One of the most notorious plant pests in the insect world, aphids can quickly destroy an entire crop. But what are these aphids, and where do they come from? This article will be your guide to all things aphid.
Though only 1/16 to 1/8 inch long, aphids are a common garden pest found worldwide, with most of the population centered around temperate regions.
Aphids are called many names across the world. They can be the greenfly or the blackfly, depending on their color.
And sometimes, you might even see them hanging out with ants.
Let’s learn more about these very small but highly destructive crop pests.
What Are Aphids?
The term aphids refer to all the insects that fall under the subfamily of Aphidoidea. Aphidoidea contains over 4,000 species of aphids – all of which feast on plant sap.
Aphids use their piercing mouth parts to suck out the sap of a plant, which can be very harmful to younger, tender plants.
Even larger crops may fall to an aphid infestation – even if the insects are only a few in number. Infected crops have distorted leaves and might contain plant viruses and parasitic wasps.
They have very fast life cycles, requiring only ten days at the most to reach maturity. Females also egg in large numbers. The control of aphids is necessary for any healthy garden.
What Do Aphids Look Like?
Aphids have pear-shaped, soft bodies which can be either green, red, brown, pink, yellow, black, or even colorless.
The color usually signifies the type of plants they feed on. Some aphids can have waxy or woolly exteriors (such as the Woolly apple aphid).
They have two antennae upfront, compound eyes with three lenses, and a tail-like structure at the back.
Most aphids will also have two cornicles at the back, which is a tube-like protrusion from either end of their abdomen.
These tubes can spray cornicle wax, which is a quick-hardening liquid used for defense.
This is one of the distinguishing features that help identify aphids.
They can be both – non-winged and winged forms.
Types of Aphids?
There are over 4,000 species of aphids, but here are some of the more common ones:
- The rosy apple aphid, which lives on rose flowers
- The woolly apple aphid which thrives on the roots of apple trees
- The potato aphid is born on rose plants and then migrates onto potato and tomato plants
- The pea aphid is born on alfalfa or clover and finally attacks pea plants
- The green bug attacks wheat, oats, and other grains
- The corn root aphid, which feeds on corn roots
- The cabbage aphid that thrives on cauliflowers, brussels sprouts, and cabbages
- The melon aphids which attack melons
- The green peach aphid eats over 40 different plants
Do Aphids Jump?
Aphids cannot jump or hop. Their main mode of transport is crawling, walking, or hitching rides.
For example, ants will sometimes guard aphids to get access to honeydew (an excretory product that is sweet and encourages fungal growth) and, in return, transport aphid eggs.
Most aphids are wingless (including all females).
However, some aphids do have wings that help them leave one plant and go to another when the colony size gets too large.
Hence, they can fly short distances.
What Do Aphids Eat?
All aphids feed on plant sap; however, what plant they feed on will vary from species to species.
Among the thousands of species, they pretty much cover every tender plant you can think of.
Different species feed on apples, peas, cabbages, rosebuds, ornamental plants, woody plants, corn, melons, and more.
Root aphids specifically feed on the roots, whereas others may attack the leaves and stem region.
Very few aphids (only 10%) are actually monophagous – which means they only eat a few specific plants type.
Most are okay with all varieties of sap. Some, such as the Myzus persicae, feed across hundreds of plant species!
After finding a suitable host plant, aphids use their piercing mouth part (called a stylet) to create a puncture in the xylem of the plant in which the sap flows.
As the pressure is now disturbed, the sap flows into the aphid’s mouthparts, and the plant leaf or stem starts withering due to lack of it.
Do Aphids Eat Monarch Eggs?
Aphids are huge pests for oleander and milkweed plants, which typically attract monarch butterflies.
Attracting monarch butterflies is a great way to encourage pollination in your garden.
While aphids don’t feed on monarch eggs, they can still harm the butterfly population in two ways:
- They attract predators such as ladybugs and lacewings, which do consume monarch butterfly eggs.
- They completely defoliate the plant, leaving it bare of essential nutrients. Hence after the butterfly lays eggs, the caterpillars will have nothing to feed on.
Where Do Aphids Live?
Aphids can live either in the soil or on the underside of leaves and on tender stems of plants.
Soil aphids are generally root aphids and only eat sap from plant roots.
They are whitish or yellowish in color and will leave a whitish-waxy covering or residue near the base of the plant.
This can be a great way to identify if your plant is infested or not.
Root aphids typically attack the roots of apple trees, auricula primulas, grapes, and lettuce.
Aphids that feed on the stem and leaves are usually found on the underside of leaves and large vegetables such as cabbages.
Often, adult females will lay eggs in one location, and the nymphs will migrate onto the host plant later.
For example, potato aphid hatches from eggs laid on rose plants. Initially, the larvae feed on the rose plant.
However, in early spring, they migrate onto potatoes for the summer.
Similarly, the pea aphid starts its life cycle on alfalfa. But will eventually end up attacking pea plants.
Do Aphids Make Webs?
Aphids cannot weave webs akin to spiders. However, they produce honeydew as a byproduct.
Honeydew is sweet and sticky and can often form thin lines across plant stems, giving the appearance of a spider web.
Sometimes, aphids and ants will live in symbiotic colonies, where ants protect the aphid host plant and, in return, harvest the honeydew that the aphid produces.
Honeydew consists of half-digested sweet sap, which is a good source of carbohydrates for ants.
How Do Aphids Come Indoors?
Aphids can move in three ways: they can walk and crawl, hitch a ride on some other insect, and fly (limited to a few).
If you find an aphid infestation indoors, then they probably came in through some crack in the door or window – or perhaps even hitched a ride on you or your pet!
Root aphids live in the soil, and if you have repotted an indoor plant using your garden soil, they could have come along with it.
Life Cycle of A Aphids
Aphids are fast-reproducing insects, and they do so asexually (though sexual reproduction is also documented in some species).
Aphid eggs hatch in spring – usually, each female produces between 40 to 60 eggs.
The young nymphs are all exclusively female and wingless. The nymphs molt four times before finally becoming sexually mature adults.
