Can Aphids Bite Humans? The Truth Behind the Misconceptions

Aphids are well-known predators of plants, but do aphids bite humans as well? Let’s find out.

 

Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied insects that are common plant pests in the United States. An aphid infestation is bad news for the plant.

They use their needle-like sucking mouthparts to drink the sap out of plants and damaging them in the process.

However, aphids can not harm humans in any way. Their sharp mouths can occasionally pierce through human skin, but they do not have teeth or a stinger to bite humans.

So, the answer to the question is: aphids cannot bite humans. Let’s learn more about this in this article.

 

Do Aphids Bite

 

Can Aphids Bite Or Sting You?

Aphids cannot bite you; they don’t have any teeth. Insects like bees or wasps use stingers to pierce human skin, but aphids don’t have those either.

They can occasionally pierce your skin with their sharp mouthparts, but that happens very rarely.

As we just said, aphids can neither bite nor sting you, but their needle-like mouthparts might prick you.

The only people likely to ever get their skin pierced by aphids would be researchers who would sit in a garden with an aphid infestation!

You might wonder why an aphid would sit on human skin in the first place. Well, human skin is moist, and aphids look to suck moisture in the form of sap from plants.

You get the picture… most likely, the poor aphid was just trying to suck the sap out of you!

Signs You’ve Been Bitten or Stung by an Aphid

Unless you have seen the aphid crawling on your skin and biting you, you cannot be sure about its bite. It is very similar to the bite or sting from many commonly found insects.

An aphid’s bite or sting doesn’t usually hurt because they do not have teeth. Even so, some people have reported rashes and swollen or itchy skin after an aphid bite.

There is little research on what happens after aphids bit human skin, so one cannot be sure of the same.

However, researchers have observed that gall-forming aphids in Taiwan live under snowbell trees and bite people, leaving a red rash lasting up to three days.

An aphid may occasionally bite people if their hands or skin smells like plants or if the insect feels threatened or want to do the taste test (with their antennae) on you.

 

Do Aphids Bite

 

Do pea aphids bite people?

If an aphid has bitten you in the US, it is usually the doing of a pea aphid. Pea aphids are spread worldwide, have long legs and either green or pinkish bodies, and are active during summer.

In winter, they lay their eggs on clover or alfalfa leaves. Pea aphids usually stick together in large colonies where female aphids lay eggs giving birth to approximately 100 aphids.

However, pea aphids aren’t as aggressive as the gull-forming aphid of Taiwan. They would usually go mind their own business rather than intentionally biting a human.

The bites from pea aphids do not harm humans. However, they may leave a rash or swollen and itchy skin for a while.

Who else do aphids bite?

Usually, aphids simply use their needle-like mouthparts only to suck tree saplings. However, a few aphids might not be vegetarian and might suck on other insects or their eggs.

These aphids may use their mouthparts, known as stylets, to pierce through their skin and drink their juices, including the eggs and larvae.

There are instances of aphids using their stylets to suck the liquid out of insect eggs like lacewings and ladybirds, and they don’t even shy away from even opening the body of ant larvae.

Some aphids also liked to feed on mites and occasionally attacked other aphids in their colonies in search of food.

Winged aphids have an unusual relationship with ants. Ants bite off their wings so that they can extract the sugary honeydew that aphids excrete after sucking plant saplings.

Ants are known for herding aphids, keeping them safe from other predators, and extracting this honeydew as their reward.

On the other hand, woolly aphids eat up ant larvae, finishing off their honeydew suckers before they are even born!

 

Do Aphids Bite

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What do aphids look like?

Aphids are small insects (about 1/4inch long) and you can identify them via their soft and colorful bodies. They come in various colors: black aphids, white aphids, green aphids, etc. Wooly aphids are a common type of white aphids.

What do aphids feed on?

Their main food source is the sap of plants. When an aphid colony infests a plant, they suck the sap dry and leave behind a sooty mold that damages leaves, fruits, and flowers.

Aphids are one of the worst pests because they destroy the entire plant.

