Aphids in Aquaponics – Control Methods.

Pest Management Methods.

 

Striped Lady Beetle at work on a Komatsuna leaf. Komatsuna is an Asian style leafy green used in salads and stir fry dishes.

Striped Lady Beetle at work on a Komatsuna leaf. Komatsuna is an Asian style leafy green used in salads and stir fry dishes. See the large aphid to the left bottom of the photo

Aphids are one of the more difficult plant pests to deal with in an Aquaponics fish garden. How do they get into the garden? Usually they are brought in on plants, seedlings that you purchase from a nursery, or carried there by ants from some nearby garden.

Evidently there are around 4000 different types of aphid and at times I am sure most of them have been in my garden at some time!

Controlling them is a little difficult in Aquaponics because we do not have available to us sprayable material such as insecticides that would be commonly used on the regular farm or garden.  We really don't want to use that kind of pest management for a couple of reasons.
1... We want to get away from using dangerous chemicals on our food supply.
2... If we spray that kind of poison we will most likely kill the fish.
3... Poisonous sprays kill beneficial insects as well as destructive insects.

One spray able solution is Neem Oil. This product is an oil extracted from the neem tree which is native to India.  Neem oil is considered to be a non toxic solution and is used as one insect control mechanism on some organic farms.  Neem oil is not very fish friendly so if it is intended to spray this material on your aphid infected plants then great care must be taken to prevent the oil spray drift getting into contact with the water.  This is, in practice, very difficult to do. We spray garlic concentrate, chilli spray, molasses spray regularly in summer but find that these methods help but are not nearly as effective as the use of beneficial insects.

Aphids

Aphids can be seen on the leaf (white insects) and in the middle the predatory wasp Aphidius ervi can be seen.

The best way to control aphids is by the use of “IPM” or Integrated Pest Management. IPM aims to suppress pest populations below the economic injury level (EIL)[i]
Seen here is an aphid infestation that is under attack by parasitic wasps Aphidius ervi
These wasps are multiplying rapidly to cope with the aphid infestation.

In keeping with the underlying mantra of our Aquaponics Garden being an ECO system it would be counterproductive to find some poison to kill the aphids for example, because at the same time we would very likely also despatch any beneficial insects. Particularly threatened by these "poison" approaches is the honey bee, and all would agree that would be disastrous.

The most "all purpose" beneficial insect is the Green Lacewing.

Lacewing

Green Lacewing. Photo by Wikimedia

As the common name implies, adult green lacewings are green, with four clear wings. Adult female lacewings live for approximately three or four weeks and lay up to 600 eggs. The eggs hatch and the insect goes about its task of dealing with a variety of garden pests such as,
Aphids (various species)
Twospotted mite Tetranychus urticae
Greenhouse whitefly Trialeurodes vaporariorum
Scales (various species)
Mealybugs (various species)
Moth eggs and small caterpillars

Lacewing.

Lacewing Larva doing a job on an aphid.
Photo "Bugs for Bugs"

So they are pretty handy to have around the greenhouse.

These can be purchased fairly inexpensively and do a great job.   Visit the “Bugs for Us” website for detailed information on how to purchase these little critters and release them in your garden or farm.

 

Striped Ladybird Beetle - Micraspis frenata

Striped Ladybird Beetle - Micraspis frenata

Here is another insect that we have in our Indy 23 greenhouse doing its share of work on the resident aphid population.
The Striped Ladybird Beetle.

There are 27 main groups of this little beauty that are a very important part of our Integrated Pest Management approach in Aquaponics gardening either for home or in a commercial farm setting.

Striped Ladybird Beetle Photo by Brisbane Insects

Striped Ladybird Beetle
Photo by Brisbane Insects

 

See more info about these wonderful little creatures at Brisbane Insects.

 

 

 

 

[i] "AGP - Integrated Pest Management". Retrieved 21 August 2013.

 

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7 thoughts on “Aphids in Aquaponics – Control Methods.

  1. Integrated Pest Management seems to be a sensible option in control of aphids.I never imagined there were so many types(4000) as I can only remember them in my grandmothers rose bushes.The insect screens on my shade house plans and double entrance doors to the dome are designed for bio-security.I,m now having second thoughts about incorporating this as the aphids could fit through the screens but not the lady birds or bees.Pollinating with a fine artist brush from flower to flower I,ve found has draw backs as some are still buds later flowering and others earlier blossoms are dropping petals..Bees are best I,m now convinced. A Neem soap cocktail garlic chilli might coat plants leaves if careful spaying leaves.Pyre-thrum I note is toxic to fish/yabbies as well as insects.

  2. Hi Murray, I appreciate the info. I tried lacewing larva in my greenhouse last year…approximately 6,000 in a 20×30 GH. I would see them for a couple of weeks after applying, but then they would mysteriously disappear. I’m sure they weren’t going hungry because I had a major insect infestation. My GH has screened windows and a large fan that is connected to a thermostat. I do have a large amount of spiders in it so I thought that maybe they might be the problem. I would greatly appreciate your thoughts, thank you.

    • Hi Antonia,
      I find that we have to keep doing new releases every month. Sounds expensive but still way cheaper than one would pay for traditional pesticides (which we would not want to do anyway, but just a comparison)
      We make no attempt to keep all insects out of our greenhouses. It is almost impossible anyway.

  3. Wonderful article with good advice! A
    Working with a local school district in SSE Alaska having serious aphid problems for two years that is preventing production of sellable produce. Looking at passing next as beetles did not survive well enough to control the aphids. Aquaponics fish also seem to be dying off as well! Pat Tierney, Thorne Bay, Alaska