The Aphid Midge will tackle a wide range of aphid species and is particularly useful for controlling aphids in early and late season.
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Aphidoletes aphidimyza is a midge with predatory larvae that can control many aphid species. Adults are about 2mm long and lay eggs in colonies of aphids. Eggs hatch in 2-3 days and the orange-red larvae immediately start to search for aphids. Larvae inject a poison into the aphid to paralyse it and dissolve the body contents. The larvae take 7-16 days to mature before pupating in soil or compost and adults emerge after 10-14 days.
Aphids are a few mm across, so you should be able to see them without a magnifying glass. Look for little pear-shaped bodies with thin spindly legs and pipes called "cornicles" at the bottom of their abdomen. They don't move around very fast because they are usually in the process of feeding. Look out for aphids from Spring to Autumn, and it's much better to treat for aphids before they build up big colonies.
Some of the more common species found in greenhouses include the green peach aphid (Myzus persicae) which vary in colour from pale yellow to green to pinkish-red and the melon or cotton aphid (Aphis gossypii) and the black bean aphid (Aphis Fabae). There is also an aphid that specialises in brassicas called the Mealy cabbage aphid (Brevicoryne brassicae)
Why control or treat for aphids?
Aphids suck the sap out of the leaves and stems of the host plants, weakening them and causing distortion to emerging flowers and leaves. Bad Aphid infestations are very debilitating. The buds don't swell fully, and often the flowers and fruit are small. Unchecked an infestation can wipe out seedlings and young plants so it is best to introduce controls for aphids as soon as you find aphids in the garden.
It's not just the physical damage that aphids do but because aphids feed directly on the sap they are thought to be responsible for passing on viruses and other pathogens from plant to plant.
You won't be able to see any holes or bite marks because aphids feed by jabbing their long sharp mouth parts into the soft parts of the plant and sucking out the juices into their body.
Aphids excrete a sticky honeydew which turns black in damp conditions, resulting in sooty mould. This blocks the leaf pores and cuts out light falling on the leaves, apart from being quite unsightly, this sooty mould can starve the plant by blocking photosynthesis. Early aphid treatment will prevent all these problems.
Instructions for use
Place the box of cocoons on the ground near the problem plants, or hang it amongst the branches. Tear open the back of the box so the midges can fly away when they are hatched. The box should be in a warm moist place – not too hot and dry. Usually its best to put them in the shade of a plant and angle the opening so the water can’t fill up the box.
Adults eat honeydew (the residue from aphid attacks) and thrive best at about 20-26 degrees with high humidity. When the short days of autumn arrive the insects slow down and may overwinter as pupae.
The adult life span is 7-10 days, but it might be shorter if there is a lack of honeydew. Dry conditions also shorten life span. Mating usually occurs after sunset or before sunrise or on a fresh and shady place low in the crop. In nature the pupa enters diapause from end September till May (in temperate regions). In the greenhouse this diapause is interrupted by higher temperatures from early spring.