The Q&A Archives: Tiny Green Bugs

Question: I recently purchased some primroses and now I notice that there are tiny green bugs on the plants. Are they good bugs or bad bugs? I did take them off of the plants, at least the ones that I could see. Where is a good web-site to go to in order to compare my bugs with pictures?

Answer: Tiny green bugs sounds like aphids. Are they soft-bodied (squishy) and clustered on the tips and tender foliage? Aphids use their mouthparts to suck plant "sap" and leave behind a sticky residue called honeydew.

Ladybugs and their larvae, lacewing larvae, praying mantids, certain predatory wasps, and other beneficial insects are voracious eaters of aphids. They often "arrive" a week or two after the aphids, so not spraying with chemicals is a good idea if you'd like to attract them to your garden to consume aphids for you. Then, they hang around to eat other pests. Just the other day, I saw birds plucking aphids off one of my plants. Baby birds in particular need loads of insects for their diet. Hummingbirds consume hundreds of aphids daily. So, as long as the aphid population doesn't get out of hand, it's not something to worry about. Removing some of them as you did is fine. Also, aphids will disappear naturally when temperatures warm up. Google Images for aphids and compare. Also, google "insect image database" for a variety of options.

If you feel you need to control the aphids, start with the simplest method first, and if that isn't successful, move on from there. Healthy vigorous plants will withstand insect attacks best and sometimes a little damage is acceptable. If your aphid problem is not too severe, a strong blast of water from the hose should work. Spray underneath leaves, in between, etc. Do this daily. Or simply squash them between your fingers or a paper towel.

If that doesn't work, try a soapy water spray. Use 1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons of liquid detergent soap per gallon of water. Use regular, not concentrated soap. Don't use soaps with lemon, as the citric acid can burn plants. Start with the lower amount and work up as needed. Spray as often as needed. As with any spray you might wish to test it on a few leaves first before you treat all your plants. Next on my list would be an insecticidal soap spray.

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