What happens if an aphid bites you?

Technically, aphids cannot bite humans because they have no teeth. However, they can pierce throughout with their mouthparts, called stylets.

These aphid “bites” can cause mild skin irritation. It can lead to swollen, itchy skin or a rash that may last for a few days.

Can aphids harm humans?

No, aphids cannot harm humans directly. They can occasionally pierce through human skin mistaking it for a plant’s sap, and that’s it.

However, they can bring aphid infestation to your garden and damage your precious plants.

Do aphids bite dogs?

Aphids can pierce their mouthparts on dogs’ skin, but the “bite” will not cause any serious damage. Humans can get rashes out of an aphid’s bite, but since a dog’s skin is covered with fur, it is unlikely that it will get any rashes or swelling.

Can aphids infest your house?

Aphids can easily come inside your house with infested house plants. They can also attach to your clothes or enter via doors and windows with the help of wind. Once inside, they can infest indoor houseplants.

Wrapping up

Aphids cannot hurt humans. So the next time you see an aphid, do not worry about getting bitten or stung. It won’t harm you, but it can and will damage your plants in the garden.

They are one of the most horrible pests, and you should try to keep Asian ladybeetles, ladybugs, or other beneficial insects in your garden to get rid of them as soon as possible. Thank you for reading!

 

 

Reader Emails

Over the years, our readers have sent us several emails on this topic. Please go through them below.

Letter 1 – Aphid Wolf bites human

 

carnivorous menace
Location: San Francisco, CA
July 24, 2011 1:58 pm
I woke to find this little guy biting my arm. It raised a small welt that faded in an hour or so. I hope not to meet any more, but I’m curious who I’m dealing with. I had a look through the catalog here, but didn’t spot this fellow. (I’m just glad it’s not a bedbug.) Do you recognize it?
Signature: Breakfast Buffet

Aphid Wolf

Dear Breakfast Buffet,
The larval Lacewing deserves its common name Aphid Wolf.  This predator is a welcome addition to the garden where it will devour countless Aphids.  Here is a photo from a posting in our archives showing an Aphid Wolf feasting on its preferred meal, Aphids.  We have frequently gotten reports from people regarding the sensation of the bite from an Aphid Wolf, and just last week, Daniel had his own first hand experience that is worth reporting.  While driving to work in the morning, Daniel felt a slight pinch on his right wrist, and looked down to find a tiny Aphid Wolf biting down.  The sensation of the pinch was far greater than one would expect from such a tiny creature.  Since Daniel knew that this was a harmless creature, he decided to allow the Aphid Wolf to ride until the destination was reached where it could be released, and in the course of the remaining ten minute drive, the beast bit a second time.  Both bites left tiny welts, and the faint burning sensation lasted until the next day.  We frequently have to inform our readership that insects might sting and bite, but they are not aggressive.  This Aphid Wolf was not provoked, and it bit nonetheless.  The sensation was easily felt and the side effects of an itchy welt lasted 24 hours, considerably less than the bite of a mosquito which is far more annoying.  Aphid Wolves are amazing creatures, and in some of our older postings, we have used an alternate name of Aphid Lion.

Aphid Wolf

Thanks, Daniel!  I’ve delivered the aphid wolf to a friend who’s having an aphid problem.  🙂

Letter 2 – Lacewing Larva: Aphid Wolf Bites Human!!!

 

Subject: Small with Big Bite (or sting)
Location: Southeast Michigan
July 7, 2012 12:23 pm
We keep finding these little guys all over our deck in the backyard. It seems their favorite hangout is our picnic table (we don’t picnic on it, so they’re not waiting for scraps). If they crawl on you, they can really hang on. They’re only about 1/4 inch, but they’ve got a wicked bite (or sting). They can even bite/sting through a loose tee-shirt. Some people have allergic reaction to the bite/sting and welt up, others just feel the pain. We’ve never seen them in the house or even other parts of the yard (which is half an acre). Any help identifying these little guys would be greatly appreciated!
Signature: Rice Fam

Lacewing Larva

Dear Rice Fam,
We know first hand that the bite of a Lacewing Larva is surprisingly noticeable compared to the size of the creature.  Lacewing Lavae and adults are both important predators that help to control the population of Aphids and other plant feeding insects.  The bite is not dangerous.  The larva of a Lacewing is commonly called an Aphid Wolf.

