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Aphids = Demon Spawn

October 12, 2009

Garden pests in general are rough. No one likes to find slug damage or a threatening beetle around their veggie plot that they have worked so hard on. But no one feels as strongly as I do about aphids. I loathe aphids. It’s half repulsion and half hatred. I’ve seen them destroy everything from the perfect cauliflower, to a thriving smoke bush, and now… all of our promising brussel sprouts.

The brussel sprouts were going to be our last big harvest, and I think they were the crop that I was most excited about. Figures. As I was heading down to harvest yesterday, Nadine mentioned that the brussel sprouts were probably ready, filling me with the joy and excitement of a 6 year old on Christmas morning. Well that joy was crushed repeatedly and thoroughly into the ground as I went from stalk to stalk, discovering that each one – leaves, sprouts, stalks and all – was teeming with aphids. Absolutely covered (see below). Even the plants that looked somewhat salvagable would reveal an aphid slumber party within the delicate leaves of each individual sprout.

I spent the next 30 minutes crying about it to Jon and Micah while ripping out the plants and feeding them to the thrilled chickens (they LOVE aphids, and brussel sprouts too, apparently). At least someone got to enjoy them…

All plants are susceptible to at least one form of aphid or another. And they feed/attack in very dense groups, making (organic) treatment close to impossible if you don’t catch them soon enough. They feed on tender or new plant parts, and basically suck the plant dry of it’s fluids. The craziest part is how productive they are. In the right environment, an aphid can reach it’s reproductive stage in 7 to 8 days from hatching. And in a week, that adult aphid can produce up to 80 newbord aphid nymphs. Gross.

They could have shown up because we had too much nitrogen in the soil. They love nitrogen. They can cause yellowing, mold, and can transmit diseases from plant to plant and across species.

They say that low to moderate aphid populations aren’t necessarily damaging to a plant. But try getting rid of them, or try selling or distributing a broccoli or cauliflower head with even a few aphids on it. Not going anywhere. They can be treated with chemicals, but we don’t do that, obviously. Using chemicals destroys other beneficial insects that we want in our garden, and its naughty for a plethora of other obvious reasons. You can prune away the infected areas, which sometimes works, but in our brussel sprouts case, they were way too advanced. The remaining organic options that I am familiar with involve simply spraying the infected areas with water to knock them off, or spraying with a mixture of soap and water to kill them off, neither of which I’ve found very successful.

So no brussel sprouts this season, folks. A major disappoint for me at least…

Aphid clusters on the brussel sprouts leaves...

Aphid clusters on the brussel sprouts leaves...

A blurry image of the demon aphids eating our brussel sprouts!

A blurry image of the demon aphids eating our brussel sprouts!

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