Green bugs on lettuce

Lettuce Aphid Information – How To Control Aphids In Lettuce

Aphids in lettuce can be a real nuisance, even a deal breaker when lettuce is when severely infested. Most folks dislike the idea of ingesting a little extra protein in the form of a bug in their salad, and I am no exception. So what are lettuce aphids and is it possible to control lettuce aphids in the garden? Let’s find out.

What are Lettuce Aphids?

Lettuce aphids come in multiple hues ranging from green to orange to pink. The adults have black markings on their leg joints and antennae. Some have black markings on the abdomen as well, and may be winged or wingless.

Lettuce Aphid Information

Lettuce aphid information informs us about their prolific reproduction, which is definitely no boon to the gardener. Aphids are both viviparous and parthenogenic, which means the females are capable of producing living offspring without any sexual activity. Just a couple of aphids in lettuce rapidly become an infestation if left unchecked.

The problem is how to control lettuce aphids. They tend to be difficult to get at, as they are not only well camouflaged, but hide deep in the center of the lettuce on the tender, new leaves in head lettuce types. In loose-leaved varieties, like Butterhead, the insects are more readily apparent and can be viewed on the inner young leaves.

You may also see quantities of sticky honeydew and black sooty mildew.

Lettuce Aphid Control

Usually, the first thing you read about when controlling aphids is to try to blast them off with a good stream of water. I’ve tried this. Never worked. Okay, maybe it got some of the insects off, but never did much for a true infestation.

Next, I usually try spraying either a commercial insecticidal soap or one I have created out of water and a bit of dish soap. This will work somewhat. Better yet, spray with Neem oil, which will give a much better result. Spray in the evening once the sun has gone down, as Neem and insecticidal soap can damage plants in direct sun. Also, this allows the morning dew to wash off the majority of the oil by morning.

You can start your lettuce under row covers, which in theory, will work. Of course, if even one aphid gets under there, you could soon have an army sucking away on baby greens.

Ladybugs love aphids and can either be purchased or you can plant flowering annuals near the lettuce crop to naturally attract them. Syrphid fly larvae and green lacewing larvae are also connoisseurs of aphids.

You can, of course, resort to chemical controls too, but given that this is a food crop, eaten raw no less, I would steer clear. To me, if it gets that bad, I would prefer to rip the plants out and dispose of them.

Lastly, keep the area around the lettuce crop weed free to mitigate any other cozy hiding places for lettuce aphids.

I’m sure you’ve heard or even asked the following question: “Why is there such a preoccupation with the potential of finding bugs in produce these days? I don’t recall observing my grandmother checking fruits and vegetables for signs of infestation.” There are actually a number of contributing factors, including changes in diet, growing climates and the usage of pesticides; all these have impacted the likelihood of finding insects in some of the foods that we eat. So, it is worth our while to “check” into this further.

The Torah in Leviticus clearly specifies the prohibition of consuming insects that are of a size that is visible to the naked eye. In fact, the consumption of a single insect can involve a violation of as many as five or six Torah prohibitions. Since vegetables grow in the earth, they inevitably come in contact with insects; in many cases, vegetables become the insect’s home. Vegetables with cracks and crevices are more vulnerable to infestation, since these are areas for insects to become trapped or hide. Undoubtedly, this issue needs to be addressed in a serious, balanced approach.

Some consumers assume farmers and companies are wary of insects in vegetables and take proper precautionary measures. While this assumption may seem reasonable, it has proven to be untrue. The FDA tolerance levels of insect infestation in produce are far more permissive than halachic requirements. For example, the US government allows averages of up to 60 insects per 100 grams in frozen broccoli, and up to 50 insects per 100 grams of frozen spinach. Although, farmers might use pesticides to curb insect infestation levels, the effects are often limited. DDT and other highly effective previously-used insecticides have been legally banned due to associated health risks. Also, insects often develop immunity to certain pesticides over time. The rising popularity of organic produce has further complicated matters. The term organic implies the products were grown without pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers. Consequently, organic produce could be subject to higher levels of insect infestation.

