When you stop for a moment, you walk beside your scented rose bush. There is something wrong with your beautiful flowers.
You get a little closer and find some of the flower stalks and buds covered with pear-shaped bugs, usually green or pink, but they can appear in other colors as well.
What do you do? aphid. Nasty creatures are feeding on your dizzying array of plants, and you need to get rid of them – but how exactly do you fight aphids on roses?
In this article, we discuss the best ways to control an aphid infestation on your precious plants. Even better, we’ll help you understand how to get rid of aphids on roses in your garden . Here’s what we’re going to cover.
Aphids attack almost any living plant on which they can grow tiny, thread-like legs.
These soft bugs belong to the superfamily Aphididae and can be found all over the world, although they are most common in temperate climates.
These tiny pear-shaped insects are usually 2 to 4 millimeters long and come in a variety of colors: black, white, green, pink and orange, to name a few.
Of the 4,000 species of aphids identified, about 250 are considered crop and ornamental pests.
The green or pink three-millimeter macrosiphum rosae are the main attackers of roses, although other species may feast on your roses as well.
They can’t travel very far on those calves, which is why you often see them clustered together on a tree trunk, sometimes with small bodies stacked on top of each other.
Perhaps most terrifying, females are often pregnant with other females by the time they give birth. This does not require males.
These highly fertile females are the result of live births, rather than having to develop in eggs outside the body of the aphid mother, making it easy for aphid numbers to rapidly increase.
But that’s not all. As autumn approaches in temperate regions, these insects mate and lay eggs that contain both males and females. When plants become overcrowded, some of these young aphids develop wings that help them soar through air currents and find new plants to feed on.
Honestly, I think it’s cool, although I’m still not a fan of these bugs.
These insects lay their eggs in the fall, but when the weather is too cold to hatch, they overwinter in the eggs and hatch in the spring.
With about 5 billion species of reproduction (a slight exaggeration), it’s easy to see how aphid populations can skyrocket and cause trouble for plants.
How harmful are Aphids to roses?
Their prolific breeding habits are one reason why it is important to control infection early.
Beetles can cause significant damage to roses, sucking life from flower buds before they have a chance to develop into fragrant flowers, and sucking so much sap from leaves that they wilt.
Because aphids have only one food source: plant sap.
They need to drink a lot of juice to get enough protein to survive.
Sap is high in sugar and low in protein, which is bad news for your rose bushes for two reasons:
First, the more sap the aphids suck, the more your plants will suffer.
Second, the bugs can’t use all the sugar in the sap they drink, so they end up expelling the sugar everywhere in the form of honeydew.
The presence of honeydew then attracts fungal spores that develop into soot mold, a disease caused by a variety of fungi in the genera Aureobasidium, Capnodium, Fumago, Fumiglobus, Limacinula and Scoriasntennariella.
The fungus that causes black mold feeds on honeydew and spreads anywhere it is present on plants.
Oh, ants love honeydew, they’ll protect swarms of aphids to get them, milk them to secrete the sweet stuff, and they’ll drink them.
Naturally it is so strange.
While many people know that ladybugs love to eat aphids – we’ll learn about their role in aphid defense in a moment – you also need to consider the relationship between ladybugs and ants.
Ants don’t eat ladybugs, but when ladybugs feel outnumbered by the ant colony being protected from aphids, they fly away.
So keep an eye out for ants, and if you see them on your rose bushes, target them using the same three aphids recommended below.
But back to soot mold: If your roses are covered in it, plants are less able to absorb the light and nutrients they need to thrive.
Fortunately, soot mold doesn’t infect actual plant tissue, and wiping the mold away can eliminate the problem for the plant. However, this can be troublesome, and a severe infection can even cause the plant to die from lack of proper nutrition, especially if the spread is not controlled.
Unfortunately, aphids also transmit the virus every time they feed on plant sap.
So, how do you keep these pesky pests away from your plants—or get rid of them once they arrive?
Here are the three methods we use the most.
How to get rid of Aphids on Rose
In addition to the three helpful tips listed below, keep in mind that this is always the most important thing when trying to control these pests: Check your plants carefully at least once a week.
Because aphids that attack roses are most commonly green or pink, small populations may not be easy to spot from a distance. Visiting your plants regularly and looking for signs of infection is your first line of defense.
So lean in, smell the roses, and keep your eyes peeled. Check the undersides of developing shoots and leaves, as these pests like to congregate and feed on these places.
It’s also important to note that none of these methods are one-offs when growing roses in the garden.
In most cases, you’ll want to use a combination of these suggested control methods to make sure they’re as effective as possible and prevent bugs from re-infesting your plants.
Now let’s look at each trick in detail.
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1. Attract Aphid Predators to Your Garden
Well, here’s a sad secret: There’s really no effective way to completely prevent aphids from getting close to your plants. If they’re nearby, chances are they’ll find your rose at some point. If you live where plants grow, there will be aphids.
But there are ways to keep their population low.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to grow flowers and herbs that attract beneficial predators near your rose garden, or mix them between plants.
Predators like green lacewings and ladybugs feed off of pollen and nectar, but they don’t hurt plants. And they also eat aphids. Lots of them.
Mature ladybugs (Coccinellidae spp.), which are typically around half an inch in size or smaller, can devour as many as 50 every day.
Their larvae, which look like “little alligators,” according to garden writer Deb Courtner in a 2013 article published in the Denver Post, consume as much as five times that many despite their tiny size – a length of one-quarter of an inch.
