How to Get Rid of Aphids on Citrus Trees: A Guide to Protecting Your Citrus Orchard

Paul West/ Backyard Gardening

If you’ve noticed curled, discolored leaves or sticky residue on your lemon, lime, orange or other citrus trees, you may have an aphid infestation. So, how to get rid of aphids on citrus trees? Good question and here’s the short answer.

Aphids are tiny sap-sucking insects that can quickly multiply and cause major damage. Getting rid of aphids on citrus trees takes diligence, but it’s important for the health and productivity of your trees.

By identifying aphids early and using a combination of organic sprays, beneficial insects, pruning and other strategies, you can remove and prevent future aphid problems.

Now let’s explore the issue of aphids on citrus trees in much more detail, looking at how to identify them, effective treatment methods, and long-term prevention. With the right approach, you can have aphid-free citrus trees.

Key Takeaways

  • Look for signs like sticky honeydew, sooty mold, and curled leaves to identify aphids.
  • Try organic solutions first, like insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils, beneficial insects.
  • Targeted insecticides can control heavy infestations but should be a last resort.
  • Prevent aphids through companion planting, garden maintenance, and monitoring.
  • Encourage natural predators and understand the aphid life cycle for sustainable management.

Identifying Aphid Infestations

The first step in getting rid of aphids on citrus trees is learning to identify them. Here are some of the most common species and signs of infestation:

Types of Aphids on Citrus Trees

Green citrus aphid: Pale green and up to 2mm long. Tends to cluster on new growth.

Black citrus aphid: Shiny black aphids found on undersides of leaves. Cause leaves to curl.

Brown citrus aphid: Brown pear-shaped aphids that feed on young leaves and fruit.

Cotton aphid: Distinctive white fuzzy coating on these pests. Attracted by new growth.

Melon aphid: Green with dark feet and cornicles. Feeds on stems and leaves.

Familiarize yourself with their appearance so you can identify them in your orchard and know how to target treatment. Aphids tend to congregate on the undersides of leaves and at the tips of branches with tender new growth.

Signs of Infestation

Aphid damage can look like:

  • Curling, yellowing, or distorted leaves
  • Sticky honeydew coating on leaves
  • Growth of sooty mold
  • Presence of ants, which feed on honeydew
  • Stunted shoot growth
  • Flower and fruit drop

Inspect leaves carefully, especially new growth and undersides. Check for the presence of live aphids, not just damage. The sooner you catch an infestation, the easier it will be to get rid of aphids.

Methods to Get Rid of Aphids

Once you confirm an aphid problem, it’s time to start treatment. Here are effective options for controlling aphids organically and with targeted chemicals:

Organic Aphid Treatments

Insecticidal soap: Potassium salts of fatty acids that dissolve the insect’s outer layer. Spray liberally on infested areas.

Horticultural oils: Smother and suffocate aphids. Use dormant oils in winter or summer oils during growing season.

Neem oil: Botanical insecticide that repels and kills aphids. Apply as foliar spray focusing on undersides of leaves.

Strong water spray: Blast aphids off leaves and branches with a strong jet of water. Repeat every few days.

Beneficial insects: Let nature work for you. Ladybugs, green lacewings, and other predators feed on aphids. Attract them to your orchard or purchase and release them.

Reflective mulch: Silver-coated plastic mulch repels aphids and other pests while also suppressing weeds, conserving water, and preventing soil erosion.

Start with gentler methods like soapy water for light infestations. Bring in the big guns like neem oil for heavy infestations, and combine multiple tactics at once. Always follow label directions exactly.

Chemical Aphid Control

If organic options haven’t resolved your aphid problem, targeted chemical insecticides may be warranted:

  • Horticultural oils formulated with insecticides like pyrethrins
  • Insecticidal soaps combined with plant-based pyrethrins
  • Botanical insecticides with neem oil or essential oils
  • Synthetic insecticides like malathion, dimethoate, methidathion

Avoid broad-spectrum and systemic insecticides, which can kill beneficial insects. Only use selective chemicals targeted for aphids. Carefully follow all safety precautions and application guidelines.

Preventing Aphids on Citrus Trees

Getting rid of existing aphids is only half the battle. You also need to take preventive measures to stop future infestations:

Companion Planting

Certain plants naturally help repel aphids. Intersperse these throughout your orchard:

  • Alliums like garlic, chives, onion
  • Herbs like spearmint, basil, dill
  • Marigolds and nasturtiums
  • Radishes and other brassicas

You can also attract beneficial insects with flowers like cosmos, sunflowers, and buckwheat.

