Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bugs + Roses = Problem

I was out working in my flower garden this week and noticed this....

on my Grandmother's climbing rose!  Horror went over me...#$*^, aphids!  Never heard of aphids, well let me give you a short lesson on these pesky insects!

Aphids are small, soft bodied insects that have long, slender mouth parts that they use to pierce into the new young stems of roses.  Once they pierce into the young tender rose, the aphids precede to suck out the fluids inside the plant's stem.  Roses are not the only plant that has to defend itself from these pesky varmints!  Most plants have a aphid species that "feeds" on them.  Aphids come in many different colors from green to red to brown.  Most adults are wingless and can produce many generations each year.  This is why you may not get rid of aphids the first time you try.  Aphids come out with warm weather and disappear why the temperature drops.  So if you haven't seen aphids yet, you will before the summer is through!

How do you get rid of these pesky varmints?!?!  There are non-chemical and chemical ways to get rid of aphids. 

The first thing I always do when I see aphids is I just wash them off.  Yep, you read it right--just wash them off!  Take the hose pipe, use a stream with pressure, and "wash those aphids out of your hair" (don't forget to sing the music from South Pacific)!  The down side is that this doesn't last and the aphids, once they get their "wits" back, they will find their way back to the plant you just washed them off!

Another non-chemical way is to mix up a mixture of dishsoap, oil, and water.  You need 1 tbsp of dishsoap with 1 tsp of oil in a quart of water.  Mix it up and then put the mixture in a spray bottle.  Spray on the effected parts of the rose.  The dishsoap makes the plant taste bad to the little aphids while the oil makes it hard for them to stay on the plant--they just slide off! 

This is a great, easy way to stop the invasion, but it has to be done more than once and has to be reapplied everytime it rains.  Avoid spraying in the middle of the day.  Spray your roses in the early morning or late evening.  This will keep your plant from getting burned in the harsh summer sun.  (You might want to remember this when doing ANY type of spraying!)

A non-toxic chemical that is widely used is Insecticidal Soap.  Insecticidal Soap is a contact material.  That means that it must come into contact with the aphid to do its job.  So good coverage is a must!  Spray under, over and all around the plant so the Isecticidal Soap to do its job. 

**Some Science Ahead**

The Insecticidal Soap kills the aphids by washing away the protective coating on the surface of the insect and by disrupting normal membrane functions inside the insect.  This is why you must have the Insecticidal Soap come into contact with the aphids.

I suggest that you use the premixed Insecticidal Soap.  But if you have a lot of plants to spray use the Insecticidal Soap that comes in consentrates and be sure to read the label to know how much to mix into your sprayer. Use the same cautions from above about when to spray.

Insecticidal Soap has low toxicity.  But do follow the label carefully because it can be mildly irritating to the skin or eyes. 

Your last defense is another chemical spray Bayer Advanced Rose and Flower Insect Killer.  This recommendation came from my local county extension agent.  He stressed that you are looking for the active ingredient Imidacloprid.  Bayer has different types of Rose formulas, so read the front labels of the bottles to find the formula with the most Imidacloprid.  Looking on Bayer's website,  found that the Bayer Advanced Rose and Flower Insect Killer had the most Imidacloprid. 

**Some Science Ahead**
The Imidacloprid works by interfering with the transmission of stimuli in the insect nervous system.  It specifically causes a blockage in a type of neuronal pathway (using a type of nicotin) that is more abundant in insects than in warm-blooded animals.  This blockage leads to the accumulation of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter, resulting in the an aphid's paralysis, and eventual death. It is effective on contact and via injestion.  This is why it has a low toxicity to humans and animals.

Again, I recommend that you buy the premixed formulas.  But if you prefer to use your own sprayer, be sure to read the labels.  You may have to spray every 7 to 14 days if you have a lot of aphids. 

Aphids are pesky, but with some determination you can get rid of them.  Try using non-chemical means first.  But don't be closed minded if your non-chemicals means don't get rid of your aphid infestation.  The chemicals I have recommended are low toxicity and with proper use, can be safely used in the environment. 

Good luck and let me know if you have tried something different.  Let's get playing in the dirt!

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