Perchance you have stepped outside recently for whatever reason and seen tiny bits of what appear to be white lint. One’s first reaction might be, “Someone needs a new lint cover for their dryer exhaust.” However, the “pieces of fuzz” are not what they seem — they are bugs. In fact, they are called Asian woolly hackberry aphids.
According to an article titled “Asian Wooly Hackberry Aphid, No. 21” written by Mississippi State University Extension Professor Dr. Blake Layton, Junior, “Asian wooly hackberry aphids are non-native insects that were first detected in the US around 1996. Populations begin building in the spring after trees leaf out and increase with each generation, often building to high numbers by late summer and early fall.
“Asian wooly hackberry aphids produce a lot of honeydew, which in turn results in heavy accumulations of black sooty mold. The sooty mold accumulates on the leaves of the host trees and on shorter plants growing near infested trees, as well as on vehicles and patio furniture located beneath infested trees.”
Extension Expert Dr. Blake Layton, Jr. specializes in the following areas: Entomology; extension insect identification; fire ants; termites, and insect pests in the home and lawn. In 1977, Dr. Layton was awarded his Bachelor of Science degree in Entomology (most simply defined as “the study of insects) followed by a Master of Science and Ph. D. from LSU, having finished in 1988. A native-born Mississippian, Dr. Layton has worked for MSU-ES for 29 years having started their in 1988.
Dr. Layton provides three options for controlling these shaggy insects if they become an intolerable nuisance. The first, and definitely easiest, he says, option one is to leave them be — they will not cause long-term damage to your tree, despite being an eye-soar if the infestation becomes wide-spread. An extreme treatment option exists if an aphid problem does develop into a more serious situation — tree removal. The final option Layton gave for aphid infestation treatment is chemical control. “Asian wooly hackberry aphids can be controlled by soil-applied applications of systemic insecticides containing imidacloprid, but such treatments are costly, especially for large trees, and results can be erratic. For best results treatment should be applied in late winter/early spring just before or as trees are leafing out. Avoid treating in late summer and fall when it is too late for treatments to have much effect before leaf drop.”
Spread the word — winter has not come early. What appears at times to be an unseasonal snowfall is merely the fluffy bugs flitting around, the Asian Wooly Hackberry Aphid.