And with their black or gray tapered bodies, which are ridged and spotted with orange, the immature ladybugs really do look like little alligators, if you ask me.
Some well-meaning gardeners mistake them for pests, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
To attract ladybugs, plant angelica, chives, cilantro, coreopsis, cosmos, geranium, marigold, oregano, Queen Anne’s lace, and yarrow in your roses, or at least a few feet away from them.
Put a stepping stone in your rose garden too, as ladybugs like to huddle in small enclosed spaces.
Fortunately, lacewings (Chrysopa spp.) feed on many of the same plants as ladybirds, including coreopsis, cosmos, Queen Anne’s lace, and yarrow. Solidago and daisies are also particularly popular.
Adult lacewings are about three-quarters of an inch.
Like ladybug larvae, lacewing larvae also eat aphids. Brown larvae, half an inch long, tapering at the front and rear and thicker in the middle.
Since these predatory insects won’t harm you or your other plants and help keep your rose garden healthy, it’s important to make sure the space is friendly to these insects and predator-friendly.
Do not spray with insecticides, insecticides or fungicides that could kill ladybugs or lacewings.
If you want to ensure the presence of ladybugs and reduce the number of aphids, first create a habitat that welcomes them, and then you can consider buying live ladybugs to release.
Be sure to look for ladybugs that have been raised in captivity, rather than collected from the wild and shipped elsewhere.
Some may just hang out after work is done, although most will eventually fly away.
In the case of an aphid infestation, each large rose bush released 1,500 ladybugs, followed by another group of 1,500 a week later.
Be sure to follow the package directions closely when releasing them to ensure they don’t fly away right away.
One of the most important things is to spray the plants with a light mist of water before releasing the ladybugs. They will appreciate the humidity and encourage them to stay in the area.
Laying down a damp rag where they are released is also a great way to provide them with water and keep them on the battlefield.
Renew the wipes daily for best results.
You can also give your lacewing population a head start by purchasing Arbico Organics’ Green Lacewing Eggs.
Release the eggs as soon as you get them. Spray the leaves with water and distribute the eggs evenly. They should hatch within three to ten days.
2. A Hose Is Your Best Friend for Small Infestations
Let’s say you find a small colony of aphids during your weekly or twice-weekly searches. You may see some insects scattered on the leaves and unopened buds of rose bushes.
In this case, a hose is an ideal deterrent. Use an adjustable spray nozzle—like this one from Orbit, available at Home Depot—to spray the aphids off the rose.
I have this nozzle at home and use a semi-gentle setting like “Shower” or the slightly more powerful “Shallow” to spray the bugs off my flowers.
The best time to spray them is in the morning, to allow enough time for the sun to dry the plants before the chill sets in at night.
After spraying once, check the bushes again the next day. You may need to expel more aphids.
Remember that you should not repeatedly spray your plants with water as this can damage the flowers and leaves.
Try the gentlest spray setting first, and if that doesn’t work, gradually increase the intensity until the aphids are shed. If they keep coming back, you may want to try something else.
This brings us to the third trick.
3. Treat Roses with Organic Pesticides
I’ve never seen it myself, but I love neem trees. Or at least I’m a fan of the oil, which is extracted from the fruit and seeds of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica), an evergreen plant native to the Indian subcontinent and much of Africa .
Neem oil contains the natural insecticide azadirachtin as well as other complex insecticidal components that are not fully understood.
When insects ingest it, azadirachtin acts as a feeding inhibitor, preventing aphids from feeding, and is also toxic to these pests. This causes the unfortunate aphid that eats it to die.
The azadirachtin in neem oil also disrupts the endocrine system of insects, preventing them from laying eggs.
Some neem oils on the market do not contain azadirachtin and are described as a “clarified hydrophobic extract” of neem oil.
While the spray is generally considered safe for our beloved predatory ladybugs and lacewings, it’s not an ideal substance for these insects.
When sprayed in large quantities, it is especially toxic to helpful pollinators such as bees.
Thankfully, ladybugs are less likely to be harmed if you follow label directions.
Neem oil is not a knockdown insecticide because it does not contain chemicals that would kill pests instantly, although it can suffocate any insects that spray it.
Instead, in a nutshell, here’s how it works: You spray it on leaves, new stems, and shoots. Aphids pass by and do an insidious chew. You ingest neem oil with the leaves and get sick, unable to eat and die.
Ladybugs and other predatory insects that don’t chew the leaves are unlikely to ingest neem oil, except by accident.
But if they eat aphids that have eaten neem oil, that can cause problems. Bottom line is to be careful when spraying neem oil and if you can avoid it, don’t use it as a first line of defense.
Insecticidal soap is slightly safer for ladybugs. It kills soft-bodied insects like aphids by entering their bodies and destroying their cells.
Because ladybugs and other predatory insects have hard bodies or wings that keep them away from insecticidal soaps, it poses little risk to our necessary enemies.
I recommend this insecticidal soap from Bonide.
Now that you have the knowledge and organic methods you need to try and stop aphids from damaging your rose plants, you can grow your roses with peace of mind.
In many cases, you will find that you need to use a combination of two or more of these methods to keep aphids away from your roses.
For example, grow herbs and flowers to attract beneficial insects (Tip 1), hose off aphids when you spot small infestations (Tip 2), and spray plants with neem oil or insecticidal soap to stop the bugs from returning in full force (Tip 3) .
All in all, these methods can help keep your roses happy and healthy—while having minimal impact on the environment around your beloved plant.
If you have any other questions about keeping your roses alive and healthy, drop us a comment below! Answer The Question is delighted to hear from you.