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

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(Zone 7a)
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....
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Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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:

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
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
Jul 26, 2015 8:05 AM CST
Oh, sorry, where are my manners?! Welcome! Welcome!
Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Beverly
Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico (Zone 11a)
Butterflies Organic Gardener Tropicals Native Plants and Wildflowers Seed Starter
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.

Jul 11, 2017 2:15 PM CST
the tons of red bugs that appear every year on the stems of my heliopsis are a real pain. i wage a war which i usually win! i fill a plastic pail with a few inches of water,
and proceed to bend each stem into the water swishing as i go. the bugs fall to the bottom. then flush the water in the toilet and repeat until every stem has been similarly swished. i have 3 large plants and it takes about 1/2 hour in total. i repeat the next 2 days (far fewer bugs by then) and by day 4, i declare myself the winner!
Name: Deborah
Michigan (Zone 6a)
Gardening in Community Garden sites
Dahlias Region: Michigan Cottage Gardener Garden Photography
Sep 7, 2020 1:35 PM CST
Hi Heliopsis fans, RE: red aphids infestation on false sunflower

I was intrigued by the water in pail method and tried it. Those little aphid buggers hung on to the stems for dear life (indeed) sometimes encased in air bubbles. I gave up and went to my "red glove" method, which I've used past years along with the spray method described above.

I go out to my stately large plant, now partly covered with smatterings of aphids snacking away at Heliopsis blooms on the decline (perhaps a softening of the stems?)

I take a pair of old, worn, washable gloves and grasping a red aphid covered stem at the lower part, where the aphid colony starts its feasting line-up, zip the stem from the bottom toward the aging bloom. Takes me about 10-15 minutes.

My red gloves are covered with a few remains, and a few aphids fly away, but most die immediately in the zip glove method. What's more, I do think the remains of dead aphids are possibly noted by new red aphid recruits. (Perhaps like Japanese beetle traps left to warn off new beetles arriving.)

I went back to my water pail, swished it around to drown the floating aphids AFTER rescuing a couple lady bugs that hopefully will devour more aphids that I missed.

I hope that helps,

~ Bestest
[Last edited by dnrevel - Sep 7, 2020 1:37 PM (+)]
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