Wordless Wednesday–What Do Aphids Tell Us About Spring?

hellebore with aphids

Ah aphids–the insects that Stephen King couldn’t make up if he were trying. What do they tell us about spring? Well, first of all, they tell us that spring is arriving, even if it’s still snowing.

I took the above photo on March 30. On the 31st, we had more snow. I wanted to hurl myself out a window. Luckily, I don’t live or work anyplace tall enough to do myself damage so I restrained myself.

It may be a little difficult to tell but that’s a real close-up of one of the hellebores I got from the Flower show. Both of them have aphids. I was not happy to see that except in the sense that it meant spring had actually arrived.

Why do I insist that’s true? Well, aphids are the first insects out in the spring (and the last to go dormant in the fall). They are the hardiest of the bunch. But even they won’t come out until there’s new growth to feast on. And what sparks new growth? Lengthening days and warmer sun–spring!

I also tried to get a close-up (hence the somewhat weird photo rather than a traditional one.) Notice on the green leaf in the foreground the white specks that look like dust? Those are the nymph stage of the aphids. That’s your first chance to catch them, before they become full bodied, sap suckers.

The real “full-bodied” aphids, as I call them are on the flowers. Again, they might be hard to see. They’re up near the stamens and pistil and are almost translucent. These guys are clever and like to hide so they can do their work and sap the plant of energy before you even notice.

Most of us miss the nymphs completely because they look like dust. But when you’re watering you can often see them floating on the water. Pay close attention. I’m sure they’re out there, waiting to grow up and start affecting your plants too!

And after you wash the aphids off–or spray insecticidal soap–make sure you check all the plants around where the affected plant was. And wipe down the windowsill as well. There are dozens, if not hundreds of nymphs lurking there, just waiting to grow up. That way you won’t wonder, “Where did all these bugs come from?!”

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