Photo: via Wikimedia Ccommons
Greetings everyone! Summer is finally here and I am truly enjoying this excellent weather. I spend quite a bit of time outdoors daily because this year’s garden will be more bountiful (hopefully). I am growing more edibles this year, which requires more attention. I plan on freezing and dehydrating loads of veggies and herbs for savory winter soups and stews.
I am a bit perturbed because a few of my squash plants succumbed to an ailment over a two day period. It was quite a mystery and heartbreaking. I try to keep my soil healthy by organic means. I checked the stems and leaves of the plants and found no damage. However, I noticed a trail of ants carrying bits of small, white particles away near the plants. Being curious, I reserved a few ants and dug up the damaged plants. I looked at the roots and noticed white patches and movement.
Okay, I think I have mentioned before how my plants are my babies. I get a little emotional when they are ill. So, I put the plants aside and ran in the house to do a bit of research. I do this quite often (and I even have a small microscope I use to help with my investigations). This is the result of my research:
Root aphids (from the Phylloxera family), are tiny, mite-sized bugs that typically live below the soil line. Their colors are camouflaged to mimic roots and soil, so they are generally white or brown. Because of their colors, size and habitation, they can go unnoticed until it is too late. Signs of the aphid infestation, are generally yellowing, curling and withering of leaves which can led to disease and root rot.
They are becoming a big problem for home gardeners (in particular, indoor gardening) and are spreading all over the country. Researchers, have indicated the aphids are being spread through commercial grade soils and bagged compost. It is recommended you purchase your mediums from a reputable source or even make your own.
At the first signs of infestation, you must act fast to control them from spreading. Throw away infected plants (composting is not recommended). Clean any containers or tools they may have come in contact with. To control the aphids, Neem oil, beneficial insects and nematodes, Pyrethrum-based sprays and Azatrol are suggested. Do not use insecticidal soaps, because they will not help with soil based aphids and could actually damage your soil.
Here are some additional resources to give you more information about Root Aphids…