Letter 3 – Aphid Wolf bites parent in California

 

Subject: Yellow and black/gray bug
Location: Hemet CA
November 11, 2016 11:34 pm
I was at the park with my children in Hemet, CA. While waiting for them to play I was ‘bitten’ by this type of bug several times. No one I asked could identify it. Everyone says earwig, but the pinchers are on the head and not the tail.
Signature: BPaul

Lacewing Larva
Lacewing Larva

Dear BPaul,
This is the larva of a Lacewing, commonly called an Aphid Wolf.  We have received numerous reports from people who have been bitten by both larval Lacewings and adults, and our editorial staff is fully aware that the itchy welt produced by the bite will last as long as a week.

Thank you. I couldn’t find it anywhere else. I’m 7 months pregnant and wanted to be sure it wasn’t going to harm the baby.

Letter 4 – Aphid Wolves Biting in Northern California

 

Subject:  Unknown bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Northern California
Date: 10/19/2021
Time: 12:08 PM EDT
Subject:  Unknown bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Northern California
Your letter to the bugman:  I keep finding these tiny bugs on my patio, they bite and cause itching, everything says silverfish or pincher bug , the pinchers are in front , it’s definitely not either of those , it’s the size of a flea , I blew up pics to see better, please tell me what these bugs are?
How you want your letter signed:  Thanks!

Aphid Wolf

This is a predatory Lacewing Larva.  They are often called Aphid Wolves because of the large numbers of Aphids they are able to consume in the garden.  We often get reports of bites from Lacewing Larvae.

 

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

35 thoughts on “Can Aphids Bite Humans? The Truth Behind the Misconceptions”

  1. I have been getting bitten by these for the past couple months on my legs, arms, chest and back. no one else does, I am the only one who waters the flowers in the garden every morning and evening, I have them in my house how do I get rid of them ?

    Reply
  2. carolynk: You are not alone in being bitten by these insects. Since moving to Illinois, I have been bitten by aphid wolves at least 6 times (I’ve identified the bug biting me.) Unfortunately, I have had allergic reactions to the bites. The first time, I ended up with hives all over my body. About a month ago I was bitten again and the itching was so intense I had to sleep with ice packs AND pound the highest recommended oral Benadryl dosage. Do you have pets who may be transporting them indoors? (I concluded that’s how I was bitten inside my house.) This is why I am “aphid wolf bait.”

    Reply
    • my wife also has an allergic reaction to the bites. Once even had big blisters on her big toe from an ankle bite. We are in Nampa Idaho.

      Reply
    • I am an aphid wolf target too. When they bite me, I swell up into quarter size welts that itch like CRAZY and pop and ooze. I too have to sleep with ice packs and pound the benedryl. This goes on for at least 2 weeks. I would LOVE to know how to get rid of these little bastards. They live in my massive Maple tree.

      Reply
  3. we are being bit by some very small little bug that you can barely see-when you shine a florescent light in a dark room you will see them rise up like white dust-we do not know how to get rid of them-they bite and we are consistently itching-please tell us what we can do to get rid of them

    Reply
  4. I suggest buying natural Pest deterrent spray/ lotion or making homemade with natural essential oils Natural bug sprays with Neem oil are safer & effective from biting bugs. you can also plant flowers & herbs that pests hate. rosemary is one that is supposed to be a BIG pest deterrent to the yard.

    Reply
  5. Thanks so much for this informative site.

    I too have been bitten by Aphid Lions and like “AphidWolfBait” I had a severe allergic reaction.

