pests from attacking your plants.
How to Get Rid of Root Aphids Properly
If you still face aphid problems after some preventive actions, there is no other way to do besides controlling them with the right methods.
Any time you notice aphids in the roots of your plants, simply get rid of the plant instead of trying to treat the pests.
You better do so even though they will produce blossoms and fruits in a few days.
However, delay removing the affected plants only allows the aphids to inoculate themselves into the whole grow area.
Once you eliminate the infected plants, dig up a big amount of surrounding soil and place it in a container or plastic bag.
This will help to prevent the spreading of the root aphids as you take the plant alongside the surrounding soil to the garbage bin.
For further actions, you can try the following methods to control the infestations of aphids.
Root Aphid Control for Indoor Plants
Detecting the first signs of these aphids is pretty necessary to save your plants’ fruiting and vegetating capabilities.
If you notice the initial signs of aphids in your indoor plants, introducing beneficial nematodes to hydroponic solutions can slow the spread of these pests.
You can also take advantage of a high-quality biological insecticide that contains Beauveria bassiana to deal with the insect population.
Apply this solution weekly to provide the best protection for your plants.
To treat aphids in a variety of indoor plants, try to submerge the infected grow root balls and cups thoroughly in a pyrethrum concentrate for a half minute.
For badly infested plants, make sure to get rid of them the first time you notice root aphids. No fruits or flowers are worth risking your entire grow space.
Root Aphid Control for Outdoor Plants
When it comes to outdoor growing, you can introduce beneficial nematodes into the soil at the initial symptom of the aphid infestation.
Nematodes can attack several types of soil-borne pests without harming pets, earthworms, and even humans.
To apply these solutions, make sure the soil is damp.
You better avoid using insecticidal soaps to control aphids since they tend to harm the roots of your plants while killing the crawlers.
Neem oil may help end the infestations of these aphids from developing, specifically as crawlers travel up the stems.
If applied early enough in the infestation of root aphids, pyrethrum-based sprays can provide an effective result too.
To prevent subsequent infestations, you should never introduce commercial-grade soils as they may contain aphids and their eggs.
Get soils and compost from a reliable, local source or create your own to avoid aphid infestations.
Helpful Insects That Prey on Aphids
In general, it is hard to control root aphids naturally.
However, if you prefer to take care of the ecological footprint and try something more natural, some of these tips may help.
First, you can attempt to attract birds to your garden so that they pick the eggs of these pests from the plants as well as the ground.
Ladybirds make a good option to help with aphid control.
Second, introduce soldier beetles, damsel bugs, and green or brown lacewings to prey on aphids in your garden.
Next, introducing parasitic wasps can be a good choice as well since some of their types like to attach aphid eggs.
Then, ladybugs can also predate root aphids, especially those on the surface.
They cannot prey on the pests that burrow in the soil. You can get those beneficial insects in the market or find them in nature.
Above all, disinfect garden equipment after each use to control root aphids naturally. This simple method will prevent the transmission of these pests to other plants. Happy gardening!