These aphids (stem mothers) keep producing more female aphids through asexual reproduction (but they cannot produce eggs).
This process is called parthenogenesis and is essentially a type of cloning that is much faster than egg-laying. It is also why aphid infestation happens so quickly.
The wingless female aphids mostly reproduce asexually throughout the year. As winter nears, they cannot survive in the cold. But their egg stage can!
Hence, the last batch is usually male, winged aphids. After fertilization in sexual form with the male, the stem mothers produce eggs that hatch in the coming spring.
Sometimes, if the food source in a place is depleting, the stem mothers can give birth to winged females who can find other host plants.
Do Ants Farm Aphids?
Some ant species do farm aphids!
This is a common relationship seen among many insects and animals in the world.
Ants will sometimes transport aphid eggs onto favorable host plants and then protect the aphid from predators such as lacewings.
In return, the ants will “milk” the aphids to receive honeydew in return.
However, if an aphid does not produce enough honeydew (such as when sick or old), ants in the colony are known to attack and kill the disabled insect.
How Long Do Aphids Live?
A single aphid will usually have a lifespan averaging around a month.
In this, the insect will become sexually mature after anywhere between 4 to 10 days.
Each aphid goes through at least 3 or 4 generations before passing away.
Hence even a few dozen aphids can create large aphid colonies within weeks.
Do Aphids Bite?
Aphids do not have biting or chewing mouthparts. Hence they cannot bite humans or animals.
Moreover, they are herbivores that solely survive on plant sap.
However, they do have piercing mouthparts that they can use to pierce one’s skin.
This is rare, and if it does happen, the poor insect probably thought you were a plant.
Are They Poisonous/Venomous?
Aphids are not poisonous or venomous.
If you happen to get pricked by an aphid, the maximum reaction would be a local swelling, similar to a mosquito bite.
If threatened, they can sprew out conical wax from their cornicles, which quickly hardens and traps the predator. However, it is not poisonous.
What Are Aphids Attracted To?
Aphids, like some other common plant pests like scale and whiteflies, are attracted to light or objects that reflect light that falls within a range of 500-600 nm.
Apart from this, each species will be most attracted to its host plant, which it identifies through touch and smell.
What Eats Aphids?
There are many insects that eat aphids.
Some common aphid predators are ladybugs, lacewings, ladybeetles, damsel bugs, and more.
Ladybugs and their larvae are often touted as a good alternative to insecticidal soap for getting rid of aphids.
A single larva can eat more than 100 aphids in a single day.
There are also some other insects, such as praying mantes, that eat many insects, including aphids.
Can You Eat Aphids?
If it is by choice, I will encourage you to not eat aphids.
They’re too small to be of any nutritional benefit. And while they are not poisonous, they can carry various viruses, which it’s best to steer clear of.
Theoretically, you can eat aphids and remain perfectly healthy.
If you happen to consume one by mistake, as they were on your lettuce or cabbage, it is totally fine (though it might feel icky).
How To Get Rid of Aphids?
There are various ways to remove aphids, both natural and using chemicals. We cover all of it in the sections below.
How To Get Rid of Aphids Naturally?
The control of aphids is tough, but you can try getting rid of aphids in a few natural ways, such as:
- Release natural predators or beneficial insects in your garden. Some like lacewing larvae, will consume aphids and other insects while leaving your plants alone (they are carnivorous).
- Adding Diatomaceous Earth near the roots to kill root aphids. Diatomaceous Earth has a high silica content and is found naturally in some water bodies.
- You can use homemade recipes such as neem oil or vinegar spray to repel them. Mix vinegar with small amounts of acetic acid and spray it on your plant stems.
How To Get Rid Of Aphids On Christmas Tree?
It’s best to carefully inspect a christmas tree before buying to bring forth aphids in your home.
Aphid populations can spread swiftly, and they’re hard to get rid of.
However, if you do happen to notice aphids on your tree, use a vacuum to get rid of them. Do not dust the tree or try to crush them.
They can leave stains or move onto other indoor plants.
How To Get Rid Of Aphids On Cannabis?
There are a couple of things you can try to get rid of aphids on cannabis plants:
- If they are only a few, handpick them off.
- If you see larger numbers that keep coming back, use a jet of water on the infested areas in the morning and evening.
- Spray a mix of insecticidal soap onto the underside of the leaves until you see that the aphids are dead and done. This also prevents recurrence.
- Some smells, like that of neem oil and clove oil, are uncomfortable for aphids and can prevent a recurrence.
What Plants Repel Aphids?
You can use some plants as companion plants to get rid of aphids.
Usually, these are plants with a strong smell, such as marigolds and catnip, which these insects cannot stand.
Herbs that have a strong smell, such as dil, fennel, and peppermint, can also be used.
Onions, garlic, and hot pepper are some other options.
These work similarly to essential oils such as neem.
However, if you have an existing infestation, you might first need to use insecticidal soap to kill them and their strong-smelling plants to prevent a recurrence.
What Temperature Kills Aphids?
Aphids are more sensitive to cold than they are to heat. Low temperatures of around 23 to 5 F is enough to kill them.
On the other end of the spectrum, you will need a temperature of more than 90 F to kill them with heat.
Some aphids are more susceptible to heat than others. At high temperatures, they become inactive and eventually die.
However, aphid eggs can survive much colder temperatures, so you should be careful to weed out those too.
How To Get Rid of Aphids Using Sprays?
The best way to get rid of aphids is to use an insecticide that is effective for them.
With other solutions, there is always a risk of recurrence.
Some insecticide applications that can get rid of aphids are:
- The Sevin Insect Killer, which can be sprayed onto plant stems
- The Spinosad spray. However, it takes some time to work and mainly affects the larvae
- Avid insecticide spray is great for aphids and mites
Interesting Facts About Aphids
- When in trouble, aphids release pheromones to alert the colony. This pheromone usually sends the colony scurrying for cover.
- Unfortunately for them, some beetles can also follow the pheromone to the aphid’s hiding location.
- Almost every plant in the world is a potential host for some aphid species or another.
