What Is An Aphid Midge?
An aphid midge is a small insect that looks like a white fly with black spots. They are very common in lawns and gardens. Their larvae feed on plant sap, causing it to become discolored or even brownish-red in color. When the plants are damaged, the damage may not appear immediately until the next growing season when new growth appears from the dead areas.
The adults do not bite humans, but they can cause minor skin irritation if touched. However, they are harmless to most animals. Some insects eat aphids, but others don’t. There are no known diseases caused by these tiny creatures.
How Do You Get Rid Of Them?
You cannot kill them all; some will survive the winter and spring thawing out of hibernation and emerge again in the summertime. If you have infested plants, however, they will die within two weeks.
They can be controlled naturally using natural methods such as applying sulfur around your garden or applying products containing pyrethrum (such as Safer Brand Organic Pyrethrin). These chemicals work well on grasses and other non-woody plants. However, there are many different varieties of aphids and their life cycles vary greatly depending upon the type of plant being attacked. Thus, you may need to rotate your control methods and apply different chemicals to different plants.
You can also try to attract carnivorous insects such as ladybugs and hover flies that will eat the aphids. I wouldn’t encourage this approach unless you have a serious aphid problem.
Finding Their Eggs And Immature Stages
The eggs can be found on the undersides of the leaves or in cracks of the soil. These eggs are tiny and surrounded by a foamy substance. The young aphids are known as “nymphs”. They appear as small, fat, white, and blind creatures. The nymphs mature into adults in about a week.
The female aphids are always ready to lay eggs.
While these may not sound like concerns, they soon become one if the garden is not tended properly. If left unchecked, the aphid population can grow out of control and cause serious damage to your plants.
The Life Cycle Of The Aphid Midge
The life cycle of the aphid midge consists of four stages: egg, nymph, adult, and dead. While the adults do not bite, they can cause skin irritation if touched. The aphid midge eggs are very small and look like tiny grains of white sand. If you find these, you will also notice that the leaves they are on are almost completely covered with a sticky, clear liquid. The eggs hatch in about a week’s time, and the larvae begin to feed immediately.
The aphid midge nymphs are small and white, and cannot be mistaken for anything else. They are immobile and require the plant sap as nourishment. As they feed upon the leaves, the plants will wilt and become discolored. If left unchecked, the plant will die.
The adult aphids are small, white flying insects. They have two-tone wings and can be hard to see, as they fly from leaf to leaf very quickly. Their bodies are about the size of a pinhead when fully grown, and they have long hairs extending from their abdomen. These are the aphids that do the actual feeding upon the plants.
The life cycle of the aphid midge is very short for an insect, as they go from egg to adult in about a week. The entire life span of the average aphid is only about 3 weeks.
Getting Rid Of Aphid Midges
There are many ways to destroy aphids and their eggs, but you need to act quickly. Delays will only allow them to increase their population size and move to new plants. There are two basic strategies for dealing with an aphid infestation: 1) mechanical removal, and 2) chemical control.
You can kill aphids simply by wiping them off the plant. This can be done using your fingers. Just place your index finger and thumb around the insect, then pull it off the plant. A better way is to use a cloth. This can be done by taking a cloth or piece of paper and wiping the leaves in a firm, circular motion.
This removes the insects but also spreads the sticky honeydew that they excrete. It is important to clean the plants later to get rid of this extra goo.
There are several ways to deal with aphids using chemicals. One way is to introduce a natural predator. These include ladybugs and other “aphid lions.” These will kill many of the aphids on contact, but only remain effective for about a week. There are also several chemical sprays that you can get at a local store.
These should be effective for about a month.
Note: Before you buy any chemicals, read the label to ensure that it is safe to use on the specific plants that have the aphid infestation.
The best way to deal with the aphid midge is to prevent them from infesting your plants in the first place. This means keeping all plants free of aphids before they hatch into aphid midges. You can do this by performing a weekly check. Just look at the plants, and if you see any aphids or suspicious white dots, remove them immediately. Also, make sure that plants are not overcrowded or growing in poor soil.
These conditions encourage the spread of disease and infestation.
Insecticides can also be used to prevent the population from growing. This should only be used if you already have aphids on your plants, as preventative measures have not been proven effective.
Other options include:
Colonies of ants love to eat aphids, so it might help to plant some ant-friendly plants in your garden.
Elevate your garden above ground, as this makes it harder for aphids to access your plants. A simple DIY project could do the trick.
Release ladybugs into your garden. These will kill many of the aphids on contact.
Summing It All Up
The aphid midge is a tiny, plant-sucking insect that can be found in many gardens. They breed very quickly, with each female laying about 100 eggs in her short lifetime. The eggs hatch into nymphs and mature into adults in about a week.
Fortunately, these insects have natural enemies, such as ladybugs and other predators. There are also several ways of protecting your garden from infestation. Make sure to keep your garden clean, with no dead leaves or plants lying around. This will prevent the spread of disease and encourage healthy growth.
If you do see aphids, don’t panic. They can be killed using several different techniques. You can also use pesticides, but this is not recommended as it could cause more harm than good in the long run.
Sources & references used in this article:
The aphid midge Aphidoletes aphidimyza (Diptera, Cecidomyiidae) and its use in biological control of aphids. by M Markkula, K Tiitanen, M Hamalainen… – Annales Entomologici …, 1979 – cabdirect.org
Some effects of polyphagous predators on an outbreak of cereal aphid (Sitobion avenae F.) and orange wheat blossom midge (Sitodoplosis mosellana Gehin) by JM Holland, SR Thomas, A Hewitt – Agriculture, ecosystems & environment, 1996 – Elsevier
Relative importance of predators and parasitoids for cereal aphid control by MH Schmidt, A Lauer, T Purtauf… – … of the Royal …, 2003 – royalsocietypublishing.org
Hyperpredation by generalist predatory mites disrupts biological control of aphids by the aphidophagous gall midge Aphidoletes aphidimyza by GJ Messelink, CMJ Bloemhard, JA Cortes, MW Sabelis… – Biological Control, 2011 – Elsevier