Privet aphid

Privet aphid can cause leaf curling and distortion on privet (Ligustrum), this is usually of little concern. .

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Privet aphid (Myzus ligustri) on Privet (Ligustrum)

Quick facts

Common name Privet aphid
Latin name Myzus ligustri
Plants affected Privet (Ligustrum)
Main symptoms Leaf curling and distortion
Caused by Sap-sucking aphids 
Timing Spring-summer

What is privet aphid?

The privet aphid is a small (1.5mm) greenish yellow aphid that only feeds on privet (Ligustrum)
Aphids are sap-sucking true bugs and are an important part of many food chains, supporting many predators. They range in size from 1 to 7mm (¼in or less) long. Some aphids are known as greenfly or blackfly, but there are species that are yellow, pink, white or mottled.  There are more than 500 aphid species in Britain. Some feed on only one or two plant species, but others can be found on a wide range of plant hosts. Almost any plant can be affected, including ornamentals, vegetables, fruits, greenhouse plants and houseplants.

Symptoms

Privet aphid is active during the spring and early summer, when its sap-feeding activities cause the leaves to yellow and curl. Damage is typically minor and can be tolerated. Plants usually make a recovery later in the summer when the aphids are no longer active on the plant.

Control

While the damage privet aphid causes can be unsightly, damage is often minor, plants normally recover and may not be affected every year and so control is often unnecessary.  

Check privet frequently from spring onwards so action can be taken before a damaging population has developed.

Non-pesticide control

  • Where possible tolerate populations of aphids, they form an important part of many food chains and can be part of a healthy garden ecosystem 
  • Use finger and thumb to squash aphid colonies where practical
  • Encourage aphid predators in the garden, such as ladybirds, ground beetles, hoverflies, parasitoid wasps and earwigs. Be aware that in spring aphid populations often build up before natural enemies are active in sufficient numbers and then give good control

Pesticide control

The RHS believes that avoiding pests, diseases and weeds by good practice in cultivation methods, cultivar selection, garden hygiene and encouraging or introducing natural enemies, should be the first line of control. If chemical controls are used, they should be used only in a minimal and highly targeted manner.

On long dense hedges treatment with pesticides is often impractical.

  • Organic sprays, such as natural pyrethrum (e.g. Bug Clear Gun for Fruit & Veg, Neudorff Bug Free Bug and Larvae Killer), fatty acids (e.g. Doff Greenfly & Blackfly Killer) or plant oils (e.g. Vitax Plant Guard Pest & Disease Control, Bug Clear for Fruit and Veg) can give good control of aphids. These pesticides have a very short persistence and so may require reapplication to keep aphid numbers in check. Plant oil and fatty acid products are less likely to affect larger insects such as ladybird adults
  • Plant invigorators combine nutrients to stimulate plant growth with surfactants or fatty acids that have a physical mode of action against aphids (e.g. Ecofective Bug Control, RHS Bug and Mildew Control, SB Plant Invigorator and Westland Resolva Natural Power Bug & Mildew). These products contain some synthetic ingredients and so are not considered organic
  • More persistent contact-action insecticides include the synthetic pyrethroids lambda-cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Bug Killer), deltamethrin (e.g. Provanto Ultimate Fruit & Vegetable Bug Killer, Provanto Sprayday Greenfly Killer) and cypermethrin (e.g. Py Bug Killer)
  • A systemic containing the active ingredient Flupyradifurone (Provanto Smart Bug Killer) is available for use on ornamentals and selected edibles
  • The systemic neonicotinoid insecticide acetamiprid (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra) is also available
Follow label instructions when using pesticides
Plants in flower should not be sprayed due to the danger to bees and other pollinating insects
Inclusion of a pesticide product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by RHS Gardening Advice. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener

Downloads

Pesticides for gardeners  (pdf document)

Biology

Privet aphid, Myzus ligustri is found throughout the year on privet (Ligustrum species). Sexual forms are produced in November and lay eggs. The eggs hatch in spring and colonies develop on the leaves, reaching a peak in midsummer.

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