NEW ULM - Area residents have been reporting something small and fluffy in their trees, and it's not the neighbors kitten. Woolly aphids have been spotted in significant numbers in trees across our area.
Woolly aphids are not uncommon to the state but usually in fairly unnoticeable quantities.
"There have been a few reports of woolly aphids in metro counties, but this is the first greater Minnesota issue I've heard this year," said University of Minnesota Entomologist Jeff Hahn.
Woolly aphids have been spotted in significant numbers in trees across our area.
The call first came in from several residents of northwestern St. Peter and aphids have since have been spotted along the Judson Bottom Road and elsewhere. What most folks want to know is, "What are they and what should I do about them?"
The woolly aphid looks like a gnat wearing a wedding dress and is either found as a flying insect or small green more common looking tree insect. The woolly aphid, like all aphids, sucks nutrients out of the leaves of host plants. This type of aphid amasses in significant enough quantities to cause leaf curling and deformation. They are hurting the tree, however the important thing to know is that the tree will rarely suffer enough leaf injury to cause any noticeable harm and usually does not warrant treatment. The leaves that are affected this year will regrow again next year.
Lacewings, lady beetles, hover flies and parasitic wasps are all natural predators of the woolly aphid. Homeowners can also physically remove the curled infected leaves if practical or use a systemic insecticide such as acephate to remove the pest. However, it is normally only used for very young trees since they do not have as many leaves to support the plant. Contact insecticides are ineffective because the leaves and waxy coatings block penetration.
Keep an eye open for the woolly aphid if you want to find a truly rare looking insect. You'll find it in the curled leaves of ash trees hopefully not causing too much of a concern.