Gardeners looking for insecticide-free relief from their perennial nemesis, aphids, should consider enlisting the aid of sweet alyssum. A recent study funded by the UC Davis-based UC Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education Program found that the fast-growing sweet alyssum, a flower with tiny white or purple blossoms, attracted so many "good bugs" to lettuce fields that the number of aphids was greatly reduced. Past attempts to control aphids, the major pest of lettuce in coastal areas of California, without insecticides had failed. The study involved devoting areas of growers' fields to 22 plants that appeared to hold the promise of attracting beneficial insects, such as parasitic wasps, green lacewings and syrphid flies, which, when they are young, feed on aphids. The researchers singled out sweet alyssum as the most effective of the plants studied. The population of "good bugs" increased and aphids were suppressed for up to 50 feet from where the alyssum grew.