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Fruit trees and bushes can be attacked by sap sucking aphids (commonly known as greenfly, blackfly or plant lice) during spring and summer. These may cause distortion reduce plant vigour and spread plant viruses.
Aphid damage on fruit tree shoot
Aphids are sap sucking true bugs often called blackfly, greenfly or plant lice. There are more than 500 species found in the UK. Most of the fruits grown in gardens can be affected by at least one species of aphid.
Many of the aphids attacking fruits have similar life cycles. They overwinter on the trees and bushes as eggs which are laid in crevices in the bark or near buds. Aphid eggs are usually shiny black, about 1mm long and ovoid in shape. They hatch in spring, as the buds begin to open, and the nymphs feed on the new growth. Aphids reproduce rapidly and their numbers reach a peak on the fruit host during late spring to early summer.
Winged aphids develop and migrate away from the fruit tree or bush in early summer, sometimes leading to the infestation on teh fruit host dying out . The aphids spend the summer on herbaceous plants. In the autumn winged aphids are again produced which fly back to the fruit tree (winter host) to mate and lay eggs. The summer host is often a wild plant and since the aphids disperse widely when they migrate, it is not possible to control them by treating or removing the summer host.
Some aphids, for example woolly aphid, and brown peach aphid, do not have a summer host and instead remain on fruit trees throughout the year.
Fruit aphids can reduce the plant's vigour and affect yield by sucking sap from leaves, stems and sometimes the fruits of trees.
Many aphids also have substances in their saliva that cause a variety of symptoms, such as stunted growth, leaf curling, distorted fruits and discoloration of the foliage.
Some virus diseases, especially of soft fruits (e.g. raspberry viruses and strawberry viruses), can be transmitted by aphids as they move from one plant to another. Infected plants may show stunted growth, leaf mottling or other symptons.
Aphids excrete a sugary substance, known as honeydew that makes the foliage and fruits sticky and can attract ants. A black sooty mould often grows on the honeydew, which reduces the amount of sunlight reaching the leaves and can spoil the appearance of the fruit.
Fruit aphid infestations are often not noticed until the plants are showing obvious signs of damage in the spring and early summer. In some cases by this time the damage is done and the aphids may have already left for their summer hosts making control measures redundant.
Aphids have many natural enemies including ladybirds, hoverfly larvae, lacewing larvae and parasitic wasps. Populations of these natural enemies can help keep aphid numbers in check. Earwigs have been shown to reduce aphid infestations on apple trees and potentially other tree fruits. Indiscriminate use of pesticides can reduce the numbers of these useful predators.
Some pesticide active ingredients and brand names:
Note: There are limitations on the products that can be used on food plants always check that the food plant is listed on the label and follow the manufactures instructions regarding harvest interval and maximum number of applications for the fruit concerned.
Inclusion of a pesticide product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by the RHS. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener.
Pesticides for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining pesticides available to gardeners)
Blackcurrant big bud mite
Chemical labels explained
Chemicals: using a sprayer
Chemicals: using safely and effectively
Currant blister aphid
Green spruce aphid
Mealy cabbage aphid
Pear bedstraw aphid
Raspberry and blackberry aphids
RHS statement on pesticides in horticulture
Rose root aphid
Rosy apple aphid
Willow bark aphid
Woolly beech aphid
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