I have honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelons growing in my small garden. They are doing great except there are ants and little white gnats all over them! What can I use to get rid of these pests? Any suggestions as long as they aren't toxic.
Hardiness Zone: 9b
Gayle from Queen Creek, AZ
Are you sure the gnats are really gnats, or are they aphids? Ants are often attracted to the honeydew secreted by feeding aphids, so they are often seen together. Aphids come in many colors and there are both winged and wingless varieties so they are easily mistaken for gnats. The Melon aphid is a common pest in the southeastern and southwestern parts of the United States. It can be a serious pest on watermelons, cucumbers, and cantaloupes. Other vegetable crops seriously affected are asparagus, pepper, eggplant, pumpkin, squash and okra.
Melon aphids feed on the underside of leaves, or on growing tips of vines, sucking nutrients from the plant. With severe infestations, the foliage may become chlorotic (low chlorophyll levels) and die prematurely. Their feeding also causes leaf curling and distortion that ultimately hinders the photosynthetic capacity of the plant. As aphids feed, they secrete honeydew, a sweet sticky substance that is a favorite food of ants. The honeydew also attracts the growth of sooty mold, which blocks out light and further impairs the photosynthetic capacity of the plant. The easiest and most effective way to treat aphids is to spray them off your plants with a strong jet of water from the garden hose. Make sure you get the undersides of the leaves.
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