Spring has sprung and aphids are on the march.
Often smaller than a grain of rice, the tiny, sap-sucking pests can be a huge problem for the home gardener seeking big blooms from flowering plants.
Roses, chrysanthemums, certain trees and cash crops are susceptible to aphid infestations that can stunt plant growth and even cause a plant to die.
But how does one keep aphids in check? From chemicals to organic remedies to ladybugs, local plant and insect experts say there are different methods on the market and others on the kitchen sink.
Systemic pesticides, which are typically mixed with water, are poured on the ground around a plant and are absorbed into the plant through its root system, said Vern Weigum, owner of Weigum's Lodi Nursery. Other pesticides, such as Isotox or Orthene, mix with water and are sprayed onto plants.
The city of Lodi has had aphid infestations in its crepe myrtle and tulip trees, said Assistant Street Superintendent Curt Juran. But unless a plant is in danger of dying, city crews leave the aphids alone since they always seem to return to treated plants.
"You can't really kill them," Juran said. "It's more of an inconvenience."
A new addition to the anti-aphid arsenal is a product called All-In-One, a combination of fertilizer, pesticide and fungicide that mixes with water and is poured around the base of the plant.
For an all-natural way to rid a garden of aphids, many people turn to the pest's natural predator: ladybugs.
Some anti-aphid measures can be as simple as a garden hose. Weigum said a stream of water is the method he prefers at his nursery.
"I don't like to use insecticides if I don't have to," Weigum said.
Soap mixed with water can kill aphids, Weigum said, but can kill the plant, too.
For someone who makes a living off exotic flowers, aphids can be a real problem.
In fact, aphids are one of the main problem pests for chrysanthemums, said Ted King, senior partner of King's Mums, a Clements nursery that specializes in exotic chrysanthemums.
"They're one of the most prolific insects we have," King said.
Though some horticulturists prefer to use organic pesticides instead of their chemical counterparts, King said he relies on systemic chemical insecticides, the type absorbed through root systems.
"We have found over the years that systemic insecticides are more effective for long-term control," King said.
Organic pesticides must be applied more frequently than chemical pesticides and users should steadily monitor their plants to make sure aphids are kept in check, King said.
According to Brad Schrenk, a pest control advisor for Idaho-based agribusiness firm Simplot, aphids can attack potatoes and tomatoes and be especially detrimental to asparagus crops, but not vineyards. Farmers spray their asparagus fields for aphids, Schrenk said. Winged adult aphids, as with other sap-sucking pests, also effectively spread plant diseases, Schrenk said.
When found hear a home, Schrenk said, aphids can lead to more problems: ants.
When aphids digest the sugars in a plant they secrete a waste called "honeydew," a sweet, sticky substance that attracts some ants. Ants that eat the honeydew will protect the aphids from other parasites, Schrenk said.
The city has used insecticidal soap when aphids have endangered the life of a tree, Juran said. A mix of mild soap and water thwarts aphids at the Juran household, he said.
For someone with a small garden an organic pesticide will work fine, Schrenk said.
"If you've got five rose bushes, you can go out there each day and spray them," Schrenk said.
Contact reporter Jake Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org.