Aphids on Sunflowers: The 5 BEST Ways to Get Rid of (& Prevent!) Them

chenell
By: Chenell - Lead Writer and Gardening Advocate
Published:

Seeing some tiny bugs all over your sunflowers?

It seems like aphids are always lurking around, but you rarely notice them. Aphids reproduce FAST, so you might see one and then the next day there are 20, and so on.

Unfortunately, pepper plants are a common target for aphids. These sap-sucking insects can cause serious damage to the plant, and often lead to reduced yields or even loss of the crop.

Let’s learn to find aphids before they cause tons of damage, and put in aphid control methods so we have healthy plants this season.

Aphids on a sunflower head

What are Aphids?

Aphids are soft bodied insects that are commonly found on sunflowers. They can cause significant damage to the plants as they adults feed while they literally suck sap from the stems and leaves, resulting in wilted or yellowed foliage.

In addition to causing aesthetic damage, aphids also pose a serious threat to plant health by transmitting viruses and other diseases.

They can be found on a wide variety of different plants, including tomatoes, peppers, and even lettuce and leafy vegetables.

The aphid species most often found on the plant flowers are melon aphids (aka cotton aphid) and sunflower aphids.

Melon AphidSunflower Aphids
melon or cotton aphids
ColoringYellow/green, to greenish blackRed/Orange
ShapePear-shapedRound pear

Aphid Infestation & Damage

Aphids are not something you want to find on your plants because of two reasons:

  1. They can transmit different plant diseases, carrying it from one plant to another.
  2. They feed on the sap in leaves, which can stress out the plants enough to stunt growth.

Aphids feed on plant sap which can cause stunted growth, wilting leaves, and even yellowing of the leaves.

How to Get Rid of Aphids on Sunflowers

Alright, let’s talk about how we can get rid of and start controlling aphids in the garden.

1. Hand Removal

This is the most straightforward method if you catch an aphid infestation early.

If you only see a few aphids here and there, it’s best to just squash or remove them yourself. Since these bugs reproduce really fast (in as little time), if we take the effort of going out in search for remedy treatment at grocery store – plus coming back later on next day- then by all means count your blessings because colony might have doubled!

Aphids won’t bite you, so you can just squash them between your fingertips right on the leaves.

2. Spraying Aphids Off Your Plants

As the infestation gets to be more severe, you’re going to want to take more extreme measures. Luckily, you can spray them off the plant with a strong stream of water from a hose or watering wand.

If the plant is young and has delicate leaves that won’t be able to handle a strong spray, you can dip the entire leaf into a jar of room temperature water to remove the aphids.

3. Natural Sprays

Natural sprays can help kill aphids and reduce the reoccurrence of aphid infestations for a little while.

Neem oil is one of my favorite aphid killing methods because it works quite well on many insects, aphids being one of them. It’s organic and deemed safe for vegetables and other plants you intend to consume.

Pure neem oil is an excellent way to help stop the aphid damage can do. It removes their ability feed and eventually kill them off, giving your plants plenty of time for recovery!

Organic Neem Bliss - 100% Pure Neem Oil
$29.99 ($0.94 / Fl Oz)

100% cold-pressed neem oil that can be used as a foliar spray for healthy garden plants. Free of water and other additives.

11/27/2022 06:24 pm GMT

4. Insecticidal Soap

You can purchase insecticidal soaps like this one that will help with getting rid of aphid colonies.

You can also make your own DIY soap with a few ingredients:

  • Dish soap (natural, free of perfumes)
  • Water
  • Vegetable oil
  • Spray bottle

Make sure you’re using a dish soap that doesn’t contain a lot of additional chemicals and perfumes – we are spraying this on your plants that you’ll eventually eat and those additives can also impact plant growth.

Add 1 teaspoon of soap and 1 teaspoon of oil, to a half gallon of water and spray on the plants. Since most aphids are found on the bottom side of the sunflower plant leaves, start by spraying there.

The soapy water will suffocate the aphids and they will eventually fall off the plant.

5. Introduce Natural Predators & Beneficial Insects

You can attract the bugs and predators that feed on aphids. This method is quite natural, but it may not be as effective than using other methods like pesticides or insecticidal soap.

parasitic wasps

Natural predators to aphids include:

  • Lady bugs/lady beetles
  • Damsel bugs
  • Small parasitic wasps
  • Syrphid fly larva

Ladybugs eat aphids in their natural environment, and you can either buy huge colonies of these insects (yes, you can get them on Amazon!), or plant flowering plants that attract them to the area – see companion planting below.

Control Aphids and Prevent the Damage

There are some ways to prevent aphids from making it to your sunflower plants in the first place. Of course, if you’re already dealing with an infestation, you’ll want to go with some of the methods above.

Proper Spacing of Plants

Making sure you are spacing your peppers properly is super important.

If you plant peppers too close together, you are going to reduce the amount of air flow that can pass between plants. You’re also overcrowding the plants enough that an aphid population (and other pests) can move from one to the next very easily.

Companion Planting Sunflowers

Companion planting is the practice of growing two or more plants together in order to help one another.

There are many benefits to companion planting, including reduced need for pesticides and increased yields from your garden. Some plants can help protect other crops from fungal diseases or produce chemicals that repel pests or attract beneficial aphid predators and parasites.

Some great sunflower companion plants are:

These companions can help improve the health and growth of sunflowers, by repelling pests like aphids and helping to prevent fungal diseases.

pink ladybug

Attract Lady Bugs

Making your garden a nice hope for lady bugs is a great way to prevent large aphid infestations.

Lady bugs are attracted to quite a few plants in the garden, including:

  • Dandelion
  • Cilantro
  • Tansy
  • Dill
  • Parsley
  • Marigolds
  • Chives
  • Calendula
  • Fennel

No wonder seeing ladybugs around is considered so lucky!

Inspect Plants Regularly

I like to check my plants every few days for signs of aphids. You can check your plants every morning when watering, or at least every few days. Make sure to check for other sunflower insect pests as well:

  • Sunflower beetles
  • Spittlebugs
  • Sunflower moths
  • Sunflower midges
  • Thistle caterpillars
  • Lygus bugs

Aphids on Sunflowers

Aphids are so common in backyard gardens that if you don’t experience them at some point, are you even a gardener?

Aphids leave behind a sticky substance and can cause stress to your sunflower plants. Getting rid of aphids organically can be done, and helps keep these garden pests at bay.

Do you have any other methods you’ve used to keep them from taking over your plants? Let me know in the comments!

chenell

AUTHOR, CHIEF GUACAMOLE CONNOISSEUR

Hi - I'm Chenell! I lived in the city for almost a decade, but after moving to the suburbs in 2020, I decided the logical millennial thing to do was to learn how to grow my own avocado toast. That's what this site is all about. 🥑

You can get access to all of my free resources and get some epic dad jokes (and helpful gardening stuff) emailed to you each week by signing up here.

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