Regular Maintenance

  • Check regularly for aphids, especially when pruning or watering
  • Remove any heavily infested branches
  • Keep area free of weeds
  • Remove and destroy any dropped leaves/fruit with aphids
  • Disinfect pruning tools between trees

The vigilant gardener catches infestations early before they get out of hand. Stay on top of monitoring and maintenance.

Sustainable Aphid Management

For long-term aphid prevention, take an integrated pest management approach:

Encourage Natural Predators

Ladybugs, syrphid flies, lacewings, and other beneficial insects are your best defense. Avoid pesticides that harm populations of these predators. Plant flowers and herbs to attract and provide food sources for them.

Understand the Aphid Life Cycle

Most aphids overwinter as eggs on branches, emerging in spring. Control them early before populations explode in warmer months. Target immature nymphs, which are easiest to kill.

Monitor and Make Informed Decisions

Check weekly for aphids. At the first sign, use selective organic treatments. Avoid overusing any single method to prevent resistance. Rotate among multiple strategies.


Controlling aphids on citrus trees requires persistence and an integrated approach. Start by properly identifying them and acting quickly once discovered. Use a combination of gentle organic measures first like soapy water, horticultural oils, and beneficial insects. Turn to targeted insecticides only if needed. Prevent future infestations through companion planting, maintenance, and monitoring. With diligence, you can safely get rid of aphids and maintain healthy, productive citrus trees.

For more details on specific aphid treatments and prevention methods, check out these additional resources:

With the right information and strategies, you can keep your citrus trees thriving and aphid-free for seasons to come. Don’t hesitate to consult a professional if needed for diagnosis or severe infestations. Wishing you bountiful lemons, oranges, limes and more with minimal pest problems!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Some Organic Sprays That Kill Aphids?

Some effective organic aphid killers are insecticidal soaps, neem oil, and horticultural oils. Soap sprays work by dissolving the waxy outer coating and membranes of soft-bodied insects like aphids. Neem oil contains azadirachtin, which repels and disrupts the reproduction and metamorphosis of aphids. Oils like dormant horticultural oil smother aphids on contact. Always follow label directions. Start with gentler soaps first before moving to stronger insecticides like neem oil.

How Do You Get Rid of Aphids on Citrus Trees Naturally?

Natural ways to remove aphids without insecticides include spraying them off with a strong jet of water, introducing beneficial predators like ladybugs or lacewings, using reflective mulch to deter them, and companion planting with aphid-repelling flowers and herbs. You can also apply organic sprays made with ingredients like soapy water, neem oil, or horticultural oils. Attract natural aphid predators by avoiding broad-spectrum chemicals and planting flowers they feed on. Monitor regularly to catch infestations early before they multiply.

What Is the Best Insecticide for Aphids?

For heavy aphid infestations, insecticidal soap is the best organic insecticide choice. It effectively kills soft-bodied insects through membrane disruption but has low toxicity to mammals and beneficial species. Synthetic chemical options containing pyrethrins or neonicotinoids can also control large aphid populations but have greater environmental impact. Avoid overuse of any single insecticide to prevent resistance. Combine multiple inorganic and organic treatments and rotate among them.

How Do You Keep Aphids Off Citrus Trees?

Prevent aphids from recurring with these tips: Inspect trees weekly for early detection. Remove infested branches and leaves. Disinfect pruning tools after each cut. Use a strong stream of water to dislodge aphids. Apply horticultural oils or insecticidal soap before bugs multiply. Introduce predatory insects and avoid pesticides that kill them. Plant nasturtiums, chives, radish and other companion plants around the orchard. Monitor for overwintering eggs and kill them before nymphs emerge.

What Damage Do Aphids Cause to Citrus Trees?

Aphids weaken citrus trees by sucking sap from leaves, shoots, flowers, and fruit. Their saliva is toxic and causes twisted, curled leaves. Large populations stunt growth. The honeydew they secrete leads to sooty mold fungi growth on leaves and fruit. Aphids spread debilitating citrus diseases like citrus tristeza virus. Severe infestations can reduce fruit yields, kill branches and entire trees. Keeping trees vigorous with minimal aphids is key to productive orchards.

How Do You Identify Aphids?

Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied insects less than 1/8 inch long. Look for clustering colonies of green, black, brown or white bugs on the undersides of leaves and tips of new growth. Other signs are sticky honeydew coating, sooty mold, wilting leaves, and attendance of ants feeding on the honeydew. A 10x hand lens can help see aphids on buds and shoots. Monitor regularly so infestations can be treated early before expanding exponentially.

Paul West
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About Paul West

Longstanding and passionate about really having family fun in the backyard. I'm no expert but I've picked up a thing or two along the way!