Woolly Aphids Control: Getting Rid Of Wooly Aphids

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Woolly aphids (Eriosoma lanigerum), including the white woolly aphids, are one of over 4000 different types of aphids that may plague your garden. These aphids differ mostly in appearance from others.

Like all aphids, these insect pests are tiny, usually growing no larger than a quarter inch long. Like their many cousins, they cause damage to host plants by sucking out the sap.

aphids (woolly) colony Pin
Colony of Aphids (woolly) – image: Wikimedia Commons

Woolly aphids are typically greenish or bluish and, true to their name, rather fuzzy. They have 3 life stages: egg, nymph, and adult.

Their white coating of a waxy material gives them some protection against the elements and, in some cases, against pesticides.

Their tiny, fuzzy appearance, like diminutive cotton balls, earned its common names, including angel flies, fairy flies, cotton fairies, fluff bugs, and snow bugs.

The Woolly apple aphid typically has two hosts in its lifetime.

One is used for overwintering and egg-laying. The other is used for feeding in the summer and the spring.

Each female aphid lays one egg that commonly overwinters in the crevices of bark and hatch in the spring, producing another offspring generation.

You’ll usually see these aphids assembled in groups. If you find a still, cottony mass on twigs, buds, leaves, and branches of your houseplants, suspect woolly aphids.

Fuzzy white substance on tree in autumn woods.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @foundamongfungi

You’ll usually notice these woolly aphids sucking the plant juice of shrubs and small trees, including apples, alder, ash, beech, cotoneaster, elm, hawthorn, maple, mountain ash, oak, and pear trees. 

They may look like mold when undisturbed. You can test this by tapping beside the mass. If they are woolly aphids, they will immediately begin to twitch and wiggle.

Now, you might wonder, are woolly aphids harmful?

What Damage Do Woolly Aphids Cause?

Luckily, their populations usually stay quite small and don’t do a lot of damage.

On rare occasions when the aphid population gets out of control, as the aphids feed, the leaves may curl and become distorted. The aphid’s feeding causes leave their calling card of sticky honeydew accompanied by sooty mold.

When the aphids suck the sap from plants, it causes the foliage to twist, curl, yellow, and die. It also results in infested bark, lumpy growths, and warty galls on trunks and branches.

Fluffy white plant fibers on a twig.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @sachabaroncullen

Sometimes, a woolly aphid infestation can cause growth symptoms known as galls or cankers on the roots or limbs of their hosts.

Remember, these white fuzzy aphids usually feed on the base of new shoots, branches, roots, and trunk wounds.

Another indication of woolly aphid damage is an increase in the ant population.

The accumulation of white fluff, wax, and honeydew, their sweet, sticky excrement, is very attractive to ants.

A coating of honeydew can quickly turn into sooty mold.

This ugly black fungus causes plants to look like they are covered in soot.

The sooty mold does not damage plants, but a thick coating of it can block light and interfere with photosynthesis.

Lack of light will damage your plants.

How Can You Control Woolly Aphids?

Aphids treatment is essential to control the infestation of woolly aphids.

Maintain an integrated pest management strategy (IPM) to keep aphids and other pests under control throughout the growing season.

IPM engages a range of good gardening habits to battle pests holistically.

So, how to get rid of woolly aphids naturally?

Cottony scale insects on a plant branch.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @wr.photo.service

Healthy Plants Repel Pests

One of the best ways to keep fluffy aphids away from your plants is to keep your plants healthy. Be sure to keep the nutrients in the soil balanced and avoid having an excessive amount of nitrogen in the soil because this attracts white fluffy aphids.

Tree branch with white cottony aphids against green leaves.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @jeremyvoh

Use natural, organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion, decomposed manure, compost, liquid seaweed, or other natural materials that release slowly into the soil. This helps maintain a consistent balance and avoid spikes in nitrogen levels.

Groom Plants Regularly

Do your heavy pruning during the middle of the growing season. Pruning is an excellent way to remove fuzzy aphids from plants naturally.

Close-up of fuzzy mold on a branch.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @rayvanderkooy

Prune moderately throughout the winter months and early springtime.

Encourage Natural Enemies and Predators

Encouraging natural predators and enemies is also an effective woolly aphids treatment.

Be sure to deadhead flowering plants regularly to encourage more blooms.

Cottony cushion scale insects on leaf.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @lalamcg2010

More blossoms encourage the presence of:

… and other natural predators and pollinators such as butterflies and bees.

Minimize woolly aphid treatment

Woolly aphid control is crucial to prevent further damage to the plants.

When you see a congregation of woolly aphids, treat them locally using neem oil insecticidal soap spray, a white oil spray, or a homemade spray for woolly aphids.

White fluffy insect on a branch.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @nerdy.for.nature

For large wolly aphid infestations, consider pruning away the affected branches and dispose of them carefully.

Place the affected branches in a plastic bag, seal it up, and set it in the sun until collected on garbage day or burn the limbs.

Avoid Harsh woolly aphid chemical control

It’s important to minimize the use of harsh chemicals in woolly aphid control as they can harm beneficial insects and predators.

Use chemical solutions like systemic insecticide sparingly. Remember, these products don’t just kill aphids. They can also hurt or kill your predatory insect and beneficial insect population.

Cottony fluff on tree branch with blurred greenery.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @better_call_britten_gardening

Some choices in chemical and natural pesticides effective against aphids include:

  • Pyrethrum
  • Permethrin
  • Imidacloprid
  • Bifenthrin
  • Malathion
  • Carbaryl
  • Horticultural Oil

Generally speaking, woolly alder aphid can be controlled very localized because their numbers are usually quite small, and they tend to gather in clusters.

The best time to deal with woolly aphids and other aphids is when they initially appear.

Fuzzy white growth on a branch, natural detail.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @weshkisp

Examine plants carefully early in the growing season. Deal with aphids locally by wiping them off with a paper towel soaked in rubbing alcohol or by spraying them forcefully with water.

Good prevention and early action will keep woolly aphids under control.

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