Woolly Aphids: How to Control and Treat Woolly Aphids (With Pictures)

Woolly aphids have a white coating that resembles cotton or wool, and they suck sap like white fuzzy bugs. Woolly aphids have a cotton-like appearance, which is commonly mistaken for fungal plant growth. Fruit trees and decorative shrubs are frequently infested with woolly aphids.

Woolly aphids can be difficult to control and eliminate. Because of their oval bodies and white fluffy waxy coating, woolly aphids are resistant to common bug management tactics like horticultural soaps and neem oil. Woolly aphids may be controlled best by using a strong stream of water or a brush to spray them off. Natural predators that feed on aphids, such as parasitic wasps, green lacewings, and ladybugs, can also be used to get rid of woolly aphids.

The good news is that mature trees and shrubs are seldom affected by woolly aphid infestation. The cottony woolly aphids on trees, branches, and leaves may, however, create an unattractive appearance. Furthermore, cankers develop when fungus infections begin on lumpy growths on affected trees.

Preventing woolly aphids from harming woody plants, trees, and shrubs is the most effective way to get rid of them. Control and treat woolly aphids with this guide. You’ll learn about their life cycle, how to spot white fluffy insects, and the best organic controls.

Woolly Aphid Facts

Woolly aphids (Prociphilus tessellatus) are black aphids with a white waxy secretion that covers their bodies. Woolly aphids are members of the insect family Aphididae and belong to many species. The subfamily Eriosomatinae includes some, but not all, woolly aphids.

Woolly aphids, like adult woolly aphids, are flying insects that lay eggs in new areas. Aphids bite into plant tissue and suck the sap, which they do to feed on plants. Plant leaves, stems, buds, bark, and roots are all eaten by cotton wool-like insects. While plant damage is minor, white fuzzy aphids can cause secondary plant fungal diseases if they are not controlled.

Woolly aphids are tiny white fuzzy cottony flying insects that look like they’re in mid-flight. Woolly aphids have been given names like “flying mice,” “cotton fairies,” “fluff bugs,” and “poodle flies” because of their unusual appearance while flying. Green, white, brown, gray, or pink aphids may be found on plants. Aphids are also known as whitefly or greenfly because they are flying insects.

What do Woolly Aphids Look Like?

Woolly aphids are little pear-shaped black or brown insects with a white fuzzy coating. They range in color from dark brown to black. The aphids appear to be blanketed in wool thanks to the waxy filaments. Above 2 mm, adult woolly aphids are winged insects.

Woolly aphids have dark oval bodies, according to close-up photographs. The moving insects have a dotted appearance with a hairy end due to the body’s development of waxy white strands. woolly aphids seem to be mealybugs in many ways.

A cluster of woolly aphids appears to be a ball of cotton wool, despite the fact that individual fuzzy ‘bugs’ are difficult to see. Woolly aphids may be found on leaves, limbs, or feeding on tree cankers, and they may be seen under them. Woolly aphid larvae resemble tiny versions of adult aphids. Immature woolly aphids usually create huge white fluffy masses on twigs and branches, which you may only detect when they’re creating it.

Woolly aphids vs. mealybugs

Woolly aphids are frequently mistaken with mealybugs in close-up photos. These sap-sucking insects have cottony white bodies and are thus delicate. Mealybugs move more slowly than woolly aphids across plant leaves. Mealybugs tend to congregate in stem joints, whereas aphid insects prefer feeding on leaves and thin stems.

Woolly aphids will also fly or scurry away if you disturb them, as you can see. Mealybugs move slowly and do not fly, unlike aphids. Woolly aphids and mealybugs belong to distinct families, as well. Mealybugs are members of the Pseudococcidae insect family, while woolly aphids belong to the Aphididae family.

Woolly Aphid Life Cycle

The egg, nymph, and adult stages of the woolly aphid life cycle are all included. Females deposit eggs in the bark of the host tree’s crevices. The nymphs can live on the roots of the host in fissures, and the aphid eggs hatch after around one week. Woolly aphids can start reproducing after four to ten days of becoming adults.

