What Are Those Tiny White Fuzzy Bugs On My Plants?

White Bugs On Plants

If you are a gardener, you may have noticed a tiny white fuzzy bug on your yard’s trees and leaves. It’s not snow or cotton! This white coating is insects. These white fluffy bugs are known as woolly aphids, and you will mostly find them in the Upper South region of the United States and throughout much of Asia. 

Although they do not harm humans, the sticky sap they produce is a nuisance to homeowners.

Wooly Aphids

What Are Those Tiny White Fuzzy Bugs On My Plants

So, what are the little white bugs that resemble cotton in your home doing? Around early fall, the temperature drops and moisture levels are optimal for a sudden increase in your local aphid population.

These insects do not bite or eat away at your plants; instead, they suck. When they find a good landing spot on one of your plants, they will begin sucking out the sap but will be unable to digest all of it. That sugary substance appears as a black mold when it settles on plants and other surfaces.

You’ve probably noticed this black mold on the surface of your car or other trees. This is known as sooty mold, and it grows from the sugary substance left behind by aphids.

How Do I Know If I Have a Woolly Aphid Infestation?

Woolly aphids have pear-shaped bodies that are three millimeters long and covered in a white, waxy, fluffy coating. There are a few common species to keep an eye out for on your plants. Because the insects themselves can look quite similar, the host often provides the best clues to help identify which species is attacking.

Eriosoma lanigerum, also known as the woolly apple aphid, is a common and severe apple pest worldwide. It prefers apples of all varieties, including ornamental crabapples, elm, alder, mountain ash, hawthorn, serviceberry, and pyracantha. They have bluish-black bodies beneath their white fluff and feed on the bases of new shoots, branches, roots, and trunk wounds.

Galls form due to their feeding on these cracked and swollen areas on branches – ideal entry points for diseases like rots and canker – are the primary reason these insects are such serious pests and why they are also called American blight aphids.

In the spring, woolly elm aphids, Eriosoma americanum, feed on American elm foliage, and in the summer, they feed on the roots of serviceberry (also known as Saskatoon berry).

Feeding causes the edges of new leaves on elms to roll inwards, forming a gall-like swelling where they hide. Root feeding can cause stunting and reduced berry production on Saskatoon berry bushes, especially young plants, and the damage can be fatal.

The adult elm has a red-orange body with white sticky bubbles or a waxy cotton-like coating. They are light blue to black on the serviceberry, and you will find them underground and may have some waxy fluff on their thoraxes.

Prociphilus tessellatus, the woolly alder aphid, feeds on silver maple in the spring and alder in the summer. This is the super fluffy species you’re probably already familiar with; when they’re flying, they look like pieces of cotton floating through the air or fungi when they congregate on twigs. Their eggs are also woolly.

How to Get Rid of White Flying Bugs That Look Like Cotton

Insecticidal Soap

You can use insecticidal soap frequently to treat infestations of white insects. However, you must adhere to the label instructions and ensure that they have labeled the product for pest and plant use.

Turn on the Hose for Them

Water pressure will likely wash away the white fuzzy bugs on plants together with their eggs in more minor infestations. However, it’s important to note that this method rarely eliminates all plant bugs after a single application. It may take a few rounds to see results.

Make Use of Rubbing Alcohol

Soak a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and wipe down every inch of the plant for more minor infestations. Because alcohol only kills bugs through direct contact, you may need to apply it several times. After you’ve satisfied that the population has been adequately cared for, rinse the plant a few times with water.

Make Use of a Yellow Sticky Trap

Sticky traps may be adequate for minor infestations. Because some plant bugs are attracted to yellow, sticky traps are typically that color. Hang the trap, made of a tape-like material, on the top of the plant to attract the bugs. Follow the instructions carefully and keep the sticky trap out of the reach of children and pets.

Remove the Infected Plant

Some of these plant insects are movers, and they can quickly move from plant to plant, laying eggs and multiplying. If an infestation has become uncontrollable, it is best to remove the infected plant to avoid causing damage to other plants in the area.

White aphid on green leaves

What Happens if Woolly Aphids Are Left Untreated?

Woolly aphids may cause minor damage if left untreated because they are small. However, when the aphid population becomes out of control, the leaves may curl and become distorted as the aphids feed. The aphids also leave honeydew and sooty mold as their calling card.

Aphids sucking sap from plants cause the foliage to twist, curl, yellow, and die. In addition, woolly aphid infestations can sometimes cause galls or cankers on the roots or limbs of their hosts.

An increase in the ant population is another sign of aphid infestation. The accumulation of wax and honeydew, their sweet, sticky excrement, attracts ants.

A honeydew coating can quickly turn into sooty mold. This unsightly black fungus gives plants the appearance of being covered in soot. Although the sooty mold does not harm plants, a thick layer can block light and interfere with photosynthesis. As a result, your plants will suffer from a lack of light.

On Which Plants Are Baby White Aphids Commonly Found?

These white baby aphids, members of the Aphididae subfamily Eriosomatinae, suck the sap from various plants, particularly trees and shrubs such as edible and ornamental apple, cotoneaster, maple, elm, alder, and beech. They feed on these plants’ underground and aboveground parts, including the roots, twigs, and leaves.

How to Prevent White Flying Bugs On Plants

  • When fertilizing your garden, avoid using too much nitrogen, which can stimulate plants to grow too quickly, resulting in a flush of tender new growth that aphids love.
  • Attract and release beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewings, which will happily consume an abundance of aphids.
  • Use a spray containing neem oil from the neem tree’s seed. It is effective against a wide range of common garden insect pests, including aphids, as well as fungal diseases.
  • To remove aphids from affected plants, use a strong water spray from your hose. This will significantly reduce their numbers. Then, recheck the plants a few days later and, if necessary, repeat the treatment.
Leaf with white aphids

BUG-ger Off

This article has dealt with most of what you need to know about white gnats. This is whether they look like lint, cotton, or a speck of dust! Most of these insects are harmless to humans but avoid dust mites. These are poisonous and dangerous.

With all of this knowledge, you’ll be able to deal with these irritating white insects efficiently. Fortunately, these lint-like creatures are not dangerous to humans and do not bite. However, if left unchecked, they can cause mold on your plants.

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