April 26th, 2009

Git Along Lil’ Aphids

I met my first pests (besides deer) in the garden this week. Aphids.

One of my two watermelon plants wasn’t doing well and most of its leaves were tightly curled. I didn’t know the cause, but my aphid-experienced wife knew to inspect the underside of the leaves. Sure enough, the leaves were swarming with the little buggers.

Watermelon with aphids

Aphids on the underside of the leaves.

Ant Gardening Fact: Did you know that some species of ants raise aphids like humans raise cattle? They place the aphids on the leaves, protect them, and then “milk” them for food. No kidding – you can check it out on Wikipedia.

After a bit of googling the problem, I blasted most of the aphids off with a hose and sprayed all the leaves with diluted dish washing soap. I noticed that there was a small ant hill near the base of the watermelon but didn’t know at the time that they might be aphid wranglers. Both the aphids and the ants seem to have moved to greener pastures after I sprayed the soap, but I don’t know if my watermelon is going to make a recovery. The leaves are still a bit curled and whole plant seems fairly stunted compared to the other watermelon.

Watermelon damaged by aphids

The watermelon stunted by aphids.

The other watermelon plant only a few feet away had only one or two aphids and is growing quite well. Now that I know what I’m looking for, I frequently check for aphids on the underside of my plants.

Watermelon damaged by aphids

The unaffected watermelon.