Woolly Aphids

Whenever the phone lines and consequently the internet goes down in our neck of the woods the culprit is often an overgrown tree. This causes us to keep an eye on the proximity to the overhead cables of our two crab apples in the front garden.


This is why Martin began work on his fortnightly gardening session on this balmy early autumn morning with pruning the tops of these trees. The third of these pictures is “Where’s Martin? (2)”


It was not long before he reported on an infestation of woolly aphids which required much more surgery on one of the trees.

The next few paragraphs are extracts from https://www.rhs.org.uk/biodiversity/woolly-aphid

‘What is woolly aphid?

Woolly aphid is black aphid that sucks sap from woody stems of apple, cotoneaster and pyracantha and covers itself in a white waxy secretion.

Aphids are sap-sucking true bugs and are an important part of many food chains, supporting many predators. They range in size from 1 to 7mm (¼in or less) long. Some aphids are known as greenfly or blackfly, but there are species that are yellow, pink, white or mottled. There are more than 500 aphid species in Britain. Some feed on only one or two plant species, but others can be found on a wide range of plant hosts. Almost any plant can be a host to aphids, including ornamentals, vegetables, fruits, greenhouse plants and houseplants.


Woolly aphid is usually easy to spot;

  • Between spring and early autumn, affected parts of the trunk and branches are covered with a fluffy white waxy material. This is secreted by the blackish brown aphids
  • The thinner bark around old pruning cuts is a prime site for woolly aphid colonies in spring but by mid-summer the insect spreads to younger shoots
  • Affected shoots usually develop soft, lumpy growths in the bark as a result of woolly aphid feeding. Such shoots are easily spotted during winter pruning. The swellings can split in frosty weather and create entry wounds for the fungal disease known as apple canker
  • Woolly aphid is only found on apple, cotoneaster and pyracantha on other plants the white waxy deposits could be signs of other insects including scale insectswoolly beech aphid or in glasshouses mealybug


Check susceptible plants frequently from spring onwards so action can be taken before a damaging population has developed. Little can be done to deal with aphids on tall trees as treatment is only likely to be successful if the entire plant can be reached. When choosing management options you can minimise harm to non-target animals by starting with the methods in the non-pesticide control section and avoiding pesticides. Within pesticides the shorter persistence products (that are usually certified for organic growing) are likely to be less damaging to non-target wildlife than those with longer persistence and/or systemic action. Pesticide treatments are likely to kill natural enemies and are only likely to be successful if the entire plant can be reached.

Non-pesticide control

  • On small trees with light populations, it is possible to control woolly aphid by scrubbing the aphid colonies with a stiff-bristled brush. This is best done in spring or early summer before an extensive population has built up
  • Where possible tolerate populations of aphids, they form an important part of many food chains and can be part of a healthy garden ecosystem
  • Encourage aphid predators in the garden. Woolly aphid has a number of natural enemies which help to keep it in check, although they are rarely effective enough to prevent damage occurring. They are eaten by some ladybirds, lacewings and hoverfly larvae, and they are also attacked by a parasitoid wasp called Aphelinus mali. The parasitoid wasp can sometimes be found in gardens, particularly those where little pesticide spraying is done. It is fairly easy to recognise the parasite’s presence, as parasitised aphids stop producing wax and become black. A circular hole can sometimes be seen in the aphid’s upper surface where the adult parasitoid wasp has emerged. If the parasitoid is found, it can be encouraged by limiting the use of pesticides
  • Research indicates that earwigs on fruit trees can reduce aphid numbers and on fruit trees they do not cause damage. Providing shelters such as flower pots loosely stuffed with hay in trees can help increase numbers


Woolly aphid overwinters on its host plants as nymphs that hide in cracks in the bark or in crevices around old feeding areas. During the winter months the aphids do not produce the waxy material that gives them the characteristic woolly coating in spring and summer.

In spring, the aphids become active again, mainly around old pruning cuts or other places on the trunk or larger branches where the bark is thinner. They begin sucking sap from beneath the bark, and start secreting the fluffy ‘wool’.

Populations reach a peak in mid- to late summer, when the aphids spread onto the younger shoots. Chemicals secreted into the plant as the aphids feed induce lumpy growths in the bark, especially on the younger shoots.

