Aphids are sap suckers that destroy plants and vegetation. But nature has a balance to everything – and as aphids eat plants, there are those that eat them too. So, what eats aphids? Let’s find out.
Aphids are tiny sap-sucking bugs that are dreaded common plant pests. So, protecting your plants from the aphid population is very important. But how would you do that?
Thankfully, these insect species have some natural enemies, including birds and several other beneficial insects.
The good thing is that aphids can be removed from your garden naturally, without using chemicals on them, which, more or less, would affect your plants as well.
So, who are these beneficial insects that can take care of entire aphid colonies without you having to spread insecticide all over your garden? In this article, we shall find out.
Which Are the Bugs That Eat Up Aphids?
There are more than 4,000 aphid species in the world right now. They can destroy plants and entire gardens. But insects like ladybugs, lacewings, damsel bugs, spiders, wasps, and several others can finish them off in no time. Let’s find out more about them.
Whether it’s brown or green lacewings, both feed on aphids. They are also available commercially as adult lacewings, eggs, or lacewing larvae. Lacewing larvae are also useful in destroying aphid colonies.
Lady beetles are the most common bugs available to kill aphids. They are also commercially available in the market for garden supply.
All lady beetles do not feed on all aphids, so you have to be sure which one you are buying. Moreover, some lady beetles choose to feed on mites and other insects as well. Their larvae also feed on common pests like aphids, thrips, and smaller insects.
These greyish-brown bugs have a needle-like mouth to pierce the aphids before feeding on them. These bugs are, however, not available for commercial use as of now.
Damsel bugs can eat one aphid a day when they are young and up to a dozen eggs when they grow older.
Do Ladybugs Eat Aphids?
Ladybugs are quite popular for eating aphids as well as many other pests such as thrips and hornworms.
While most people recognize adult ladybugs as pest killers, larvae are more potent than even adult ladybugs since they can eat twice the amount of aphids at the same time.
Ladybugs are also available commercially, but one must follow the instructions given on the packaging before releasing them into the farm or garden. They need to be frozen before releasing, and you should provide a good source of water at all times to them.
An unchecked aphid infestation can leave sooty mold on the leaves, which can cause a lot of damage to the plant. Ladybugs can quickly wipe out large aphid populations and prevent this from happening.
If you wish to attract ladybugs naturally to your garden, plant their favorite plants, such as nasturtiums, cosmos, yarrow, etc., in your garden. Moreover, make sure to provide a good source of water, like a birdbath or a small utensil filled with water.
How Many Aphids Can a Single Ladybug Eat in a Day?
A single ladybug can eat about 50 aphids daily and about 5,000 in its lifetime. However, it’s the larvae you should look to if you want to get rid of an aphid infestation.
Ladybug larvae can eat around 100 (or more) aphids, along with other pests, in a single day and are a boon for the host plants.
Do Asian Lady Beetles Eat Aphids?
Asian lady beetle preys on aphids along with other insects. A single Asian lady beetle can eat up to 270 aphids daily, which is quadruple the amount of what a regular ladybug can consume.
Its larvae can feed on more than 1,000 aphids during their lifetime. Larvae take about a month to reach the adult stage, and adult beetles can live up to three years in your garden.
Do Praying Mantis Eat Aphids?
Praying mantis are carnivores and can eat any insect that they catch, including aphids. Although they would prefer to consume larger insects and bugs, they do eat arthropods such as butterflies, termites, beetles, crickets, and even spiders.
These voracious eaters can eat both flying and ground-dwelling creatures. They are such strong predators that even the smallest praying mantis don’t shy away from preying on insects and bugs much larger than them.
Praying mantis’ have a unique way of catching their prey. They remain very still and extend their forward limbs in what looks like a praying position (hence the name).
The prey confuses them for a twig, and the minute it comes near it, the mantis lunges on them and starts feeding.
Do Spiders Eat Aphids?
Yes, several species of spiders eat aphids, along with other insects, including termites and flies. They catch their prey in their web and feed on them, especially when they are indoors.
However, spiders can also catch and consume aphids as a food source out in the garden.
Do Wasps Eat Aphids?
Yes, predatory wasps can eat aphids, flies, and other garden pests. However, another category of wasps, known as parasitoid wasps, uses aphids as hosts.
Aphid wasps are predatory wasps known for laying their eggs in the cracks in the branches.
However, they can also locate aphid colonies from where they can carry aphids to their eggs for the larvae to feed on them during their metamorphosis.