- When a female aphid is born, she is already carrying all the embryos that will eventually produce clones or offspring through asexual reproduction!
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes aphids to appear?
Aphids are small sap-sucking insects that can appear on plants and can cause damage to leaves, flowers, and stems.
There are several factors that can lead to the appearance of aphids, including weather conditions, plant stress, and a lack of natural predators.
Warm and dry weather conditions can provide optimal conditions for aphid reproduction.
Plant stress caused by drought or other environmental factors weakens the plant’s defenses against pests.
Additionally, a lack of natural predators, such as ladybugs or lacewings, can allow aphid populations to grow unchecked.
Once they appear, it is important to take prompt action to control the infestation before it causes significant damage to your plants.
What kills aphids instantly?
Aphids can be killed instantly by using natural remedies, such as insecticidal soap or neem oil.
These products will suffocate and dehydrate the aphids, ultimately resulting in their death.
Another effective method is to use a strong jet of water to knock the aphids off the plants, which will also kill them instantly.
It is important to remove any infected leaves or plants and keep your garden clean to prevent further infestations.
Avoid using chemical pesticides, as they can harm beneficial insects and pollinators present in your garden.
What problems can aphids cause?
Aphids can cause several problems for plants and crops, including stunting growth, transmitting plant viruses, reducing crop yields, and even killing plants if populations are high enough.
These insect pests feed by piercing the leaves and stems of plants to withdraw essential fluids, which weakens the plant and makes it more susceptible to disease.
In addition, aphid infestations can attract ants that feed on honeydew secreted by the aphids, further exacerbating the problem.
Sustainable control measures such as introducing natural predators or implementing integrated pest management strategies are often necessary to manage aphid populations effectively.
What kills aphids on plants?
There are several methods for controlling aphids on plants, including natural and chemical options.
Ladybugs, lacewings, and other beneficial insects can be introduced into the garden to help control aphid populations.
Neem oil is a natural insecticide that is effective against aphids when sprayed directly on the plant.
Soap-based insecticides can also be effective in controlling aphids without causing harm to beneficial insects or the environment.
How to prevent aphids?
Preventing aphids, a common garden pest involves several tactics.
One method is to use companion planting techniques where you plant certain plants near each other, such as basil next to tomatoes, to discourage aphids from infesting your crops.
Regularly inspecting your plants and removing any aphids you find can also help prevent them from spreading.
Another option is to use natural predators such as ladybugs or lacewings that feed on aphids to keep their populations under control.
Finally, some organic pesticides can be used as a last resort if necessary, but caution should be taken when using these products as they may also harm beneficial insects.
What is a natural spray for aphids?
A natural spray for aphids is a mixture of equal parts water and dish soap.
Simply mix the two together in a spray bottle and apply it to the affected plants.
The soap will suffocate and kill the aphids without harming your plants.
Another option is to use neem oil, which is a natural insecticide derived from an Indian plant.
Mix 1-2 tablespoons of neem oil with a gallon of water and spray on your plants to repel or kill aphids.
Garlic spray is also effective at repelling aphids, as they dislike the smell of garlic.
To make garlic spray, puree a few garlic cloves with water in a blender, strain out any solids, and mix with equal parts water before spraying onto your plants.
Aphids can be tiring pests to deal with and are natural enemies of every farmer.
They are especially harmful to crops during the early days as they mostly cannot survive an infestation.
If you see your plant wilt and develop curled leaves, it’s best to check for aphids under and within the leaves.
Some aphids will cause the leaves to curl around them, protecting them from predators and insecticides.
Thank you for reading!
Aphids are one of the most destructive plant pests.
Over the years, several of our readers have checked in with us, trying to find out what these tiny little insects are and how they can get rid of them.
Go through some of these emails to get a sense of how easily these aphids can destroy crops, flowers, and plants.
Letter 1 – Giant Conifer Aphid
January 8, 2010
We noticed several of these spider-like bugs crawling around inside our house this December. They seemed to coincide with the set-up of our freshly cut Christmas tree. Once the tree was removed in January we did not notice them anymore. This just may be a coincidence, but we don’t know for sure. We thought they were spiders, but noticed they have only 6 legs. Thanks in advance for your time and we look forward to your response, whether or not you can identify them.
Long Island, NY
We did a web search of “Aphid and Pine” and found a North Carolina State University page on Cinara Aphids on Christmas Trees with text, but no images. The site states: “Cinara Aphid Appearance. Cinara aphids are some of the largest aphids found in the world, Cinara aphids are usually dark in color appearing brown to black. The young are smaller versions of the adult. Cinarastrobi, the Cinara aphid found on eastern white pine, has white spots on the rear of the abdomen. Cinara aphids eggs are black and oblong and are found singly on the base of the needles.” We then verified the appearance on BugGuide, and we are satisfied with the identification that you had Giant Conifer Aphids in the genus Cinara. We often get reports of unusual insects crawling off of Christmas trees.
Thanks for your quick reply and apparently accurate identification. The photos on BugGuide look very similar to the actual bugs and to my photo, and after reading the NCSU page I’m convinced that’s what they were. I had checked BugGuide but would have never guessed they are aphids, so skipped that section.
Letter 2 – Giant Conifer Aphids: probably Cedar Aphids
some type of bark lice?
Location: Cold Lake, AB, Canada (North East Alberta)
August 10, 2011 12:11 am
Found these guys ALL over a small cedar tree in my front yard. They covered it from top to bottom and from trunk to branch tip. The tree is now gone (was getting rid of it anyway not cause of the bugs) but there is an identical cedar four feet away from it with no bugs at all. I noticed them when I was putting a bird back in it’s nest that fell out of the infested tree. I also noticed a non stop flow of ants in and out of the tree picking these guys up and leaving with them. Also a huge amount of common blow flies in the tree as well. Any idea what these are? Been all over the net and I don’t think they are ticks or mites, closest things i could find to them were bark lice. Hope you can Help!