In mid-summer, winged forms of the aphid develop and these will fly off in search of new host plants.’ (https://www.rhs.org.uk/biodiversity/woolly-aphid)

One of Jackie’s earliest memories was of her grandfather standing under an apple tree in his garden with a matchbox. Her job was to point out the individual creatures which he untruthfully said he couldn’t see very well; he would then burn them off with a lighted match.


Martin needed to decimate the affected tree.


He cleared the refuse and transported it to the Back Drive at the far end of the garden, and still managed to mow the lawn.

This evening we are taking Dillon, Flo, and Ellie for a meal at the Fleur-de-Lys. Because I cannot publish any more new pictures on current posts until my WordPress site has been fully hosted by Peacock Computers I recommend viewing this earlier post https://derrickjknight.com/2018/08/03/fleur-de-lys/ of our first visit to this 11th Century Pub.

69 responses to “Woolly Aphids”

  1. What a performance, eh! While we once had an apple tree and appreciated it, I’m sorta glad – being ancient – we now have a small, paved garden and patio! Cheers.

  2. YAY, Martin! He is working hard…and is a good “hider”! 😉
    I know of woolly mammoths, but not woolly aphids! Thank you for teaching me about them!
    Jackie’s memory/story gave me a giggle. Oh, my! 😮
    It’s sad when trees get ill, diseased, taken down by little creatures, or by big human-beans…but, the cycle of life.
    Enjoy your meal and time out! 🙂
    (((HUGS))) 🙂 ❤️
    PS…Now I’m picturing woolly mammoths in trees. 😮 Yikes! 😀
    Q: Why are entomologists so book-smart?
    A: Because they’re aphid readers. 😉 😛

  3. As sad as it may seem now to have so much of the tree ‘decimated’, hopefully it means that when spring comes round the growth will be robust and healthy.

  4. Your poor tree got a real scalping, Derrick, poor thing! I suppose it will sprout again next year. So, your entire site is being migrated to a new host?

    • Yes, John. They will manage the picture sizes – first they will have to recover the pictures lost in the process. Peacock Computers have long been a trusted resource for one who doesn’t understand enough, yet even they have had considerable trouble with WP. Thanks very much.

  5. This is a constant problem in our area and we lose power frequently because of it. Fortunately the cables on our street are underground, but the ones on all the township and county roads are above ground. We have some strange-looking trimmed trees around here. Good for you for trimming – sorry about the aphids!

  6. I observed aphids in the past ,principally on the rose busshes . But now they have disappeared . The lady bugs too . And so for the birds . The drought we got on this summer made disappear a lot of animal species .(in my area ) .It is worrying.
    About the trees we have to make them under controle too. You are right . Martin made a good work
    In friendship

  7. Once upon a ramble, I took a picture of a ladybug on a milkweed plant. When I looked at it on the computer, I wondered what all those tiny yellow things on the stem might be. Well, they were aphids: a different species from yours, but clearly quite tasty to the ladybug, which was munching its way along the same stem. There’s a time of the year when a different aphid dines on our live oaks. They don’t do any particular damage, but parking under the tree’s a bad idea. Their ‘honeydew’ is sticky and abundant.

  8. It’s smart of you to be proactive with those trees. We have to work around overhead wires here, too. All the new builds have underground utilities. Lucky stiffs! I spent hours trying to get rid of scale on a Magnolia, but eventually we had to remove the tree. Your wooly aphids behave in a similar fashion. Good luck with it all, Derrick.

  9. I learnt a lot today!

    The food you ate at the Fleur-de-Lys looked absolutely delicious. The list of names of all the pub landlords since the fifteenth century was amazing.
    I hope you enjoyed the meal last night and I look forward to seeing the photographs.

  10. Most interesting dive into the life of the aphids, Derrick. Here the utility companies will trim any errant growth themselves. Wishing the best for a smooth change to Peacock Computers.

  11. I am glad Martin is able to get up in the trees to do the trimming for you and Jackie That is hard work! There are any pests out there, including aphids and their ilk. At the moment here, we are having trouble with wasps and bees eating ripening grapes, and Rick has put up a lot of insect netting.

  12. Those Woolly aphid are nasty! You have us quite a thorough science lesson today, Derrick. So glad Martin is young enough to be able-bodied enough to help! I hope all that pruning does the trick!

  13. Like tiny, tiny sheep of the plant world. And don’t they make a mess when you run your hands along the branch. I haven’t lost my marbles Derrick, I grew up on an apple orchard and spent a childhood up close and personal with the life and death of bugs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.