Did you spot a small, wool-like white speck moving across your plant? Be careful; it could be a wooly aphid! Here’s how to get rid of wooly aphids naturally in case you are already facing an infestation.
Aphids, also known as plant lice, greenflies, or garden lice, are some of the most common garden pests in the world. They thrive on plant sap as their primary food source. But what makes them so dangerous is the lightning speed at which they multiply.
There are 4,000 species of aphids, one of which is the woolly aphid. If you see these tiny, cotton-like insects walking around on your plant, start looking for ways to get rid of them! We will help you in your quest in the blog below.
How To Remove Aphids
You can get rid of woolly aphid infestation in two ways:
- Using organic ways such as beneficial insects etc.
- Using common household items to repel them
- Chemical repellents and insecticides
You can also remove aphid and aphid eggs by hand. But since these tiny insects multiply quickly, it will be difficult to keep up. In this article, we will only focus on the first two types of methods.
Does Neem Oil Kill Aphids?
Neem oil is a plant-based concentrated oil that effectively removes woolly aphid infestation. You can spray the oil directly on plant leaves to remove the infestation. Neem oil also helps to prevent wooly aphids.
Neem oil doesn’t cause any harm to other beneficial insects, including ladybugs, bees, spiders, butterflies, and parasitic wasps. It is a natural pest-repellent that is readily available in the market and is cost-effective.
You can spray pure and organic neem oil on aphid eggs, larvae, or adult aphids. You can also get a pre-mixed spray from the market.
Does Diatomaceous Earth Kill Aphids?
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is another natural insect repellant. DE comes from aquatic microbes called diatoms that died thousands of years ago and got fossilized over the period. Its main active ingredient is silica. You can find DE in lakes, rivers, and other such places.
While this powder doesn’t harm humans, it can be toxic to pests, including aphids. DE is able to cut through the outer skin of aphids, removing moisture from their skin. Due to extreme dehydration, aphids end up dying.
Does Vinegar Kill Aphids?
Yes, vinegar kills aphids and also helps to repel them. Vinegar contains acetic acid, which combines with water to form toxic acetate ions. This solution is very effective in putting an end to an entire aphid population.
Another common question that we hear from our readers is: can vinegar kill aphids on hibiscus? The answer is yes, vinegar will kill aphids on hibiscus and other outdoor plants.
However, many users complain that spraying a vinegar solution directly on plants can damage them, so we would advise you against it.
Does Soapy Water Kill Aphids?
Yes, soapy water is another effective and natural remedy to deter aphids. You only need to make a soap-water solution and pour the mixture into a spray bottle.
Then, spray the mixture on aphids directly. It will destroy aphid colonies in time. However, remember to use castile soap or other insecticidal soap that doesn’t cause harm to the plants.
Like neem oil spray, a soapy mixture only kills pests like aphids, mites, mealy bugs, scale, etc. It doesn’t cause harm to beneficial insects such as ladybugs.
Does Hydrogen Peroxide Kill Aphids?
Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) helps kill aphids and disinfects your precious plants. It attacks the blood cells of these pests and kills them quite quickly.
You can mix ¼ cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide with rubbing alcohol (about 2 tsp) and ¼ tsp of any wetting agent. Pour the mixture into a spray and use it directly on the aphid infestation.
Do Banana Peels Keep Aphids Away?
Banana peels help deter aphids from infesting your precious plants. It contains a substance name tannins, which is also present in most insecticides.
You need to know how to use banana peels properly. Slice banana peels into small pieces put them under the infected plant, and you should see the result in a couple of days.
Sometimes, banana peels can also attract aphids or other pests to your plants because of their bright color. It would be best to smash the peel properly before using it.
Can You Drown Aphids?
If fully submerged under water, wooly aphids might drown. Aphids breathe through their bodies from pores known as spiracles that take in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide.
When submerged in water, these pores get blocked. If they remain submerged for a long time, the pests will suffocate and die.
Spray water from a garden hose on them for 5-10 minutes to drown them. Make sure you keep them underwater for a long while. Aphids are hardy and can save unused oxygen for later, so it might take a while for them to drown.
Does Alcohol Kill Aphids?
