Ask a Question forum: Red Aphids on False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)

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(Zone 7a)
Hummingbirder
Shell
Jul 26, 2015 12:41 AM CST
Can someone please explain this phenomena to me? These were the first flowers I planted when we bought this house 12 years ago. For the last 3 years, the stems have been literally COVERED in red aphids. They are obviously not hurting the well being of this flower's growth. This year, there is also an abundance of blow flies. I'm leaving it be because I noticed that the finches & sparrows visit it quite frequently. I'm guessing "to dine" LOL. This does not occur on ANY other flower or plant in the gardens, even ones that are directly next to it. I'm dumbfounded....
Thumb of 2015-07-26/Shell/c6ea88
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Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Jul 26, 2015 4:09 AM CST
Welcome to ATP Welcome!

I'm not 100% sure if you're looking for an ID on the aphid, or the question is why are these red ones only on Heliopsis and not other plants? There are numerous mentions of red aphids on Heliopsis on the internet but the nearest to an ID I've found is that it may be a Uroleucon species (there are thousands of different aphid species worldwide). This genus is also suggested in BugGuide here:
http://bugguide.net/node/view/559405/bgimage

If the question is why only on Heliopsis, that is likely because plant pests often specialize and have a limited host range, although there are some that seem to be less fussy. So this red aphid species is likely specific to Heliopsis and maybe a few other plants (that you don't have) and does not feed on just any plant that it comes across.

If it's an ID you're looking for you could try posting on the Insect and Bug ID Forum.
Name: Jennifer
48036 MI (Zone 6b)
Cottage Gardener Houseplants Spiders! Heucheras Frogs and Toads Dahlias
Hummingbirder Sedums Winter Sowing Peonies Region: Michigan Garden Ideas: Level 2
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jvdubb
Jul 26, 2015 8:04 AM CST
FWIW, This happens almost every year on my Heliopsis. Usually later in the season. They don't seem to do much harm but they do really annoy me. They have never appeared on my Heliopsis that have dark stems!

This spring they clustered on my Lorainne Sunshine Heliopsis. I was frustrated since it was early in the season. So because of them, AND because the plant reseeds so much to the point of becoming invasive, I ripped the whole thing out.

So far, the red aphids have not arrived to party on my other green stemmed Heliopsis. And as always not on my dark stemmed Heliopsis.

Sorry, I cannot remember the varieties of Heliopsis I have. I went crazy on them one year and got several varieties. Lorainne is easy to remember since she is variegated.

Not sure any of this info helps you. But that's my experience
Name: Jennifer
48036 MI (Zone 6b)
Cottage Gardener Houseplants Spiders! Heucheras Frogs and Toads Dahlias
Hummingbirder Sedums Winter Sowing Peonies Region: Michigan Garden Ideas: Level 2
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jvdubb
Jul 26, 2015 8:05 AM CST
Oh, sorry, where are my manners?! Welcome! Welcome!
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
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Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Jul 26, 2015 10:51 AM CST
Yes, welcome to ATP. I agree with Sue that certain aphids seem to prefer only some plants. I get yellow aphids every year on my milkweed plants, and black aphids on some types of nasturtium. The aphids that appear on the citrus trees occasionally are light green.

I would say that although your Heliopsis are still growing and blooming, that many aphids must be doing at least some damage. You could try just spraying them off with the hose, maybe two or three times to get all the generations to see if that slows them down, and also if the plants grow better or make bigger flowers without all those little suckers living on their stems.

If you wanted to get (casually) scientific about it, spray off the aphids on only some plants and see if those plants suddenly do better than the ones left to the aphids?

But be sure to let us know - we are a curious bunch here! Big Grin
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Beverly
Colima, Mexico (Zone 11a)
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vitrsna
Jul 26, 2015 11:36 AM CST
Welcome! Shell Thumbs up I frequently get those red aphids on my Tithonia rotundifolia (aka Mexican Sunflower), although it is not a sunflower but an aster. Do you see any Lady Beetles or Lady Beetle larvae or pupae around? If so, transfer them to the plant with the aphids and they will eat the aphids up like little vacuum cleaners. Also, when you are visiting the garden hand squish some. I'm not sure hosing them off actually kills them. My experience has been they just fall on the ground and run back up the plant. Squishing them definitely reduces the numbers (if you don't have Lady Beetles) and running your hand up and down the stem can reduce the numbers in a hurry. It really takes very little time. Good luck! Hope you are enjoying ATP. Don't be dumbfounded ...aphids happen every where, any where, and always.

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