These are Aphids, not Bark Lice. Whenever we receive photos of large Aphids on conifer trees, we immediately suspect that they are some species of Giant Conifer Aphid in the genus Cinara. We started to research a species that might be specific to cedar, and we found a technical paper in the online Journal of Bacteriology entitled The Striking Case of Tryptophan Provision in the Cedar Aphid Cinara cedri. Alas, BugGuide did not have any pages devoted to the Cedar Aphid, however, you may compare your images to other Giant Conifer Aphids posted to BugGuide. Aphids are insects that suck sap from plants and they produce a byproduct that is sticky and sweet and is called honey dew. Many ants form symbiotic relationships with Aphids and other Hemipterans because the ants feed on the honey dew. The ants will move the Aphids from location to location to ensure a constant renewable food source for both the aphids and ants, however, this relationship often has negative impacts on the health of the plants the Aphids are feeding upon. For this reason, Aphids are often called Ant Cattle. You should monitor the smaller cedar tree in your yard to ensure that it does not become infested with Cedar Aphids.
Letter 3 – Giant Conifer Aphids
Subject: What is this bug?
Location: Russellville, AR
December 22, 2012 1:29 pm
A custome found these on a frasier fur Christmas tree in his house. They seemed to have multiplied according this customer. We are in Arkansas and this was about a day ago.
Your customer got some Giant Conifer Aphids in addition to the Christmas Tree. In anticipation of similar requests, we created a featured posting just yesterday on the Giant Conifer Aphids.
Thank you so much for your response.
Live Nursery Specialist
Letter 4 – Giant Conifer Aphid
Subject: Christmas tree bug
Location: London uk
January 2, 2014 11:00 am
My mother in law took this photo of some bugs that hatched from a Nordman Fir Xmas tree. Lots of em, quite small – see the fir tree leaf for scale. Any ideas and should she be worried ( she let them go in the garden).
Signature: Adrian Hoole
According to BugGuide: “If it’s big, and on a conifer, it’s probably Cinara. To identify further, it’s usually necessary to identify the host plant, and consider the geographic range of different species.” Cinara is a genus with members commonly called the Giant Conifer Aphids. It is a rare year that doesn’t arrive with someone wondering about the Giant Conifer Aphids that have been living on the tree since before Christmas and not discovered until it is time to take the dry tree out. If there are any conifers living in the area and the weather isn’t freezing, we would not discount the possibility of Giant Conifer Aphids being spread to distant locations thanks to Christmas trees. BugGuide also notes: “Tends to form colonies on individual trees. They secrete honeydew, which is eaten by ants and wasps and provides the substrate for sooty mold fungus. May cause some stunting or even death on small or already-stressed hosts, but generally not a serious threat.
They are, however, a problem for Christmas tree growers: customers don’t like large, conspicuous aphids in their homes, especially since they tend to abandon the tree as it starts to dry out.”
Letter 5 – Probably Giant Conifer Aphids
Subject: Christmas Tree bugs
Location: Mid Michigan
January 2, 2014 4:53 pm
I think I saw what looks like the bugs in my house from my Christmas tree but I could not see where it said how to get rid of them. Right now, I am only seeing the bugs around my windows, all around my windows and every window in my house including the second level in my house. The majority of them are on the window by the tree, which is a black spruce tree.
Will they go away once the tree is removed? Do they bite? I have a dog, will they attach her?
Should I dispose of my tree skirt. What is the best way to get rid of them in my house? I didn’t notice them until I had all the bulbs off the tree and put away.. Could they be on my bulbs and do I need to get them all out again? I am freaking out a little from these ugly things and need to get rid of them asap! Thank you for your help and recommendations.
We just posted a lengthy description of Giant Conifer Aphids, which we believe you have based on the details we are able to make out in your blurry photo.
Letter 6 – Giant Conifer Aphid
Subject: bugs all over patio
Location: Aurora, CO
June 12, 2014 6:42 pm
Our patio, planter, and pine tree are covered with these brownish, greyish, and black teeny bugs. The adults are 3mm at most. The legs are striped. Picture was just taken, in mid-June
This is a Giant Conifer Aphid in the genus Cinara, and you may find more information on BugGuide.
Letter 7 – Giant Conifer Aphid or Bed Bug????
Subject: Please don’t be bed bugs…
January 25, 2015 3:57 am
As I was cleaning the house this morning, I removed the blankets from the couch in the living room to be washed. When I pulled one of the blankets up, I noticed about 5 tan colored insects sitting on the couch underneath where the blanket had been. I don’t deal well with bugs, so I immediately grabbed my vacuum and sucked each of them up. Then I decided I may as well vacuum the whole house. I moved to the other side of the room and started vacuuming up the pine needles on the carpet from my live Christmas tree… then I noticed the same bugs! Soon I discovered the tree was infested with them. I decided to throw the tree outside to the curb, decorations and all. When I threw the tree down, a swarm of bugs flew out of the tree and away. I finished vacuuming the entire house right after and haven’t been able to find anymore. I managed to take a blurry pic of one. The bugs were around the size of a lady bug with a tan coloration and six legs. The ones I sucked up with th e vacuum didn’t look or act as though they had wings, but the same looking bugs on the tree almost all had wings. In the pic, the bug is crawling across a stereo speaker. The tree was a Norwegian Spruce, if that matters. Thanks for your help!
Signature: Squeam Queen
Dear Squeam Queen,
Many folks feel squeamish around insects. Unfortunately, there is not enough detail in your image to make a conclusive identification. The location where you found this critter would be indicative that they might have been Bed Bugs, but if you are certain the insects on the Christmas Tree are identical, then we can rule out Bed Bugs. Live Christmas Trees often carry living creatures, and one of the most common insects found on live trees is the Giant Conifer Aphid. Giant Conifer Aphids often are not noticed until the tree begins to dry out and the Aphids begin to die. Aphids are found in both winged forms and those that lack wings. The most puzzling aspect of this for us is how Giant Conifer Aphids would have gotten from the tree to under the blanket on the couch. Perhaps a pet?
Eeeeeeeek! Pleeeeease not bed bugs…
Yes, I have 2 cats. I was actually cleaning the apartment as part of my routine for dealing with fleas when I noticed the other creepy crawlers.