Due to seasonal influences and insect life cycles, the incidence of infestation in many vegetables varies throughout the year. The prevalence of imports, as well as many advances in produce-storage and preservation technology, results in seasonal fruits and vegetables being available throughout the year. In addition, it is often impossible to trace the origin of a particular vegetable. Broccoli sold in the New York area supermarkets may originate from Mexico one week and from California or Florida the next. One of these locations may have experienced drought conditions during the growing season. In another, unusually heavy rains may have adversely affected the crop. In the third, due to local regulations, little or no pesticide may have been applied. Without this knowledge, one may be tempted to assume that there is no need to check broccoli after having found several heads of the vegetables free of infestation the previous week. One week’s findings may tell little about the next week’s produce.

Not All Vegetables Need Checking

The requirement to check vegetables depends on the likelihood that an insect may be present.

Vegetables that are not commonly infested do not require checking.

The Halacha Recognizes Three Levels of Infestation:

1. Muchzak Betola’im—experience has shown that a certain food during a particular season is likely to contain infestation a majority of the time.

2. Mi’ut Hamatzu’i—a significant minority of samples in a particular food are expected to contain infestation. The OU accepts the position of the Mishkenot Yaakov that asserts this is at least a likelihood of 10%.

3. Mi’ut She-eino Matzu’i—it is unlikely to find infestation in a particular food. Experience has shown that at best, only an insignificant minority has proven to be infested.

We are obligated to check vegetables that fall into the first two categories, but not the third. Ascertaining whether a vegetable is subject to infestation — and thereby necessitating checking before use — is mostly determined based on experience. Several manuals and books are now available on inspecting produce and serve as excellent guides to educate the typical consumer. They include The OU Guide to Checking Fruits, Vegetables and Berries, 2nd Edition.

Bugs and Spirituality

The Torah clearly states that adherence to the stringency of not consuming sheratzim (insects) preserves the sanctity of the Jewish people. After delineating the various forbidden sheratzim, the Torah commands, ‘‘…for I am Hashem Who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God, and you shall be holy as I am Holy’’ (Leviticus 11:45). Rashi cites Torat Kohanim where the term ‘‘…Who brought you up from the land of Egypt’’ is analyzed. So often in the Torah, Hashem speaks of simply having brought us out of Egypt. Why with regard to forbidden insects does the Torah deviate from its usual phraseology? Based upon this inference, the school of Rabbi Yishmael taught the following lesson: ‘‘Says Hashem, ‘Had I brought the Jewish people up from Egypt for no other reason than that they should not defile themselves by eating sheratzim as the other nations do, that would have been sufficient.’” The consumption of an insect actually diminishes us spiritually. By virtue of this mitzvah, the Jewish people are raised to a unique status. Therefore, the terminology: ‘‘Hashem, who brought you up” is used. Wishing you all a bug-free Passover. And may this be the year we all “go up from the land of Egypt,” and enter Yerushalayim together.

The OU Guide to Checking Fruits, Vegetables, and Berries, 2nd Edition, may be purchased by contacting Shop OU at 212.613.8385, or [email protected]

fn1. Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act 402 (a)(3)

How to Check RomaineRomaine lettuce is commonly used for maror. This lettuce type is known as an open leaf variety. This means that as they sprout forth from the ground, the leaves begin to open up like a flower. Toward the end of their growth, they begin to close around the stalk. Since romaine lettuce grows open, it is much more prone to insect infestation throughout the head than other varieties of lettuce that primarily grow as a closed ball.

The insects most commonly found in open leaf lettuce are small black or green aphids and thrips. The leaves of the vegetable often camouflage these insects. The open structure of these vegetables allows insects to penetrate the entire head. Often, insects may be found between the innermost layers of leaves of an infested head. Therefore, each leaf must be washed and checked individually. The use of a light box for checking lettuce can be extremely convenient and helpful. However, even if a light box is not used, it is crucial to examine both sides of each leaf against a good source of light.

Checking for insects

Below are step by step recommendations for how to properly check romaine lettuce for insects:

1. Cut off the lettuce base and separate the leaves from one another.
2. Soak leaves in a solution of cold water and soap. The proper amount of soap has been added when some bubbles are observed in the water.
3. Agitate lettuce leaves in the soapy
4. Spread each leaf, taking care to
expose all its curls and crevices. Using a heavy stream of water or sink hose, remove all foreign matter and soap from both sides of each leaf. Alternatively, a vegetable brush may be used on both sides of the leaf.
5. Leaves should be checked over a light box or against strong overhead lighting to verify that the washing procedure has been effective. Pay careful attention to the folds and crevices in the leaf where insects have been known to hold tightly through several washings.