Aphids become active in the spring and develop their woolly coating. The fuzzy insects continue to reproduce as they feed on tree and plant sap. When they start feeding on younger shoots in the mid- to late-summer, woolly aphids are most active.

During the summer, a single tree or shrub may experience several generations of woolly aphids. New woolly aphids develop wings and move to infest new plants when this happens. Hundreds of eggs may be produced by female woolly aphids, resulting in multiple generations. A woolly aphid has a one-month life span in total. Overwintered eggs are placed on trees in the fall and hatch in the spring.

Where do Woolly Aphids Live?

Fruit trees and decorative shrubs are common targets for woolly aphids. Woolly aphids typically only impact one sort of plant in a given species. Woolly aphids can be found on the underside of leaves, branches, buds, and new shoots on an infected tree or shrub.

Because of the fuzzy white substance on plants, it’s typically simple to identify white furry aphid activity. The woolly apple aphid (Eriosoma lanigerum) is an example of a woolly aphid species that only infests apple trees. The woolly elm aphid feeds on elm trees and is known as the Eriosoma Americanum. Apple, pear, hawthorn, ash, and oak trees are home to numerous woolly aphid species that feed on them.

Woolly aphids that infest ornamental shrubs may also be found, such as the woolly apple aphid (Eriosoma lanigerum). Certain woolly aphid pests, for example, prefer the firethorn (Pyracantha) and rock cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis).

How to Identify Woolly Aphids on Garden Plants

Woolly aphids may be identified by seeing if there are white fluffy ‘bugs’ on the plants. The pear-shaped bodies of the brownish-black aphids are coated in a fluffier white froth. Woolly aphid activity may also be detected by white cottony materials on twigs and branches. Bumps or galls on diseased tree trunks are another indication of infection.

Woolly aphid infestation damage on an apple tree (left) and a cottonwood leaf petiole (right) are simple to spot. On branches, stems, and other parts of the tree or shrub, masses of sugar candy-like patches will be readily apparent. Little clusters of fuzzy white bugs may also be seen in tree crevices. The effect woolly aphids have on plants may also be used to identify them. Woolly aphids prefer to feed on younger shoots in the summer.

Lumpy growths develop when you bite into the soft woody stems. When you trim during winter, you’ll see woolly aphids’ signs. In the frost, the rough growths tend to break up. The plant is vulnerable to canker as a result of the aphids’ activity. It’s also important to keep in mind that woolly aphid activity might cause mealybug or scale insect plant damage.

What Does Plant Damage Caused by Woolly Aphids Look Like?

Woolly aphids damage plants by sucking fluids from the leaves and stems, as seen on jasmine leaves (left) and crab apple bark (right). Yellowed leaves, poor plant development, twisted curled leaves, and branch dieback are all symptoms of aphid damage. Woolly aphids have a annoying habit of altering the look of a plant, which causes cottony coating on garden plants and shrubs.

Cankers or galls on tree limbs and roots are also indicators of woolly aphid damage. When the aphids penetrate young stems to feed on sap, they cause aphid damage. Fungal diseases can infect a plant because of the damage caused by this plant.

The presence of woolly aphids is also characterized by powdery mildew. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that excessive humidity in chilly weather or inadequate air circulation may cause the white powdery substance on leaves. If there is a sticky honeydew on the plants, you can also tell if woolly aphid damage has occurred.

Sooty mold is a kind of black fungus that looks like soot, and it attracts ants to your garden as well as causing problems. Fortunately, woolly aphids usually cause little damage to decorative trees and shrubs. The look of the plant improves and vigorous growth resumes after you get rid of the woolly aphids.