Never saw them before and haven’t seen them after. I guess if I see another one I’ll just jar it to learn what I’m dealing with. I’m pretty sure what I saw on the tree was the same as what I sucked up on the couch. I can’t be 100% certain though as it’s kind of a blur now… I was pretty terrified.
I was doing some research on my own before contacting you when I learned about Giant Conifer Aphids. The body looks remarkably like what I saw but the color wasn’t quite right and I haven’t been able to find an image of a light tan colored Giant Conifer Aphid… so I’m really unsure and quite honestly a bit panicked. I don’t really know what to do unless I know what I’m dealing with, you know? Hopefully I’ll catch one so I can know for sure. Thank you for helping me, I really appreciate it.
Hi again Squeam Queen,
We are speculating that the cats were interested in your Christmas Tree and that they also sleep on the couch, which explains how the Aphids could have migrated from tree to couch.
Letter 8 – Giant Conifer Aphids
Subject: Bug found in evergreen
Location: Brisbane, California
July 3, 2015 8:56 pm
The kiddos were climbing around in a tall evergreen today. A fellow parent noticed a mound of bugs that spread out to what you see in the photo. Any idea what they are?
Location: Northern California
Found: July 3, 2015
That tree is infested with Giant Conifer Aphids in the genus Cinara. According to BugGuide: “If it’s big, and on a conifer, it’s probably Cinara. To identify further, it’s usually necessary to identify the host plant, and consider the geographic range of different species. … The genus is widespread, but individual species are often limited by the range of their hosts.”
Letter 9 – Giant Conifer Aphid
Subject: What is it???
Location: Nj. Southern area
January 6, 2016 6:08 pm
They just came in areas where there was hardwood flooring. It seemed like all if a sudden. None found in our dogs bed or couches. None found in our carpets.
Signature: Linda in nj
Did you have a living Christmas Tree? Many insects enter homes on Christmas Trees. This looks like a Giant Conifer Aphid to us. Compare your individual to this BugGuide image.
That’s the bug!!! Our Christmas tree is getting the boot immediately! Thank you so very much!!!!
Letter 10 – Giant Conifer Aphids in Great Britain
Subject: A bug
Location: High Wycombe bucks GB
April 30, 2017 6:13 am
I have thousands of bugs in an area of my garden suddenly arrived do not seem to fly located under a pine tree all over tree house and adjacent shed .Body half a centimetre long plus legs .
Signature: Dianne Sutton
These are Giant Conifer Aphids in the genus Cinara, and we needed to verify that they are present in Great Britain. According to Influential Points: “Autumn is not often regarded as a great time for insect hunting but, for aphidologists, it can be really good. Many conifer aphid populations peak in autumn, especially Cinara aphids. These are unusually large with long piercing mouthparts for piercing the bark of large trees. Many have a very limited host-range, often just one tree genus. Britain has 3 native conifers, thus few ‘native’ Cinara species. But in the last few hundred years many species were introduced, and some became naturalized. Following which we now have at least 25 Cinara species.” According to BugGuide: “Tends to form colonies on individual trees. They secrete honeydew, which is eaten by ants and wasps and provides the substrate for sooty mold fungus. May cause some stunting or even death on small or already-stressed hosts, but generally not a serious threat. They are, however, a problem for Christmas tree growers: customers don’t like large, conspicuous aphids in their homes, especially since they tend to abandon the tree as it starts to dry out.” Most of our postings of Giant Conifer Aphids are a result of Christmas tree infestations.
Thank you very much for your prompt reply how do I get rid of them?
We do not provide extermination advice.
Letter 11 – Giant Conifer Aphid
Subject: What is this insect?
Geographic location of the bug: Battery Park City, Manhattan NYC
Time: 06:25 PM EDT
I saw this insect in NYC on 10/14/17. I can not identify it with my insect field guide or any online resources. It is about ⅞ inch long, with two sets of veined wings, smallish eyes, and a proboscis type mouth. The legs are rather long.
How you want your letter signed: Gerry LaPlante
Based on this BugGuide image, this looks like a Giant Conifer Aphid to us. There is some helpful information on Influential Points where it states: “This aphid has an entirely jet-black head, thorax and abdomen.”
Thank you so much!
Looking at the photos available online, I agree with your assessment.
Letter 12 – Oleander Aphid
whats this bug?
I found hundreds of these tiny bugs on my butterfly bush (milkweed) today. Are they bad or good bugs? Do I need to kill them? Love your website!
This is an Aphid and they can be destructive when plentiful. We recommend either just hosing them away or spraying them with mildly soapy water. Dish soap diluted will work fine.
Update from Eric Eaton (01/04/2006)
“The yellow aphid is an Oleander Aphid, believe it or not. They apparently find milkweed and oleander interchangable.”
Letter 13 – Oleander Aphids
Fri, Dec 26, 2008 at 6:29 AM
I don’t want to abuse but I have 3 different pictures. The first one we though it was pollen, but when we got close-up, we were surprised that they were small yellow bugs that we can’t identify (took at 11p.m)…
The second one is some kind of ‘spiky’ flying thing! It did not stayed long enough on the leave for me to take a better picture of it. It is about 2.5 inch long…
And the last one was taken on a grass piece, so they are very small and there’s a lot of them..
The 3 pictures were taken during summer 2008 in a Montréal park. And i’m sorry if I’m not expressing myself very well, I’m not used to write in english!
Thanks you Bugman!
Montréal, Québec, Canada
The yellow insects are Aphids, and we believe they are Oleander Aphids, Aphis nerii, a species introduced from the Mediterranean that now ranges over much of North America. The species is now cosmopolitan. According to BugGuide, they feed on milkweed as well as oleander and we get them every year on our potted Hoya plants. BugGuide also provides this information: “Males are apparently absent from North American populations–reproduction is by parthenogenesis.”
