Fluff in the Air
It’s not unusual to see bits of white fluff floating in the air. I usually assume that the fluff is carrying seeds — dandelions or milkweed or cottonwood or whatever — and maybe the seed has fallen off leaving just the fluff floating on its own. At some point, though, I began to realize that some of those bits of fluff show volition. They weren’t just floating on the breeze, they were flying in the air, choosing the direction they fly. I tried to get close enough to see what they really were.
Woolly Aphid on Sedge
The blighters are pretty evasive, but eventually I managed to get close enough to see more clearly. Instead of just bits of fluff I found rather pretty little white, winged insects encased in blueish white “fur”. They’re tiny, hard to see clearly even up close. And they tend to fly off suddenly. But I did manage to get a couple of clear pictures.
A search on the Internet revealed that these are Woolly Aphids (Eriosomatinae), members of a tribe of insects whose nymphs live, like normal aphids, by sucking the juices of host plants, but who, unlike normal aphids, adorn themselves with a waxy, whitish secretion that makes them appear to have fur. The adults, the ones I’ve seen flying about, are migrating from where they were born and grew to a new host plant to continue their life cycle, lay eggs, and create the next generation.
There are a number of different species of this beast, apparently named according to their primary host. I don’t know which ones we have — I’d probably have to get an entomologist to tell me. And I haven’t noticed much sign of fluffy colonies on any of our plants. But I think this stem might show evidence of a woolly aphid colony rather than a crowd of spittlebugs.
Fluff, left by Woolly Aphid?
After reading a number of articles about Woolly Aphids and fruit trees, I think I should pay closer attention to our fruit trees from now on.