Unlike Aphid wasps, parasitic wasps don’t kill or feed on aphids. However, the adult female deposits her eggs in the aphid’s body.
When the larvae grow into adult wasps, they emerge from the aphid’s body, naturally killing them. In either case, aphids are killed directly or indirectly by the larvae.
Do Flies Eat Aphids?
Even though there are not many types of flies that eat aphids, some, like hoverflies (also known as flower flies or syrphid flies), may contribute to removing aphids.
The larvae of hoverflies eat up aphids along with other soft-bodies bugs. Each larva can eat up to 100 to 400 aphids during its lifetime! All these flies do is lay their eggs near aphid colonies, and the rest of the job will be done.
Some other flies on the aphid-eating list include aphid midges and lacewings. Aphid midges are flies and they can eat around 60 species of aphids.
Lacewings can eat a variety of aphid species throughout their lifetime and, thus, significantly contribute to biological control.
Do Hummingbirds Eat Aphids?
Yes, hummingbirds do eat aphids. Keeping them in your garden or farm ridden with aphid infestation is a good idea.
Hummingbirds can remove aphids from the top of trees, unlike most other beneficial insects that we talked about, which makes them great predators. Aphids like to eat the tender part of the tree that grows on the top, and they are hard to reach in that area.
Do Grasshoppers Eat Aphids?
Grasshoppers can eat aphids and other insects that are smaller than them. For this reason, many people confuse them to be ant eaters.
Grasshoppers do not eat ants, but they do eat aphids. However, grasshoppers are not fierce predators and don’t actively seek aphids to eat.
Do Yellow Jackets Eat Aphids?
Yellowjackets are common pests in the US. They are, beneficial to plants since they feed on the sugary honeydew produced by aphids. They can help to naturally clear your plants from an infestation.
Do Bees Eat Aphids?
Bees do not eat aphids. However, they feed on the honeydew secretion that comes from aphids’ bodies after they eat the tree’s sap. In that sense, bees can help to remove aphids.
Frequently Asked Questions
What insect eats the most aphids?
When it comes to feeding on aphids, ladybeetles and ladybugs are the insects that eat them the most.
On a regular day, a single ladybug can eat about 50 aphids. Moreover, its larvae are capable of eating more than 100 aphids in a day.
What are three ways to get rid of aphids?
The top three ways to get rid of aphids include:
- Use chemical repellents or insecticides
- Spray neem oil or soap solution
- Release ladybugs or other aphid-eating insects on the plant
What kills aphids but not plant?
Natural predators such as ladybugs, damsel bugs, and ladybeetles can help eliminate aphids and other pests without damaging the plants, unlike chemical repellents and insecticides.
Another way is to mix liquid dish soap with water and spray it on your plants. This is a natural insecticide that will wipe out aphids but not harm the plants.
How do you get rid of aphids permanently?
You can release natural enemies of aphids, such as ladybugs, hummingbirds, beetles, etc., to get rid of them once and forever. You can also use neem oil, soap solution, or essential oils to remove them from your plant.
Nature always ensures a balance is maintained. If there are pests, there are always pest killers too!
So, if you are dealing with an aphid infestation, make sure to release any of the big-eyed bugs we mentioned above, and chances are that your garden will soon be back to its healthy and happy self soon.
Over the years, our readers have sent us several emails on this topic. Please go through them below.
Letter 1 – Dusky Lady Beetle Larvae feeding on Aphids
Jul 16, 2010
I spotted these in a marsh in Colorado & photographed them. They were on red willow, which was infested with aphids. They suck an aphid dry, then move on to the next aphid. I could not find any ID for these guys.
Thanks for considering my ID request!
At first we believed these might be the larvae of a Lady Beetle known as the Mealy Bug Destroyer, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, a species introduced from Australia in 1891 to control Mealy Bugs on citrus in California according to BugGuide. We now believe they are probably a related species because they are not feeding on Mealy Bugs and also because they are further north than the range indicated on Bugguide. There are other species in the tribe Scymnini, the Dusky Lady Beetles, with similar looking larvae, including those in the genus Scymnus. The larva of a Scymnus species is pictured on BugGuide. The white projections are actually waxy outgrowths.
Hey, thanks! Cool! Do you want to use my photos for that section? If so, you are welcome to.