Letter 14 – Oleander Aphids
July 12, 2009
I walked outside this afternoon to find some very confusing looking ‘yellow balls’ with odd pointy black bits on my butterfly bush. After some minor research, it turns out they are Oleander Aphids. I saw you only have one photo of the little weirdos, so here is another! They apparently do not harm the plant, so they get to stay there.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
We get Oleander Aphids, Aphis nerii, on our Hoya lanceolata each year. We do not believe they are harmless as they suck the sap from the host plant. We spray them off the Hoya with a hose.
Letter 15 – Oleander Aphids
Subject: Strange bug group on plant leaves
October 6, 2013 5:29 pm
Hello there, a plant in my garden has hundreds of these walking orange like bugs with legs in groups on the stem and on the underside of this plant only in my garden, possibly just hatched and it looks like mom is watching over them in one of the pictures ? What bug is this? Thank you
Signature: Bmac in Boston
You have an infestation of Oleander Aphids, Aphis nerii. They suck the sap from plants in the dogbane family, including oleander, milkweed and hoya. These plants have milky sap. They are also called Milkweed Aphids. See BugGuide for additional information. You might want to hose them off the plant as they can cause damage if they are plentiful.
Letter 16 – Large Milkweed Bug and Oleander Aphids on Milkweed
Subject: Please identify this bug
Location: Irvine, CA
August 22, 2017 1:33 pm
This bug is hanging out on my milkweed plant. Please help me identify it so I can get rid of it.
Signature: Marta Rosener
The large insect in your image is a Large Milkweed Bug, and though they suck juices from plants, they feed mainly on the seeds and seed pods which will reduce the number of viable seeds produced by the plant, but it will not harm the plant. The tiny, yellow Oleander Aphids are another story and they are injurious to the young shoots of your milkweed plants, but it also appears that the Large Milkweed Bug might be feeding on the Aphids. According to BugGuide: “In the course of feeding these bugs accumulate toxins from the milkweed, which can potentially sicken any predators foolish enough to ignore the bright colors which warn of their toxicity.”
Letter 17 – Hover Fly Pupa and Oleander Aphid
Subject: egg or pupa on milkweed
Geographic location of the bug: Azle, Tx
Time: 12:43 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I found several of these on my milkweed which was also infested with aphids. Please help me identify this creature.
How you want your letter signed: Joanne
This is the pupa of a beneficial Hover Fly or Flower Fly in the family Syrphidae, and while in the larval stage, they feed voraciously on Aphids. Adult Hover Flies are also excellent pollinators that mimic stinging wasps and bees, though they are perfectly harmless to humans. We located a matching image on BugGuide, and there is also a small image at the bottom of the Bugs and Critters in my Florida Back Yard blog.
Thank you! Do you know if Hover Flies are harmful to Monarch caterpillars?
Hi aganin Joanne. They are not harmful to Monarch caterpillars.
Letter 18 – Mystery Thing is Giant Willow Aphid
This was taken on an ivy leaf in our back yark in Kansas City, MO. We live on the edge of a greenway with lots of trees and a creek. I have been searching everywhere I can think of to find an ID for it with no luck. The head the four wings make me think it might be some type of clearwing moth. I would appreciate a positive ID. Thanks again for the great sight! It has helped me ID many of the photos I have taken.
We don’t believe we have ever been this baffled before. We get identifications wrong, but generally, we at least get the order correct. This insect seems to have characteristics of several different orders: wings like a cicada, legs like an orthopteran or wasp, head rather lepidopteran. It is a mystery. Our best guess is that it is in the order Psocoptera. Just how big was this critter? We will check to see if Eric Eaton can provide us with an answer.
This is a great image of a winged individual of the giant willow aphid, Tuberolachnus salignus. You can easily be forgiven for assuming such a large aphid is a barklouse:-)
Awesome, guys! Thanks for the ID! I think the length was about 1/2 inch or so not including the wings.
Letter 19 – Probably Black Willow Aphid
Tiny bugs all our fence!
November 13, 2009
We live in Philadelphia and over the past few months part of our back yard fence has been colonized by these small (3mm) insects. There are hundreds of them. The fence runs underneath a weeping willow tree, and they appear to also be on the willow. The bugs move fairly quickly. I’ve tried sweeping/blowing them away, and they return hours later. When you squish them it leaves a purple residue. Our landscaper thinks that based on the speed of the insect, that they’re probably a “beneficial”. Any thoughts?
Philadelphia, PA (Northwest corner of the city)
WE are not having much luck with a definitive identification. At first we thought these were immature True Bugs, but we cannot find any images that match. Then we thought perhaps they might be Aphids, which are in the same insect order as the True Bugs. There is a Giant Willow Aphid, but it doesn’t match your specimens. We think we need to seek assistance from Eric Eaton and our readership on this identification.
We were not content with giving up, and we located a reference on the UMN Yard and Garden News website for a Black Willow Aphid, with no scientific name. It is described by Jeffrey Hahn as: “Black aphids with orangish or brownish legs and cornicles (the tail pipes of an aphid) on willow are black willow aphids. They are large for an aphid, reaching up to 3/16th inch in length. They can be quite abundant in August and September. These aphids are common on willows and may also be found occasionally on poplars and silver maples.
Black willow aphids secrete honeydew, a sticky sugary substance which will coat any object underneath an infestation. Yellowjackets may be attracted to infested trees because of the honeydew. In addition to being a problem in trees, these aphids sometimes have an annoying habit of dropping to the ground and collecting around buildings and nearby objects. If their bodies are crushed, they can stain siding and other objects a blue-purple color.
Despite their abundance, they do little if any lasting harm to established, vigorously growing trees. Their presence is just a nuisance. Tolerate these aphids as much as possible. If you wish to reduce their numbers, try washing them off as many branches as you can reach with a hard spray of water. … If nothing is done, their numbers will diminish on their own by the end of the month.” That led to an image on Flickr with the scientific name Pterocomma salicis. That brought us back to BugGuide. The images online of the Black Willow Aphid are spotted, but other than that, they resemble your insects. We still hope to get assistance with this ID.
