Several years ago I commissioned some t-shirts sporting the phrase “Say Yes to Aphids.” Originally the designers had proposed saying No to aphids. I stopped to think about why we were saying No to aphids. Sure, aphids can cause problems in orchards. But are they really big problems? And did those problems outweigh the benefits of having them there?
Years ago our industry used to spray really noxious stuff just to kill aphids. In the past few decades we’re moved to much softer approaches, but still view aphids as the “enemy.” I on the other hand view aphids a beneficial part of the orchard ecosystem. Despite the damage that aphids cause, their presence is good because they also act as a prey base for many other beneficial predator insects (good insects that eat bad ones). Without this prey base these other beneficial populations would not survive as vibrantly as they do with a favorite food.
This is not to say that aphids don’t get out of control. They do. And when they do I approach any controls not with the purpose of knocking them out completely, but by reducing the population in a way that preserves the predator/prey populations we create a sound orchard environment where we need to treat less for aphids (because they can and will cause problems if they get out of control) while feeding other beneficials that’ll take care of various insect pests.
And when we do need to take care of them (aka “treat” them) we’ll (Red Jacket Orchards) will begin using biological controls instead of synthetic chemistries. This is our commitment to a sustainable future and healthy environments. For now, I say “Yes” to aphids. Bon appetit my little friends!