Letter 2 – Syrphid Larva eating Aphid!!!
another photo from Fairbanks, Alaska
I took this photo in yesterday in Fairbanks , Alaska . This small caterpillar (about 1⁄2 inch in length) was eating an aphid on my tomato plant.
Alaska Department of Fish & Game
Beautiful photograph. We did some carniverous caterpillar research and there is only one aphid eating caterpillar, the Harvester, Feniseca tarquinius, and it does not range in Alaska. We queried Eric Eaton and he revealed the real answer: “Ooh! This is a GREAT image about a great creature to talk about. Unless you catch one in the act of eating aphids, you might assume it is actually a plant-feeder, not the biocontrol agent and friend of the gardener! It is the larva of a syrphid fly! Several genera of syrphids (flower flies or, in Europe, “hover flies”) have larvae that eat aphids. The adult flies are all superb wasp or bee mimics, and excellent pollinators, so they help us out at all life stages:-) Thanks for sharing the great image. Eric”
Ed. Note: We just received the following letter.
(07/06/2005) What an odd coincidence, I just posted a picture of the aphid-eating hover fly larva in my blog just days before you posted your answer to a reader’s question. Cool. We’re in Colorado and this picture is from a rose bush. Great site.
Letter 3 – Syrphid Fly Larvae eat Oleander Aphids
Mystery bug on milkweed
July 28, 2009
I live in the Houston area. I am finding these strange larva on my tropical milkweed – along with the ever-present aphids. I don’t know whether to squish them or protect them. Are they good or bad?
These Syrphid Fly larvae are predators in the family Syrphidae that are feeding on the Aphids. The adult flies are sometimes called Flower Flies or Hover Flies and they are pollinating insects. We don’t know exactly what genus or species your Syrphid Fly Larvae belong to, but they should not be squished. Here is a link to the Syrphid Fly Larvae posted on BugGuide. The Aphids are Oleander Aphids, Aphis nerii, and they are common on Milkweed. They infest our outdoor Hoya species in Los Angeles. You can read more about the Oleander Aphid on BugGuide as well.
April 25, 2010
Oh my gosh! Thank you for this website! I went out with a wet papertowel to remove the hundreds of aphids on my Japanese Maple and saw these little worms/catapillars on my tree. I decided to look them up before removing them because it looked like they were eating the aphids. I found the answer real easy by Googling “aphid eating worms” and you were the first site that popped up. YAY! Thank you for this service and saving the syrphid : )
Letter 4 – Ladybird Beetle laying eggs, Eggs hatching, and newly hatched larva eating Aphid
Ladybeetles Laying Eggs & Ladybug larve.
I thought these could go on the Bug Love & Carnage page… or on your ladybird page… I live in Boise, ID, and my neighbors had a frenzy of ladybug activity on an aphid infested plum tree. Too cheap to buy ladybugs for my own yard’s pests, and not wanting to use poison, I captured about 15 ladybugs and kept them captive in a large glass vase. I fed them aphid covered leaves from my garden, and the ladybugs kept mating and mating, laying eggs and more eggs, which hatched into hungry little larve which went outside on the plants when they got big enough.
It was fascinating to watch and to nurture these bugs, and photograph with my new camera that does Super Macro shots. Here’s where I’ve got some more of these shots stored. http://picasaweb.google.com/EmilyTheChef/BugsMay2007 Carnage… tiny ladybug larve sucking the life out of of a juicy aphid. Most of the larve were all black, with tiny specs of red, but a few of them were “blonde”, like the bottom larve in this picture. They’re on my finger. I have to put the object directly in front of the lens, practically touching it, for it to be in focus. This next one is so cool… varying stages of ladybugs hatching. · Some still yellow goo (may not have ever hatched- I don’t remember this particular set of eggs, I had probably about 20+ sets)… I read that the larve will eat the un-hatched eggs to sustain themselves until they’re big enough to eat bugs. Some still encased in the egg (I knew the egg bunches would hatch soon because they turned from yellow to white) and Some actually popping out of the egg. I couldn’t even see all the detail with my eyes, but the Super Macro sees very close up! They’re so tiny when they’re hatched… they look like a speck of ladybug poop, until they start to move. And where it all started (well, it really starts with bug love), a Ladybeetle laying eggs. I felt kind of weird watching their intimate moments, but it was amazing! Most of the time, theyd lay in nice neat rows & bunches, sometimes it was willy nilly. Next year I’ll get some photos of the pregnant bugs. You can totally tell which ones are about to lay eggs, because can practically see the yellow eggs through a thin membrane, and their shell looks like it doesn’t fit when they’re about to lay their eggs…
Just for clarification, our Carnage page is reserved for insects who are killed unnecessarily by humans. Your Aphid eating Larvae belong on our Food Chain page. Bug Love is for mating only, and egg laying would go to our Eggs page. Your images are positively fabulous and the body of your letter should be a lesson in organic gardening. Thanks for your wonderful contributions.