I think it might be a willow aphid of sorts, just not the one you were thinking of. I think these might be Pterocomma salicis instead, but I am by no means positive. At this time of year aphids are changing to alternate host plants for the winter, too, so that can really throw things off. Aphids of the same species can, in at least some cases, look completely different depending on whether they are on the primary host or the alternate host.
Letter 20 – Giant Willow Aphids
Subject: Tiny Bugs All over swingset and willow tree
Location: Kalkaska, MI
September 12, 2012 5:43 pm
We recently noticed these tiny black bugs that seem to have an orangish redish color on there legs all over our wooden swingset and also recently discovered them all over our willow tree as well, I have never seen these bugs before and wonder if they cause any harm
Signature: Jessica L.
You have Giant Willow Aphids, Tuberolachnus salignus and we verified the identification on BugGuide. Aphids are considered significant agricultural pests, especially when they are numerous, but any harm they might cause would be to your willow tree, not to you or your swing set, though we imagine they are a bit of a nuisance on the swing set.
Letter 21 – Giant Willow Aphid from New Zealand
Subject: Please help identify
Location: Feilding New Zealand
May 15, 2016 9:58 pm
I found quite a few of these crawling around on my outdoor table and occasionally on me. Just want to know what they are and if they are a known pest or harmless.
We believe we have correctly identified this Aphid as a Giant Willow Aphid, Tuberolachnus salignus, a species that according to Farm Forestry New Zealand: ” was first found in New Zealand on 23 Dec 2013 at Western Springs Park, Auckland by entomologist Stephen Thorpe. Surprisingly, subsequent surveys have revealed that it is already well established throughout much of New Zealand.” The site also states: “Large dense colonies of the giant willow aphid form over summer. Reproduction occurs asexually with no males having ever been found, thus the aphids in these colonies are typically clones. The aphids are noted to be long lived, with winged individuals in particular displaying lengthy maternal care of their offspring. In Great Britain colonies are apparent from mid-summer into late winter, after which the aphids curiously disappear in spring. We may expect to see a similar trend in New Zealand with T. salignus present between December and July.” More information on the Giant Willow Aphid can be found on the Study of Northern Virginia Ecology site.
Letter 22 – Giant Willow Aphid
Subject: Unknown bug
Location: Southwesr kansas.
May 18, 2016 4:51 pm
Found about 6 or 7 of these on my sweatshirt when was cutting branches off tree. Not sure what they are.
Were you by chance pruning a willow or a cottonwood tree? This is a Giant Willow Aphid, Tuberolachnus salignus, a species that according to BugGuide is: “Non native, introduced from Europe around 1872. Considered a minor pest.”
Letter 23 – Giant Willow Aphids
Subject: Willow Borer?
Location: West Valley City, UT (Near Salt Lake City)
November 14, 2016 11:06 am
I was out in my backyard and i seen this wet spot on my patio, i looked up and seen it was coming from a branch on my umbrella willow, i looked and went to touch it and the whole branch started moving! There were it seemed like thousands of these things on this one spot of the tree. I looked more over on both trees I have, and these things are all over both trees in several locations. Can you tell me what this is? and how to fix it maybe??
Thanks so much!
Signature: Rich Kauss
Though it is not a boring insect, the Giant Willow Aphid is nonetheless no beneficial on your tree. Like other Aphids, they suck the nourishing fluids from their plant hosts. According to BugGuide, the Giant Willow Native, Tuberolachnus salignus, is: “Non native, introduced from Europe around 1872. Considered a minor pest” and “According to Dr. Tilly Collins, the Giant Willow Aphid is ‘genetically incompatible with sexual reproduction and reproduces parthenogenetically year-round.'” Many Aphids are parthenogenic or give live birth at some times, but it seems the Giant Willow Aphid must give live birth without sexually commingling its genetic code at all times.
Letter 24 – Black Willow Aphids, we believe
Subject: Interesting bug
Geographic location of the bug: Michigan
Time: 11:03 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello bugman!
Can you tell me what this bug is? We seem to have an infestation outside and I am a bit worried about our small children and pets. Can you help me? Thanks for your time in advance!
How you want your letter signed: Megan O’Dell
Your image lacks critical clarity, but we were convinced these were Giant Aphids in the subfamily Lachninae, though BugGuide does not picture any individuals with the bright orange tubercles on the individuals in your image. We then located an image of the Black Willow Aphid, Pterocomma salicis, on Influential Points where it states: “The black willow bark aphid forms dense colonies on two-year-old twigs and wands of willow (Salix spp.). It is usually attended by ants. Apterous males and oviparae occur in October-November. It is widely distributed in Europe and Asia and has been introduced into North America.” The Black Willow Aphid is also pictured on BugGuide. We believe that is a correct ID. Do you have a nearby willow tree?
Aphids feed by sucking fluids from plants, generally on the tender tips of branches, so they will not be eating the trunks of your trees.
28 thoughts on “Aphids: All You Need to Know”
I have MANY large oleanders on my property, that we have just noticed are COVERED with aphids. I would definitely say it is a severe infestation. Don’t think dish soap will cut it. We are in the High Desert of Cali. It is late spring, will buying lady beetles do the job or must we attempt to prune less than a third of the foliage? Please help! They are to beautiful to lose.
We do not provide extermination advice.
We have a lot…. Millions… Of these bugs. It is awful!! They are all over the kids toys, swing set and killing my willow tree. I really need help getting rid of them. I won’t let the kids outside now. I spray them with water and they come back. What should I do???
We do not provide extermination advice.
I am experiencing the same problem. They are covering my tree, and other objexts siting in my yard, like our garbage cans. I am spraying them with a mixture of Dawn dish soap and water. They are still in our tree, but I spray around the house etc and have noticed they have slowed down. After spraying, the bugs are kinda dried out, and don’t leave a purple stain like when you crush them.
In green house i planted willow seedlings from last week i oberving the coleoptra in willow ports. could you suugest me any kind of solution to get rid off from these tiny insects.
Spraying the infested plant with mild, soapy water is a long established method to control Aphid populations.
