More Woolly Aphids in the Yard This Year? OH Really?
One of our listeners recently noticed hundreds of woolly aphids in his yard this year, many more than usual. And he wondered whether this has anything to do with climate change. He reached out to our OH Really? team to find out.
The first thing I wanted to find out is, what exactly is a woolly aphid? I turned to the host of our Exploradio series on science, Jeff St. Clair.
"We're familiar with the sort of plain, green aphids—and they're smooth and they live on plants and create a lot of a big mess—but there are also similar species that has a cotton-like wax filament that grows off of them and they're called woolly aphids. They're closely related. They look like a mass of cotton that will clump onto a plant."
So that’s what a wooly aphid is, but is there any way to know if climate change is playing a role in the increase our listener asked us about?
"If you have a mild winter then a lot of overwintering insects [are] not killed off. There are also various local climate changes. In one neighborhood, say a bunch of trees get cut down. It's hotter [and] more sunlight is exposed to a certain patch, so that's favorable for certain types of bugs."
The best way to get rid of the aphids is to just spray with a mild soap solution, right? Since they’re not destructive.
“They might be annoying. They might look gross. They might leave a mess, but they’re not a horrible invasive insect.”
St. Clair says another cause for an increase in an insect population could be imbalance in an environment’s predator-prey relationship.