Occasionally, worms may be found in burrows within the body of the leaf. Look for a narrow translucent burrow speckled with black dots breaking up the deep green color of the leaf. These burrows will often trap the worm within the leaf. To rid the leaf of these worms, carefully slit the bumpy part within the burrow with a sharp knife and remove the worm. It is important to note that many of these varieties feature curly leaves with many folds in which the insects tend to hide. It is therefore recommended that they be washed and checked with particular caution.

Can I safely clean/eat harvested foods that have aphids on them?

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Getting Aphids off your Greens

Some of you have written to us about about aphids on your greens. It is true — we have a lot of aphids this year, all over the farm, and especially on the leafy greens. These unappetizing, sap sucking insects have been doing a lot of damage to our young plants. Aphids have a lot of natural enemies — ladybugs, hoverflies, parasitic wasps, lacewings and others. But the aphids are more comfortable in cold weather than most of their natural enemies, so until the weather warms up (which it may do this week) we will probably continue to see them in our fields.

We have tried to pick only the parts of the field with fewer aphids, and our beneficial populations are always boosted by flowers along field edges. Additionally, we have been trying to control the aphids with a garlic-clove oil spray and cedar sprays (using the oil from cedar trees) on a weekly basis, and we have released some green lacewing larvae to eat them up, but despite our efforts, you may find some of the little bugs on your spinach or bunched greens. You can wash them off, but it may take a bit of extra time. They don’t come off with a simple rinse in water because they adhere to the surface of the plants. So you have to swish them around in cold water that has a pinch of salt (or a drop of soap) in it. The salt or soap act to reduce the surface tension between the aphids and the leaf. Leave the greens in the cold water for a few minutes, swish them around, drain and rinse the greens.

Aphids Ain’t All Bad

by Helga Olkowski
October 1998
from issue #17

It’s hard to think kindly of aphids, those pesky green bugs that suck the life juices from plants, but we probably should. Aphids are the base of many food chains in the garden, playing an important role like that of small rodents in grassland ecosystems. Many different predators eat aphids, and in turn, other insects, birds, and mammals prey on them. So, it’s desirable to have aphids around to support a stable and diverse garden environment.

The predator and prey cycle. Aphid predators include ladybird beetles, lacewings, big-eyed bugs, and minute pirate bugs. You may also be acquainted with the small, voracious, orange-yellow, aphid-eating larvae of aphid gall-midges, Aphidoletes sp. But some of the most important enemies of aphids are tiny parasitoids that feed on or in aphids, but unlike true parasites, kill their hosts.

These minute members of the bee/wasp family, Hymenoptera, are almost too small to see. They move rapidly from aphid to aphid, laying hundreds of eggs by penetrating the skin of aphids with their ovipositors. The aphids are as good as dead once this happens, for in a day or so, the parasitoid’s egg hatches within them and the larva eats its host from the inside. The aphids change color and harden like a mummy, usually still attached to the plant. Look carefully at an aphid colony with a hand lens to spot them.

With all these voracious insects around to devour aphids, why do some aphid colonies get out of hand? There are a few reasons aphids can get ahead of their natural enemies, even if you haven’t been disturbing the natural balance of things by using pesticides. One reason is many aphid species are more cold-hardy than their natural enemies. We have seen aphids snug under the bud scales of tulip trees, when the weather was close to freezing and the trees were otherwise bare. They certainly had a head start on natural enemies like lady beetles, who must fly in from overwintering elsewhere. Others, like gall-midges, wait for really warm weather to emerge from the soil where they have been pupating.

Also, many aphid species have the advantage of their young being born alive and ready to settle down next to mama and begin feeding immediately. To top it off, the daughter aphid is born with live embryo daughters already within her. This is called telescoping generations, and it allows aphid colonies to increase incredibly quickly. By comparison, their natural enemies go through much longer life cycles requiring several moltings, pupating, and finding a mate.

But it turns out that large aphid populations building up before natural enemies arrive is a basic ecosystem principle. Since predators need to eat many aphids to complete their life cycle, they couldn’t survive if they arrived before lots of food was available. This necessary balance between predator and prey accounts for the natural cycles of abundance in nature: more mice, more coyotes; more coyotes feeding, fewer mice; fewer mice, fewer coyotes because with less food coyotes have smaller litters; fewer coyotes mean more mice survive; and then the cycle starts over again.

