Woolly Aphids Leave Sticky Mess Around Northland

Brandon Weathers
Created: July 26, 2019 04:24 PM

These white fuzzy creatures have been attracting a lot of attention lately. Duluth resident Alec Staffon noticed them in his back yard about 2 or 3 weeks ago. They see a couple of these fall from their maple tree every summer, but he said this year has been quite different.

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"It got more and more and more, it got to the point where it was almost like a light snowstorm," Alec said.

It turns out, he isn't the only one scratching his head about the curious creatures.

St. Louis County horticulturist Bob Olen said, "They're very visible and the honeydew makes kind of a mess, so consequently, it has a lot of people in the area quite concerned right at the moment."

Olen has been telling concerned residents that the culprit is an insect known as a woolly aphid, and they aren't harmful. "These are not a dangerous insect in any way, they are more of a nuisance and an annoyance," Olen said.

The most annoying thing about them is what they leave behind. Olen said, "They do secrete a honeydew, which is the waste product, very high in sugar content. That's why they're typically on some of our high sugar maples."

The population has exploded this summer because greater than average snowfall kept some insects alive through the winter, and then they thrive in recent warm weather, according to Olen.

Olen's advice is to avoid pesticides and go for a power wash approach instead. "Was them off, wash anything they deposit off, and then they move through their life cycle and they will be, actually, traveling from the maples," Olen said, "They'll be moving onto the cohost, the alders, and they won't be much of an annoyance at all."

If the population explodes again next year, Alec now knows to have his hose at the ready. He said, "It was just something that was kind of interesting and we wanted to find out what they were and if there was any danger with them or whatever, and apparently there isn't, and we can just wash them away and go on from there."


Brandon Weathers

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