You can use pure rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) that you can find at any pharmacy to kill wooly aphids. Make sure that the alcohol doesn’t have anything else added to it.
Mix 1 part of alcohol with 1.5 parts of water and add one tbsp of dishwashing liquid. Put in a dash of cayenne powder, and pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Make sure to only use this mix directly on the bugs since it can harm the host plants.
How To Control Aphids Organically?
Prevention is better than cure! Instead of killing aphids, try to prevent them from reaching your garden in the first place. There are many ways to do this, such as letting loose predatory insects that prey on them and using pest-repellant plants. Let’s discuss this in more detail.
Ladybugs, damsel bugs, green lacewings, hoverflies, parasitic wasps, etc., are natural enemies of aphids. These bugs can be quite beneficial for your plants.
To attract them naturally to your garden, you can plant nectar-filled flowers like cosmos and nasturtiums. You can also buy these natural predators commercially, but to avail of maximum benefits, follow the instructions given on the package.
Plants with natural pest-repelling properties
Another way to deter aphids from your garden is to grow plants with a powerful aroma. Some examples of such plants include cat nip, marigold, cilantro, chives, and fennel.
Plant them in your garden bed and allow them to grow to keep aphids and other pests at a distance. It is advisable to plant them close to plants prone to aphid or pest infestation.
The fragrance of their flowers will chase away aphids, and you won’t have to turn to chemicals or insecticides.
Plant a trap crop
A trap crop is a decoy plant. It is something attractive that aphids can feed on so that more important plants can remain safe from them. Some examples of trap crops include apple trees, calendula, nettles, and nasturtiums.
Plant your trap crop close to the plant you want to protect from aphids.
Another thing to remember is to plant the trap crop on the garden’s perimeter so that pests may start working up from them.
Lastly, plant the trap crop a few weeks before your valuable plants so they can flourish before your valuable plants grow up.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kills aphids instantly?
Neem oil spray or soapy insecticides remove aphids and other pests from your plants immediately. Alcohol solution (1 part alcohol with 1.5 part water) is another remedy that instantly kills aphids.
You can also use chemical repellents, but they may also cause harm to your valuable plants or other beneficial insects in your garden.
Will Dawn dish soap kill aphids?
You can use Dawn dish soap to kill aphids and some other pests. The soap’s acid can drown the tiny insects’ exoskeleton.
You can mix Dawn dish liquid with water in a 1:5 ratio and put the solution in a spray bottle. Just spray it all over the infested plants and watch the aphids disappear!
Why do I have woolly aphids?
Plant sap is the primary food source of woolly aphids. Woolly aphids cluster around the sap of plants and plant tissue to suck the sugary juices out of them. This is why you can often find these pests in vegetable gardens, orchards, and ornamental flower gardens.
How long do woolly aphids last?
The typical lifecycle of a woolly aphid is about 4 to 5 weeks. Even though their life cycle is small, aphids can still damage your precious plants.
Since these pests can reproduce super quickly, you should use your pest control methods liberally and several times to control them.
Even though there are several natural ways to remove them from your precious plants, the best option is to use preventive measures.
Putting in beneficial insects, trap crops, or natural pest-repellant plants will help keep wooly aphid infestations at bay.
If you are already facing an infestation, neem oil, DE, vinegar, soapy water, and alcohol solution are all good ways to repel wooly aphids naturally.
Thank you for reading!
Over the years, our readers have sent us several emails on this topic. Please go through them below.
Letter 1 – Bug of the Month August 2011: Woolly Aphid
White feathery insect
Location: Biggsville, Il.
July 29, 2011 4:47 pm
I saw this small white angel shaped insect in the shade garden on July 10th. I have seen it since then but it was flying or better said floating in the wind. It is about a 1/4” in length. I apologize for the clarity of the picture. Thanks for your help in advance.
Signature: Randy Anderson
This is a Woolly Aphid in the subfamily Eriosomatinae, and we do not have the necessary skills to identify it to the species level, but you may compare your image to this photo on BugGuide. It is the end of the month, and we frequently get requests to identify a small white fairy insect, and many times no photos are included because Woolly Aphids are so tiny. We have decided to feature your photo as our Bug of the Month for August 2011, and we won’t go live with the posting until tomorrow.