Still and all, your garden is not the wilderness. The time frame in which you want your vegetables and flowers to grow and mature does not permit too philosophic a tolerance of damaging numbers of pests. What to do? Tip the balance a little in favor of the natural enemies, and take a least-toxic approach.

Avoid pesticides that might damage natural enemies unless you’re backed into a corner, and then confine their use to the precise area they are needed. Your aim should be to merely reduce the aphid population, not eliminate it. You want plenty of food around when the natural enemies do appear. Save the stronger of the least-toxic sprays (for example, pyrethrin or pyrethrum) until you have tried and failed with less toxic methods.
Aphids love nitrogen. Nearly all aphids feed by inserting their long, needle-like mouth parts into plant tissue. They’re after the sugars made by leaves and other green parts of the plants. The aphids have to drink a great deal of this sugary liquid to obtain enough amino acids, built from nitrogen, for themselves. Amino acids are the building blocks of all proteins, which form muscles, enzymes, and other vital biochemicals of life. The more nitrogen plants have, the more is available for feeding aphids.

Thus, the places aphids congregate on plants, or the time they show up in the season, is a clue to where and when nitrogen is present. For example, young growing plant tissue is usually high in nitrogen. Plants need nitrogen to grow, but if you use chemical fertilizers, it is not difficult to provide more than the plants need all at once. This will encourage aphids to multiply. Similarly, severe spring or early summer pruning of shrubs and broad-leaf trees causes a flush of new growth high in nitrogen, prompting aphid colonies to grow. So, to avoid encouraging aphids, use slow-release nitrogen fertilizers such as well-aged compost. Also, save pruning chores for late winter when shrubs and trees are dormant.
Give seedlings some special protection. Since healthy seedlings are high in nitrogen, which they need for rapid growth, they can be very attractive to aphids. They’re especially vulnerable because they have very little tissue to sustain them through an aphid onslaught.

Luckily, there are several ways to get around this without resorting to heavy poisons. The simplest is to place a barrier between the seedlings and any aphids that might arrive. Starting seedlings indoors, on a sunny windowsill, is one example. Placing plastic row-covers over the seedlings outdoors is another.

Next, knock back aphids with plain old water. With sufficient pressure from a hose nozzle, water can break aphids’ mouth parts and wash the insects to the ground. The fallen aphids may be captured by spiders or other predators, especially if a compost mulch under the plants provides habitat for ground predators. Water sprays can keep aphids from overwhelming plants until natural enemies arrive.

Watch for the arrival of beneficials. Be sure you can recognize the young of ladybird beetles and lacewings; they look so different from the adults they’re sometimes taken for pests themselves. If you don’t see natural enemies arriving on their own, you may wish to purchase and release some. Buying these insects is advantageous because you can release them in greater numbers than are likely to be available naturally early in the season.

The most commonly sold aphid enemy is the ladybird beetle, Hippodamia convergens. But if you’ve never before bought and released beneficials, lacewings are also a good choice. Minute pirate bugs and aphid gall midges are also available from commercial sources, but these are more difficult for the first-time user to see, so start with lacewings. Be sure your garden contains a wide variety of small-throated flowers to provide pollen and nectar for the beneficials.

Believe it or not, some weeds can also be beneficial. In California, the common sow-thistle, Sonchus oleraceus, attracts an aphid species that does not feed on common garden plants. Beneficial insects can feed on that aphid when other pest populations are low. The weed itself is easy to manage and won’t overrun the rest of the garden. Observing your local area may lead you to similarly useful plants.

Common Lettuce Bugs

Repellant Herbs

Often the solution has less to do with getting rid of a pest and more to do with adding something to the garden ecosystem like a predator or repellent.

One way to repel most pests in the garden is to use companion planting. Aromatic herbs and flowers deter pesky insects from wanting to lay eggs in the garden. Herbs that will repel insects include:

  • Wormwood
  • Southernwood
  • Lavender
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Garlic
  • Chives
  • Mint
  • Dill
  • Basil


Aphids can be grey, green, brown or black. They cluster on the undersides of leaves and can be difficult to spot at first. These bugs hatch from overwintered eggs in the springtime and suck the sap from tender plant shoots. This weakens and damages lettuce plants and raises the risk of disease.

A healthy diverse garden will combat aphid damage on its own. The presence of predators including ladybugs, lacewings, or parasitic wasps will keep aphid populations down. Plant herbs like cilantro, dill, fennel, and dandelion near lettuce to attract predatory insects. Sometimes an organic spray of neem oil or concentrated garlic is necessary.