    In my case, the bites itch and burn more than anything I have ever experienced. They area around the bites will be come very swollen and inflamed. In one case my arm was so swollen that I could not bend my wrist. And, the inflammation was so extreme that I could not be in the sun for several days.
    I post this to help others who may be allergic find info on an obscure little bug to avoid. To me, the defining characteristics of this bite is extreme itch and burning.
    I realize these are beneficial bugs but for those of us with allergies it’s helpful to know so we can avoid or cover up in gardens.

    Reply
  6. Thanks so much for this informative site.

    I too have been bitten by Aphid Lions and like “AphidWolfBait” I had a severe allergic reaction.

    In my case, the bites itch and burn more than anything I have ever experienced. They area around the bites will be come very swollen and inflamed. In one case my arm was so swollen that I could not bend my wrist. And, the inflammation was so extreme that I could not be in the sun for several days.
    I post this to help others who may be allergic find info on an obscure little bug to avoid. To me, the defining characteristics of this bite is extreme itch and burning.
    I realize these are beneficial bugs but for those of us with allergies it’s helpful to know so we can avoid or cover up in gardens.

    Reply
  7. My aphid bug bites last seven days it is very swollen and it itches and burns for five days but then disappears on the seventh day and sometimes it comes back after about three week

    Reply
  8. there are bugs that we can not see with the naked eye that is living on my disabled son and has been for 2 years-we have had bug control and also are forever spraying our house and yard for everything and nothing works. no one seems to care about helping with something they can not see-they just want money-the bugs are also on me-have not idea what it is and how we can get rid of them-has been treated constantly-they just will not go away-please help us-one time we think it is mites and now maybe chiggers-live among pine trees-please help if you can

    Reply
    • they have been on my disabled son for 3 yrs-they are also in the incision on his back from a spine operation-it took awhile, but they are on me now-they do not get on me when i leave my house, but are forever on my son. he has lupus & diabetes, degenerative bone, disc & arthritis diseases. there are bugs or mites or something-they bite & leave that spot & go to another spot.we cannot see them, but under an outside motion desenser light-you can see them-they are running us nuts!!!

      Reply
  9. I got bit by one of these 3 days ago, and it’s swollen, red, and it itches like crazy. I’m worried that it’s going to abscess, because it looks like it’s getting worse not better.
    I guess I have an allergy to bug bites, now…they never bothered me so badly before, now it gets crazy. I encountered bed bugs several months ago, and felt like I was dying with those bites. This single lace wing larvae bite is a real doozy. If there was more than one bite, it would be equal to or worse than the bed bug bites I got.
    Anyways, concerning this bite, I know it was a lace wing larvae, because I felt the sharp sting of the bite, and looked at my arm and saw the little jerk on my arm. I walked the vicious idiot outside, and spared his life after he bit me…but that was before the swelling and excruciating itchiness set in. I should’ve flushed him, what a beast. Totally wrong for it to bite me like that, I did nothing wrong. I really think these bugs have a bad attitude.

    Reply
    • I’m sure you have got through this by now, but
      If something is going to abscess, it’s good to put a hot compress on it. That will draw the infection out. My doctor had me to they for a cat bite.

      Reply
  10. Just had my first lacewing larva bite. Just as people have said, it has a nasty sting and a potent itch and raised bump as well. Shocked the heck out of me because I have never experienced a bite from one of these in all of my 65 years in spite of all the gardening and other plant exposure that I have had. I really thought that the biting midge ( No See ’em ) was the biggest little bully on the block but this guy comes in for a very close second!

    Reply
  11. I was walking in my backyard and in which we have a huge Magnolia Tree which I crossed under and not long after I felt this horrible sting and then another and another, thinking a bee or maybe a wasp has crawled down my shorts while picking up the yard I all but ran trying to wiggle the thing biting me out (if my neighbors had not been out I would of ripped my shorts off!) needless to say I ended up with 9 bites on my backside and welts ranging in size from a .50cent piece being the smallest to the largest being the size of baseball with blisters that would sting off and for the next hour and itch and burn like crazy for the next 7 days. come to find out the Magnolia Tree has a huge branch covered in these little guys.. They pack a heck of a punch..