These have just shown up. We’ve lived here for 30 years with large willows and never have seen them before. Thousands upon thousands. Insecticide kills them on contact but seem to be impervious to the residue of the poison and does not affect them. Can’t spray the tree cuz it’s over 60ft tall.
I have been searching for days and I finally have somewhat of an answer. I am happy that I found this because I have the same issue as stated above and it has really been “bugging” me. Thanks for writing this!
Are Black Willow Aphid harmful to chickens? They are all over the outside of my chicken coop.
We don’t believe they will harm your chickens.
Here in Minnesota we had these insects ALL over our backyard. I’ve never seen them before until this year. I did as much research online as I could and came up with nothing till this post. I will say that we did spray with an insecticide. However we ended up spraying the hanging branches of the neighbors weeping willow tree. That worked like a charm and they haven’t come back.
Aphids are dormant from the most part well never. When dealing with these pesky creatures I suggest you hire professional help immediaty. Termnix is a good place to get services. For starter anyhing can be infested with these bugs. Take no chances if you think that than your trusing instincts.
Same here! Our Southeast Michigan yard is infested with millions of these, identical to these. They just appeared—first time in 25 years, and there is a huge willow in our backyard, being taken down as we speak. Hoping for a solution, as this is tge stuff of my nightmares!
Since you removed the tree did the aphids go away? I’m considering getting mine taken down as well but only if it will for sure solve the problem. Thanks!
It seems that this is what we’re being plagued by, here, too, in northeastern New Mexico, in 100 year old Black Willows, Salix Nigra, imported historically from somewhere “back east”. I appreciate reading these accounts so much, thank you everyone, it really helps to finally know something. Our trees are huge, so, don’t know how we’ll deal with them, and are praying they don’t come next year. These same trees had a few of the same black aphids, one year in the 1980s, and none again until this summer. This year is a far more serious infestation, and the trees are looking quite stressed, but it’s also nearing fall. Yes, the stuff of nightmares, I agree!!
Are you talking about the name of the tree or the insect?
first time in 30 years to ever see these little bugs. a pain in the azz. I have been spraying the side of the house and other objects in the yard. hoping a first freeze will eliminate them. weeping willow is over 30 years old and we never had an issue till this year. a purple/grape goo if smashed.
I’m hoping the first freeze will kill the aphids. I was told by a tree pro that the best war to kill these aphids is by using a systemic with imidacloprid around the base of the trees. This insecticide is a neurotoxin known to kill honeybees. He said it would take 5-6 weeks for it to be fully transported into the leaves and become effective. Not wanting to add to the die off of honeybees, I’m wondering about applying next season after trees flower, hoping to miss doing harm to bees. Perhaps by then, I might know if we have a return of the aphids, not ever wanting to go through another summer like this one, I will try it if nothing else presents itself. I wonder if anyone has any experience with trying this approach. Also, if anyone has a successful idea for cleaning off roofs and stones covered by months of honeydew. Beautiful flag stone paving is blackened, and so far, scrubbing with various house cleaners hasn’t done much good.
Saddened to hear any use of pesticides being discussed- when we already know our bees are dying. I have this same problem on my willow screen, but will instead do anything i can – such as letting the birds and ladybirds help by introducing bird feeders to this area – the birds can’t see the aphids unless they get up close, and ladybirds are there and feeding on them. Also, please note that the bees feed on the sticky honeydew the aphids produce so don’t use presticides please.
We agree with you, and we were puzzled by your comment since What’s That Bug? does not provide extermination advice, nor do we promote pesticides. Upon rereading our posting, we realized one of our quotes included a comment about insecticidal soap, so we removed that sentence from the quote, replacing it with an ellipsis. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Comments from our readers do often include extermination advice.
Have circles of peeled bark around the lower base branch (up to 4′ or so) on some of the black willows around a stream. Sometimes just one horizontal circle of peeled bark, and sometimes several of the perfectly horizontal peeled circles close together on the bark from ground up to about 4′. What is it? How can I kill it. Live in central Colorado.
We have a corkscrew willow which we believe to be hosting these aphids. They are very few that we can see on the willow itself, but they are all over our wooden deck and metal furniture. We can’t use our deck now!
First time this problem and the tree is around 15 to 20 years old, maybe more and over 40 feet tall we guess.
Very discouraging. It we hope the cold coming might slow them down and we will use dormant oil spray in the 2020 spring.
We have a corkscrew willow which we believe to be hosting these aphids. They are very few that we can see on the willow itself, but they are all over our wooden deck and metal furniture. We can’t use our deck now!
First time this problem and the tree is around 15 to 20 years old, maybe more and over 40 feet tall we guess.
Very discouraging. It we hope the cold coming might slow them down and we will use dormant oil spray in the 2020 spring.
The good news is that one year is unlike another. After the summer of 2018 when our black willows were plagued by aphids, they didn’t reappear in 2019, and the trees recovered beautifully. This year has been much rainier than last year, so, I think that had something to do with the invasion we had. I apologise for mentioning an insecticide, I hoped something knew about how to use it skillfully. With such huge trees, I couldn’t imagine ladybugs making a difference before flying away, I really appreciate knowing they amy have worked for someone else.My actual worst nightmare would be to lose my trees, and I’m so glad they’ve survived and done well again.My sympathy goes out to those who felt they had to take down these gorgeous trees.
I am an engineer at Tiny Town, Colorado. At the park we have 7 Willow trees over 60 feet tall. We have a whole bunch of sapling willows along our creek bed. We have had a commercial spray company spray the large willow near the playground, with good results. They stated that they could not spray near the creek bed. That leaves the remaining willows still infected. My question is will these Willow Aphids winter over here in Colorado? This is the first time we have been infected in the last 16 years.
I’m in Deer Creek Canyon, CO, and seeing the same on my huge willow. First time in 25 years up here. I’m hoping they die over winter. Friend at UW said to dust with flour, which constipates them. Alternative is Neem or horticultural oil. Haven’t heard of using flour before, but if it annoys the bicyclists as a side-bonus, it’s worth a try. Would need to engineer a dusting method for a tree this tall… Suggestions?
Can these black willow aphids harm your pets?