Watch My Food Grow ~ A South Florida Raised Vegetable Garden

Florida Backyard Raised Vegetable Garden

Okra Under Siege

April 19th, 2013 by Lila Steinhoff

Chewed and Stunted Okra

I have the first pest problem of this gardening season. I have scads of voracious aphids on my okra.

aphids on okra leaves

Okra Leaf Covered with Aphids

Because they suck the juices from the newest, most tender growth, the okra pods never get more than 1/2 and inch long before they shrivel. (Click on any picture to make it larger.)


One of the safest and most common deterrents for aphids is soapy water. It isn’t really known how the soapy water works, but it is thought that it does something to the cell membranes or maybe removes the protective wax from the insect.

soapy water to kill aphidsSoapy Water Applied to Aphid-covered Leaves

The biggest downside to the soapy water is that you must apply it every day or so and get it on the bottom sides of the leaves where the aphids are. I mixed a few drops of liquid dish detergent in a pint of water and applied it for several days. I couldn’t keep up with the aphids. They multiply way too fast.

The soapy water did not get rid of the aphids fast enough for the okra to recover and grow. It was time to try something else.

Bring Out the Big Guns

Time for Plan B… Lady Bugs! The internet is your friend. It guided me to Hirt’s Gardens . The company had the package to me in two days. The ladybugs arrived in excellent shape and were crawling  around inside the net containment bag.

mail order ladybugsMail Order Ladybugs

I have been cautioned never to  accept gifts with air holes. This time, I was delighted at the prospect of seeing what was inside. I ordered a relatively small number… 1500… ladybugs. I was ready to do battle with the unrelenting aphids.

Taking the Ladybugs to Lunch

Per instructions, the ladybugs were released in the evening. Because they do not fly at night, they tend to stay on the plants long enough to find the aphids.

ladybugs releasedReleasing Ladybugs

ladybugs on okra leavesLadybugs on Okra Leaves

The ladybugs went to work immediately eating aphids.

ladybugs eating aphidsLadybugs Eating Aphids

I checked the next morning, and there were still ladybugs in the okra munching away on the aphids. I’ll let you know in a few days if they do the job.


Tags:   · · · · 4 Comments

Leave a Comment

4 responses so far ↓

  • Claire had aphids on her kale and collards; soapy water didn’t work for us either. Both greens were getting ready to bolt (we’be been eating them since December) so we pulled the plants. The aphids are now composting. The javelinas will be disappointed on their next nocturnal visit…We still have more chard, salad greens and herbs than we can eat,or give away., Feeding the critters is part of the gardening game.

    Great to see the good guys winning!

  • Good luck Lila, hope the ladybugs win!!
    PS – doesn’t that sound like it could be a country song? Aphids on my okra ……. Just sayin’ 😉

  • I tried the soapy water once and it didn’t work. But the next time I sprayed more carefully, turning the leaves over, and doing it a few mornings and evenings. I had TONS of aphids and ants.
    HOORAY! It finally worked! All are gone and the plants are healthy! Good thing, because I live overseas and we can’t import biologicals like ladybugs.

  • Wow this is interesting!