Letter 2 – Wooly Aphid, AKA Angelfly
Whats this bug?Angel Bug?
Hello, I live in West Virginia and often see these things flloating around and have finally gotten a few pics of one that allowed me to veiw it for a couple minutes. I have talked to a few older people and they said that they always called them Angel Bugs, so i was just wanting more info on this beautiful but sometimes illusive and difficult to photo bug. I tryed looking through your wonderful site but i just didnt know where to begin. Thanks for any info you could provide!
We tried unsucessfully to locate photos of adult Wooly Aphids online. Eric Eaton has substantiated that this is a winged Wooly Aphid.
Dear What’s That Bug,
Thanks a bunch! For the past three days, I’ve been obsessing– even losing sleep– over a mystery insect that seems to have flourished this year. I’ve known about them for the majority of my life, but always by the name angelflies. Being a zoologically obsessed fifteen year-old, I realized though I knew their name, I knew nothing else. I quickly asked my lover, Google, more. Absolutely nothing useful popped up for the entry "Angelfly". This puzzled me. Why has Google failed me? So, then I asked my mistress, Jeeves (Jeeves can be a mistress if I want him to be). He also could come up with nothing. I then went to Wikipedia… again. Nothing. So, now angry at the world I viciously attacked the line of "X"s on the top, right hand corner of my screen and stomped off to bed. I then sulked around the house all day, quite distraught on the lack of knowledge I had on such a seemingly basic creature. Today, we went on a walk. As we walked I saw one flit by, as if the wind was the choice medium of steering. I gently cupped my hands around it and then tormented the simple minded creature for the sake of observation. I noticed that the white-furred little pixie had four wings… evidently not really a fly. As I paid more attention to everything under the fur, I saw that it had dark, blue-gray skin. Sort of like ash. But what startled me the most was that it looked a lot like an aphid. Bingo! As soon as I got back home, I pounced on your site and searched under the only section I seemed to miss on my hunt amongst your site… the aphids. The entry that caught my eye was that of the wooly aphids, sent by Ryan. I then went back to Google and did an image search and got a very spiffy photo of a "Wooly Apple Aphid". An exact match to what has plagued my dreams for so long! Well… three days… but let’s not split hairs. So, again, thanks for your help in clearing my thoughts! These are truly beautiful little bugs… with maybe not quite as delicate of a name as I’m accustomed to (leave it to West Virginian’s to screw up a perfectly good Google search query!).
Thanks a bunch,
What a fabulous letter. Sadly, as it is without an image, we have placed it on our Fanmail 2 page. We hope you are planning to go to college as a wit like yours would be wasted in a factory or Walmart. Let us know if you ever need a letter of recommendation.
Letter 3 – Woolly Aphid and Planthopper images
More woolly aphids
July 23, 2009
I thought you might be interested in seeing some more pics I have of the woolly aphid. I LOVE this creature! In one photo, she looks like a ballerina,
another, she looks like Yodo(sp?) from Star Wars and in the last, she looks like she may be some other stage (larval, pupa?) You can clearly see what appears to be where the “wool” is coming from. It looks like 2 jets streams. I didn’t know they could hop. These frequently hopped about 6 inches
around the cloth they were on. And their eyes! They look and act very similar to leafhoppers.
Thought you’d enjoy seeing them.
Detroit, Michigan suburb
Hi again Hilma,
The life cycles of Aphids can be quite elaborate and complicated with both sexual and asexual reproduction, winged and non-winged generations, and multiple host plants. The wool is actually a waxy substance that is produced by the aphid. We are going to contact Eric Eaton and hopefully he can provide some information on your various images. Here is what BugGuide has to say about one species of Woolly Aphid, the Woolly Apple Aphid: “Usually overwinter on elms and the first generation is spent on that host. In early summer winged forms appear, they migrate to apple, hawthorn and related trees. Later in the season some migrate to elms, where the bisexual generation is produced and over wintering eggs laid. Other individuals migrate from the branches of the apple trees to the roots, where they produce gall-like growths. The root-inhabiting forms may remain there for a year or more, passing through several generations.” Your photos are really stunning. You should also post them to BugGuide.
