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Friday, March 4, 2011

Aphids Attack Kale, Leave Chard Alone?

 We've got some aphid issues in the garden.  Do you?  The weird thing is that they are going after kale, but not chard or other greens, any idea why?

It is kind of hard to see, but here Pat is showing me how deep the aphids can get into our crops...kale in particular seems popular with the pests this year!

Here is a photo of the damage that aphids can wreak on your edibles.  This was kale!

 After talking with Pat Stoffel, UC Davis Good Life Garden gardener extraordinaire, she pointed out this odd occurrence and spoke about how she manages aphids by using Safer Soap.  The problem with this method is that it takes a long time to go through each plant under attack and it only eliminates aphids currently feasting on our greens.  Other than that, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot else one can do to fight these buggers long term.

Below is some information you may find helpful in controlling aphids in your garden.  This text is edited from "The Yolo Gardener" Spring 2010 Newsletter--a quarterly publication by the UC Yolo County Master Gardeners.  Thank you to Master Gardener Barbara Ohlendorf for this very informative article!

Here are my cliff notes to aphid control based on her article:
  • It is hard! (Brilliant observation, right!)
  • Aphids are annoying and they have lots of little friends that help them out.
Control methods:
  • Hose down the affected plants that are hosting colonies every few days
  • This won't get rid of them all, but you want to keep some aphids around so that their natural enemies, like ladybugs, stick around.
  • Where you have aphids you probably also have ants that protect the aphids from their natural enemies.  Why? Because ants like to feed on aphid honeydew. (Honeydew is a euphemism for the aphid spit that these bugs excrete in order to chow down on your plants.)
  • You will need to get into the ant 'elimination' business as well. 
  • Consider using an organic insecticide like Safer Soap (See above.) to manage the population without damaging your plants or destroying your garden's eco-balance.
To read the unabridged version of this article go to their website and download the Spring 2011 newsletter here.  You can also sign up to receive this newsletter by entering your email address at the top of this page.

UC Integrated Pest Management Information
NEED MORE?  Attend this FREE Public Education Class
The Whys and Hows of Integrated Pest Management
Time:  March 12, 2011 at 9:30 AM
Place:  Central Park Gardens, 3rd and B Street, Davis, CA


Neil said...

Many aphid species are relatively host specific - thus you likely have some that are specialized for Kale or related plants: possibly Brevicoryne brassicae commonly known as the cabbage aphid. These guys will go after other brassicas but probably not chard which is in the beet/Goosefoot family. There are some other aphid species that will go after chenopods though.

Also, I wouldn't call honeydew aphid "spit." It comes out of the posterior end of their digestive tract, something most would consider to be a word with "spit."

Brown Thumb Mama said...

How bizarre! I'd choose chard if I was an aphid, but that's just me. Maybe they're feeling low on Vitamin K?!?

Brown Thumb Mama said...

Weird! If I was an aphid, I would certainly choose chard--but that's just me. Maybe they're feeling low in Vitamin K?!?

UC Davis Good Life Garden said...


Thank you for comment! I let folks know about your astute and witty correction on our Facebook page.

We really appreciate your expertise!


I'm with you on choosing chard...steamed with butter and lemon. Yum!

Best wishes!

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