Black aphids keep appearing on my ferns – usually on the most delicate new croziers. Trying to wash them off, or squash them, usually results in damage to the croziers, and insecticides don’t seem to work. We were discussing this at the Yorkshire indoor meeting, and Peter Elcock said that he removes aphids from his ferns using a damp paint brush. I tried it out on the tiny croziers of my Pityrogramma calomelanos, and it works perfectly – the aphids just stick to the brush, then can be crushed or washed off. I used a cheap water-colour brush. Last week-end my God-daughter came to see us, having just handed in a PhD thesis that included work on aphid behaviour – she had been counting aphids by picking them off the food plant one by one with a paint brush! Of course that’s the way to handle aphids! The good news is that if you are just trying to remove them, it doesn’t have to be one by one – today I tackled a mega-invasion on a bird’s nest fern, sweeping the aphids off by the dozen. They seem to stick to the brush like magic. Maybe everyone else has been doing this for years – but it was a revelation for me!
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