    Reply
  12. How do I get these off of me and out of my house please somebody help me I’ve been to the hospital swollen to no end constantly tired they’re in my mouth even

    Reply
    • I wish I knew. They eat aphids so you might start there. If you have a lot of aphids you can purchase bags of lady bugs and release on the affected plants at dusk. Presumably, fewer aphids = fewer aphid lions.

      I have NO plants on my patio and guess they drop off of the overhanging tree.

      Reply
    • I wish I knew. They eat aphids so you might start there. If you have a lot of aphids you can purchase bags of lady bugs and release on the affected plants at dusk. Presumably, fewer aphids = fewer aphid lions.

      I have NO plants on my patio and guess they drop off of the overhanging tree.

      Reply
  13. Definitely has a shockingly stinging bite for being so ver tiny ! I’ve been mobbed by fire ants, been stung by yellow jackets, honey bees, bumblebee, Red Wasp (OW!), and a few other things…for its size, the teeny lacewing larvae definitely packs a wallop!

    Reply
  14. I had one bite my ankle and ended up with a swollen, red, highly itchy lump about .75″ in diameter for close to a week. It took over a month for it to fully disappear.

    Reply
  15. I got bit this past week.! It has been the same as the others reported. Except this one was in my house. My bite started raised….but has progressed to over an inch. I got bit in a blood vessel in the bend of my elbow…like where you would draw blood. It hurts worse and worse. Feels like my skin is crawling and stretching….like a sharp cutting. We do have aphids on my property. But anyone know what to do to deter the in the home? I run a daycare and don’t need the kids to get bit.

    Reply
  16. Deborah, people on this forum frown on exterminating beneficial bugs like this one. ☺
    The ones who got to me were dropping from a HOA owned tree overhanging my patio. I assume the tree had their primary food source, aphids. Few get into homes.
    I did speak to the gardener about this but since almost no one knows about this tiny bug, I was met with a blank stare. LOL.

    Reply
  17. Deborah, people on this forum frown on exterminating beneficial bugs like this one. ☺
    The ones who got to me were dropping from a HOA owned tree overhanging my patio. I assume the tree had their primary food source, aphids. Few get into homes.
    I did speak to the gardener about this but since almost no one knows about this tiny bug, I was met with a blank stare. LOL.

    Reply
  18. I had a aphid wolf bite on my ankle. It turned into two huge blisters and I had to go to the emergency room at the hospital. They were not sure what it was but I couldn’t wear shoes for a month. The doctor finally broke the blisters and I had to soak my foot for a week until it got better. I think they are coming from under the house. What can I do to keep them from coming in the house? (Drives me crazy?)

    Reply
  19. I was stung a few times when one of these little buggers somehow slipped in my bra while I was outside having a smoke at work. I finally saw what was doing the damage and I had never seen one before and immediately killed it then went to look up what it was. They said all over the web that it’s sting should have no effect but a week later it’s turned into a big red raised itchy spot I can’t seem to get rid of.

    Reply
  20. Bitten yesterday, and today I have a painful, itchy welt about an inch in diameter. Surprised that they bite, and even more surprised by the result. It’s worse than I react to bee stings.

    Reply
    • That was quite a bite. The bump lasted for weeks, and ended up leaving a small scar. New respect for these little guys. I was working in my flowers and must have brushed against it. I felt a stinging on the underside of my forearm. It wasn’t intensely painful and when I saw what it was with both mandibles buried in my skin, I just sat there amused by his tenacity, and let it bite me for far too long. I did not know it was injecting digestive venom the whole time. Had I brushed it off right when it bit me it probably wouldn’t’ve been so bad. There was a little bit of tissue death at the bite site and the inch wide bump was sore to the touch like a bruise which sucked because it also itched like crazy. I put antiseptic cream on it and was careful not to scratch the center of the bite and there was no infection. The center scabbed over and left a small scar I can still see a year later. No hard feelings, though. I consider this as more or less a freak accident that I don’t expect will ever happen again, but if it does I won’t sit and stare at it next time.

      Reply

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