Letter 5 – Syrphid Fly Larvae eat Oleander Aphids on Milkweed
Subject: Three Lacewing larvae attacking Oleander aphids…
March 19, 2013 8:05 pm
I took this picture of three lacewing larvae attacking a colony of Oleander aphids right before I blasted them off my milkweed plant with the hose last August here in Chicago.
Thanks for sending us an awesome documentary photo, but you have misidentified the predators. While Lacewing Larvae are known to feed ravenously on Aphids, these are actually Syrphid Fly Larvae. Adults are often called Hover Flies or Flower Flies. While we commend your use of a hose to remove the Aphids, a greener alternative than pesticides, we would like to offer our perspective. By hosing off the Aphids, you also removed the predators. We would have let nature take its course on this leaf, and we believe the Syrphid Larvae would have eaten all the Aphids in the vicinity. The Flies would then have matured and produced a new generation of predators and if you have a properly balanced garden with predator species, the need to control Aphids in the future might become an unnecessary action. We would have hosed off Aphids from plants that had no predators nearby.
Letter 6 – Aphid Wolf eats Aphid
Subject: Black and White bug on Fig Leaf
Location: Phoenix, Az
March 20, 2017 7:01 pm
Hey there while watering my fig tree I noticed this odd looking black and white bug.
It appeared to be fighting with/ holding a gnat of some kind. In any case the gnat was trying to get away.
Was hoping to identify the bug , any help is appreciated!
This is a predatory Lacewing Larva, commonly called an Aphid Wolf, and it has captured an Aphid, not a Gnat. Aphids are considered significant agricultural pests, and Lacewing Larvae are an effective organic method of controlling the problem without introducing insecticides.
Letter 7 – Aphid Wolf eats Aphids
Subject: Smart Tail
Geographic location of the bug: Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania
Time: 03:13 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi Bugman,
I have a pepper plant that some aphids infested. I took it outside in hopes of some ladybugs would predate them. I checked on the plant the next day, and the aphids were still there, but very docile. I also noticed this weird bug on the bottom with the aphids. It didn’t move at all when I turned the leaf over and examined it. I then pinched the leaf off the plant and placed the leaf on the porch to examine the bug better. It then moved very, VERY quickly to the top of the leaf, which was now facing the porch and therefore shady. I flipped the leaf over again, and the bug continuously sought shade. It used its tail-abdomen in a very intellectual way; it seemed like it used its tail the way a monkey would, to grasp and hold onto things. It had six paper-thin legs and surprisingly long pincer-like mouthparts. Its body appeared translucent and the colors are actually the organs. I think it may be the larval stage of some insect. It was about three aphids in length. I didn’t want to capture it and possibly kill an unknown species, so I returned the leaf to the pot and rested it on the edge. I examined the plant the next day and all the aphids were gone, as well as the unknown bug. I don’t want to assume that the bug ate all the aphids, but something definitely ate everything because there was nothing left. I have not seen any aphids on the plant since nor have I seen this weird little guy. Can you help me out in identifying this bug?
How you want your letter signed: Kayla
Your observations and deductions are fascinating. Your assumption that this Lacewing Larva, commonly called an Aphid Wolf, ate the Aphids is most likely correct. Though Lady Beetles are most commonly thought of as Aphid predators, Lacewings, both adult and larval, and Flower Fly larvae are probably more effective at controlling Aphids.
Letter 8 – Green Lacewing Larva eats Aphid
Green lacewing larva eating an aphid
Location: Naperville, IL
May 9, 2012 8:02 pm
It’s bug season once more! I have lacewing eggs all over my 2-foot-tall milkweed, and the little aphid lions are busily eating their preferred prey. Here are a few shots from today of one that was moving pretty quickly, all the while sucking its victim dry. I am not sure of the identity of the critter under the larva’s front left leg in the first photo.