How to Control Woolly Aphids

Pesticides are unnecessary to use to get rid of woolly aphids, because they seldom cause long-term damage to trees and shrubs. Because of the aphid’s waxy secretion, which prevents the pesticide from affecting their bodies, pesticides are generally ineffective for woolly aphid control. Watering off the sap-sucking woolly aphids, brushing them with a stiff brush, or introducing beneficial insects are all methods to control them.

Using insecticides against woolly aphids is typically not a good idea. Pesticides may harm beneficial insects while killing pollinators, in addition to having little impact. Harmful chemicals may also get into the food chain in the future. You should identify the aphids in the spring to use organic woolly aphid control methods.

It’s a warning that you should take quick remedy if you see tiny brownish-black flies or see white hairy bugs. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective ways to keep woolly aphid numbers in check in your garden.

Wash Plants to Get Rid of Woolly Aphids

For woolly aphids, a powerful stream of water is an excellent non-pesticide strategy. Wash down infected trees and shrubs with a pressure spray to get rid of the cotton candy-like substance and woolly aphids. To avoid aphids from becoming a bother, you should check shrubs and trees frequently and spray them with water.

Using a stiff brush and a bucket of soap water to clean tree trunks and accessible branches, you may remove the last woolly aphids. Try to identify woolly aphid-infested trees or shrubs in the spring and clean down the bark, branches, and trunks.

Encourage Woolly Aphid Predators to Kill Woolly Aphids

Introduce predators that feed on aphids, as well as their larvae and nymphs, to control woolly aphids naturally. Woolly aphid numbers may be limited by parasitic wasps such as Aphelinus mali, ladybugs, hoverflies, and lacewings. Parasitic wasps are thought to be a successful biological control for woolly aphids, according to scientific study.

According to a 2006 research, Aphelinus mali may be used to manage certain woolly aphid species. In addition, parasitic wasps, green lacewings, and ladybugs are recommended by the Washington State University to be introduced to “enhance the biological control of woolly apple aphid.”

Use Homemade Sprays to Treat Woolly Aphids

To eliminate woolly aphids, some individuals suggest using a natural soap spray or neem oil spray. Neem oil is reported to be effective against woolly aphids because of its natural insecticide properties. There is no proof that neem oil is effective for woolly aphid management, even though it may be successful on ordinary non-furry aphids. You might want to experiment with neem oil on aphids. Fill a spray bottle with 1 quart (1 liter) of warm water.

Neem oil and dish soap may be added in equal portions. To mix the ingredients, thoroughly blend them. Cover the diseased branches and leaves with the neem oil solution after that. Woolly aphids may not be eliminated with neem oil on your decorative trees and shrubs. Other pests like mealybugs, whitefly, greenfly, and gnats may be killed by the natural pesticide.

How to Prevent Woolly Aphids

Woolly aphids in your garden are the best way to keep your gorgeous ornamental trees, shrubs, and plants healthy. Fortunately, if you see a few fuzzy white insects on your plants, you don’t have to worry. However, the less chance you have of dealing with a pest infestation if you get rid of the white fuzzy ‘bugs’ faster.

In the spring, check your garden trees, shrubs, and flowers for signs of woolly aphids. White fluffy aphids or waxy-looking oval insects can be found under leaves and in crevices of fruit trees, as well as elm, oak, ash, and Hawthorn trees. To get the critters out, use a brush and soapy water or a spray of water.

Introduce natural aphid predators to your garden by encouraging beneficial insects. Ladybugs, lacewings, and hoverflies are attracted by planting daisies, asters, and yellow flowers. Aphid eggs and nymphs will be consumed by these insects, limiting their population. Remember that broad-spectrum insecticides, while killing aphids, will also eliminate helpful insects. As a result, it’s recommended to avoid spraying pesticides on trees and shrubs.

Choose apple varieties resistant to apple woolly aphids (Eriosoma lanigerum) if you decide to plant new apple trees. To help prevent insect infestations in the following spring, paint the ends of cut branches with organic tree paint after they’ve been winter pruned.

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