Aphids are one of the most hated garden pests. These tiny insects range from 0.04 to 0.39 inches and appear as tiny dots on the container plants in your balcony garden. Aphids are difficult to get rid of, and they do great damage to prized vegetables and other garden plants by sucking the sap out of the plants’ stems.
Many aphid species feed on a single plant type, and species can look different – aphids can be green, yellow, brown, red or black. But all aphids are small and pear-shaped. They have long legs and antennae. A distinguishing feature for aphid insects is a pair of cornicles, small tubelike structures on the dorsal side of the last segment on the aphid’s body.
You may see ants near the aphids in your balcony container garden. This is not a good sign. These ants protect aphids as they feed so they can eat honeydew, a sugary liquid released by aphids as they feed. On the other hand, if you see ladybug larvae near an aphid, leave it alone. Ladybugs are often released into container gardens because their larvae will prey on the aphids. Other insects that eat aphids include hoverfly larvae, wasps, aphid midge larvae, green lacewing larvae, crab spiders and lacewigs.
Aphids can do a lot of damage to container plants. Symptoms of aphids include decreased plant growth, yellowing and browning, curling and wilting. Aphids often transmit diseases and viruses to the plants, and their honeydew reduces the effectiveness of fungicides and can cause sooty mold.
Check underneath plant leaves and on new growth for aphids. If you find some in your container garden, you can attract or purchase aphid predators (such as ladybugs) or insecticides, use aluminum mulch before planting (which repels aphids) or, if too much damage has been done, you may need to completely destroy the container plant by ripping it out and throwing it away. Aphids rarely kill mature plants in container gardens, but they result in low crop yields, for example, and may transmit disease.