All the best,
Signature: -Dori Eldridge
We are happy warm weather has hit Illinois because we always love getting your submissions. We couldn’t decide which of your three photos was the best documentation of this predation, so we are posting one where the Green Lacewing Larva’s formidable mandibles can be clearly seen and another where the Aphid is clearly visible. Meanwhile, we need to go outside and remove Milkweed Aphids from our native milkweed. The proliferation of oleander in Los Angeles sustains the Aphids when milkweed is not available.
Thanks so much, Daniel. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your site and your insight. By the way, how do you remove your problem aphids? On my hibiscus trees, I just use the garden sprayer set a notch or two below power wash. But on the milkweed plants, where I have to be selective, I actually remove those orange oleander aphids by hand with a damp rag. If I ignore the aphids too long, my plants become overrun by ants – not a good thing when trying to raise Monarchs. I’ve collected nearly 100 Monarch eggs in the last 24 hours! Have a lovely evening, and happy spring!
The plants are young native Narrow-Leafed Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis, and there are no caterpillars at this point, so I sprayed the Aphids with a water bottle that had a small quantity of liquid dish soap. The Argentine Ants move the Aphids about and that invasive exotic ant species is a huge problem here in Southern California.
Letter 9 – Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle: Imago, molting Larva, and Larva eating Aphid
Ladybug larva molting
Ladybug larva molting
Location: Naperville, IL
July 7, 2011 10:30 pm
I have many, many ladybugs and green lacewings this year on my milkweed. I thought I would share some cool photos: an adult ladybug staring me down, a ladybug larva that is molting and an earlier instar that is eating an aphid. Have a wonderful weekend! Best regards.
Signature: Dori Eldridge
Thanks for sending all of your fabulous photographs. We do not mean to malign a beneficial insect like the Lady Beetle, but your adult, and most likely the larvae as well, is a Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle, an introduced species that is thriving in North America and crowding out our native Lady Beetles which are becoming scarcer each year. While it is doubtful that anything can be done to curb the spread of the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle, we can at least try to take steps to save our diminishing native populations.
Letter 10 – Robber Fly eats Aphid
I captured this fly eating this fly. I researched your site to see if I could come up with a name for it but found nothing. I looked up on the web and thought maybe it was a Cheese Skipper. Any help would be appreciated. Photo was captured in Mid-Ohio, last summer, and it was about 1⁄2 “ long.
Thank you in advance.
We believe this is a Robber Fly, and we will check with Eric Eaton to get his opinion. Eric provided this confirmation: “Yes, it is definitely a robber fly. The prey looks like an aphid, perhaps even a woolly aphid, making that a pretty small robber fly! Eric”
Letter 11 – Syrphid Fly Larvae eat Aphids
Are these caterpillars EATING the aphids on our milkweed?
Hi, What’s That Bug!
We (my son and I) have our first butterfly garden this year, so we’ve learned about the tiny orange aphids that are crawling all over our milkweed. Today I found about 8 of these small caterpillars (?) on the milkweed near the aphids. This morning there were TONS of aphids, but this evening, most of the aphids on this one milkweed plant are gone. Are these caterpillars and are the eating the aphids? Also, in the zoomed picture (third one), I can see lots of tine white bugs that I couldn’t see with my naked eye. Kind of gives me the creeps! 🙂 You never know what is "out there" I guess!
They are eating Aphids, and they do look like caterpillars, but they are actually Syrphid Fly Larvae. Syrphid Flies are also known as Hover Flies. They look like bees, but are actually flies.
Letter 12 – Syrphid Larva at a banquet of Aphids
Hi Bugman. I have 2 Vitex bushes covered with what looks like little black eggs. There are baby caterpillars nearby and I am unsure as to what caterpillar eggs look like, but I am guessing that’s what they are.?.?.? We have these furry white caterpillars. They are much "whiter" in person, but I did not see any white, furry caterpillars with black dots on your site. I am guessing they are a kind of moth, but can you tell me more? Thanks!
Sadly, we do not recognize your white caterpillar and it would take too much time that we don’t have right now to provide you with an identification. We can tell you that you are mistaken about the other image you believe are caterpillar eggs. Your Vitex bushes are infested with Aphids, and that is a bad thing. The good thing is that the caterpillar with them is actually a predatory Syrphid Fly Larva and it will devour the Aphids. Back to the bad news. It won’t be able to eat them all. Any pesticide you use will also kill the beneficial Syrphid Fly Larvae. You might want to try manually removing some of the terminal branches as aphids tend to congregate on new growth.