Sorry to be so late getting back to you….
Ok, the woolly aphid pictures. Actually, only the first image of the winged insect is a woolly aphid. The second picture is of a nymph of a planthopper in the family Acanaloniidae. The third (bottom) image depicts a nymph of a flatid planthopper, family Flatidae. That’s right, three different families of insects! Very nice photos, by the way. Most planthoppers in the Fulgoroidea sprout the waxy filaments and coatings seen in the images here. Obviously, woolly aphids secrete the same kind of waxy substance. It helps to keep the insects from drying out (dessicating), and makes them at least a little more unpalatable to predators.
Letter 4 – Bagworm Moth from the Swiss Alps
Fuzzy Black bug from the Alps
October 19, 2009
I have always wondered what this bug is. My husband and I encountered it a few years ago when we were hiking in the mountains in Switzerland. We were taking a lunch break just above the tree line and this little guy just floated onto my arm and hung out there for a while. You can see from the scale of the picture that it was small, about the size of a fly but covered with a fine fuzz, and it had feathery antenna where its eyes should have been. Have you seen this before?
Dear Hiking Girl,
WE are going to enlist our readership for assistance with your insect. We believe it is a Homopteran, a group of insects that includes Aphids. Your specimen bears a striking resemblance to a Woolly Aphid, but it is black instead of white. Please check back on our site to see if any of our readers have provided comments that correctly identify this minute creature.
Hi, thanks for posting my bug! One thing I remember; when I first saw it I thought it was a mutated form of a fly or some other bug because it didn’t have eyes or a typical head or mouth that I could see, just the fine fur everywhere. The antenna were actually in place of the eyes. There were no eyes on this bug that I could see. It looks like the other woolly aphids on your site have eyes. So, maybe they are not the same exact species.
Comment from Eric Eaton
I think the “woolly aphid” thing from the alps is actually a moth in the family Heterogynidae, but I can’t find an image of anything identical to what is posted at WTB. Try Julian Donahue, he might be able to at least verify or correct the family I’m giving you.
Comment from Karl
Hi Hiking Girl:What a lovely and curious looking creature! It’s an excellent photo but the details are still a little difficult to see with all the dark fuzz. It appears to have four, slightly hairy wings and long bipectinate or plume-like antennae poking out of all that hair. I believe this is a Bagworm or Case Moth (family Psychidae). It looks very much like a male Ptilocephala plumifera (Oiketicinae: Oreopsychini), a species that occurs throughout most of Europe south of the British Isles and Scandinavia. Bagworms get their name because the larvae construct cases out of silk and any handy materials they can find (sticks, sand, plant material, etc.). They drag their cases around with them and anchor them to a surface when they pupate. For comparison you can link to:
Great bug – thanks for sharing. K
Comment from Julian Donahue
October 23, 2009
Good call by Eric, but I can’t confirm it. I don’t think heterogynid wings are that scaleless (photos on the Web show fully scaled wings)–if it’s a moth, the lack of wing scales make it look more like a psychid.
But without having the specimen in hand I can’t even confirm what order it’s in!
Comment from Eric Eaton
Wow, I think Karl nailed it! What a wonderful insect.
I have learned just as much from WTB as I’ve brought to it. Thanks, guys, for networking to solve mysteries like this.
Letter 5 – Woolly Aphid
Subject: New bug
Location: Vienna, Va
June 20, 2016 8:21 pm
Hello, yesterday I was walking in the park with my 4 years old daughter, suddenly she said: mommy look it is a fairy , and the weirdest insect step on my hand, it is so difficult to describe. A white fly maybe with feathers.
Please help me figure it out what type of insect is this.
Signature: Sarah A
Dear Sarah A,
This is a Woolly Aphid in the subfamily Eriosomatinae, and according to BugGuide: “Nearly all members of this subfamily alternate between host plants, generally with a woody primary host (on which overwintering eggs are laid, and on which some species induce galls) and an herbaceous secondary host.” Aphids are among the insects that do the greatest damage to crop plant and ornamental plants, and they are the bane of many a home gardener. Comparing the appearance of a Woolly Aphid to a fairy or an angel is quite common.