Cool season plants in moist climates can suffer from slug and snail damage. Young lettuce is especially susceptible. They hide during the day and emerge at night to eat. Slug damage can be diagnosed by the slime left behind on the leaves or the presence of young slugs tucked between the leaves and stem. Surprisingly, hand-picking slugs does a great deal to help get rid of them. It’s best done at night when they are out.

Ducks and snakes are natural slug predators. Gardeners often run ducks through a garden prior to planting. Give them a few days to really dig out all the young slugs and eggs. Then move the ducks and plant your seeds. Organic slug bait is available from garden supply stores for extra sensitive plants.


Caterpillars are a large family of insects, and possibly the most destructive to lettuce crops. There are so many including cutworms, armyworms, earworms, and loopers. These bugs fly into the garden as moths and lay clusters of eggs on the leaves of plants. The eggs hatch within days and the offspring begin to eat ragged holes in the leaves of your lettuce.

Encouraging predatory insects is an excellent way to reduce caterpillar damage. Attract predators of caterpillars like Insect-eating birds, assassin bugs, ladybird beetles and paper wasps to help protect your plants. Insect barrier fabrics are designed to keep these critters out and your lettuce plants safe.

What do Ladybugs Eat & How to Care your Pet Ladybugs

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  • What do Ladybugs Eat & How to Care your Pet Ladybugs

Some pet lovers like to have their own ladybugs because of their beautiful and distinctive colors, though these colors are not only for beautification, instead, these acts as a shield from the attacks of various predators.

The ladybugs or lady beetles secrete a fluid from their leg joints which give them a foul taste. The distinctive color of them is a reminder to their predators that they have tasted it before and it does not taste good.

A terrorized ladybird beetle can both play dead or secrete the unappetizing substance in order to protect itself.

How To Care Of Your Pet Ladybugs?

You can find a ladybug in your garden easily. Use a small net to catch it. In case you are planning to hold it or catch it with your finger, then be gentle. Once you catch a ladybug and ready to make it your pet, follow the steps below to look after it properly.

1. Take a spacious Container

Putting your ladybug in a spacious container is preferable as it will allow it to fly around and also settle when it is tired. You can add some fresh flowers, tree barks, leaves or small twigs which are its favorite habitat.

Also, they prefer to hide if threatened by your presence, so give them a place to hide. You can put a hollow twig or a seashell which will both enhance the beauty of your ladybug’s home and give it a place to hide.

While choosing a container people usually use a glass jar which looks really good but it is not at all suitable for ladybugs as glass will catch the heat and certainly you do not want to burn your pet.

Hermit crab houses are recommended if you are keeping the bug for more than 24 hours. You can get a small terrarium that suits the needs of your ladybug if you are planning to keep it as a pet in your house. Changing the flowers and twigs before they get rotten is also necessary as the fresh environment will help your bug to thrive well.

2. Feeding Your Ladybug

Remember, what you feed your ladybug and how often, both depend on the size of the bug. Too much feeding is highly discouraged. You can use a small container like a cap of the bottle to feed the bug. Feed a small amount of honey to your ladybug with the help of the cap, or you can feed it lettuce which is favorable to them. Feeding raisins will also add a special taste to their tiny mouth. Feeding twice a day is just enough.

3. Giving Water to your Bug

They do need water regularly, and giving it to them is very easy. Just add two to three drops of water in a cotton ball or a small tissue and put it inside the container. The bug will have it according to its need. Just do not put a large container filled with water as there’s a possibility that your bug might drown.

4. Whether to release or not?

In case you like your ladybug too much then you can keep it, but releasing it into the wild is recommended if you cannot look after it daily to keep it alive and healthy.

What Do Ladybugs Eat-In the Wild?

There are more than 5,000 different species of ladybugs, all of which are omnivorous in nature. They can sustain on both plants and smaller insects.

Most of the people who love ladybugs for their beauty do not know that they are very useful to the gardeners too. Farmers love these bugs for their appetite as they voraciously eat plant-eating insects.

Aphids are their special favorites; they lay hundreds of eggs in the aphid colonies and when the eggs hatch they start to feed on them.

Though there are some ladybugs which feed on crops, like the Mexican bean beetle and the squash beetle. So choosing the right bugs over the destructive ones is necessary.

by gMandy | Updated : January 16, 2017

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