Aphids (Family Aphididae). This is one bug I think most people can identify immediately. They are small, soft-bodied, and pear-shaped insects in the order Hemiptera (true bugs). These are related to other pests such as mealy bugs, whiteflies, and scale insects. Most also have little protrusions from their abdomen, called cornicles. The cornicles’ purpose has often been misidentified but recently we now have confirmed they release a fatty alarm pheromone to alert other aphids of danger such as parasitoids or predators.
Damage is hard to spot until you have large populations. Like whiteflies, their piercing-sucking mouthparts suck sap causing yellowing or dry leaves but most of the damage is indirect. They can excrete a sugary product known as honeydew that causes some leaves to be sticky or encourages growth of sooty mold. They also are known to transmit almost 200 plant diseases which causes the most devastation to gardens and crops.
Depending on the local climate, they can breed year round.
All continents excluding Antarctica
Aphids are so small and light they can be transported by wind! You could be the most tedious gardener and still get aphids.
Infestations seem to be prevented as long as plants are kept very healthy. Focusing on undersides of leaves and “nooks”, spray a good amount of water to knock them off. You can also use insecticidal soaps and neem oil to cut down populations. Additionally, there are many beneficial insects available to buy and release to control populations. As always, pesticides are available and are only suggested to be used carefully and mindfully during heavy infestations.
Aphids reproduce more effectively and efficiently than most insects. They can exhibit parthenogenesis, which means the females do not need a mate in order to produce viable offspring. They can also control which times of years have higher male or female individuals. Because some species can have over 40 generations in a year, theoretically billions of aphids could be created from a single female in that time span!!!