White Flying Bugs That Look Like Cotton On Plants

In March and April, small flying bugs with white hair on their bodies appear in your yard or garden.

These white flying bugs that look like cotton balls can go out of control and spread all over your plants and shrubs.

So, what are these tiny white furry bugs? Are they harmful? 

Let’s find it out.

Woolly Aphids – The Tiny White Flying Bugs That Look Like Cotton

White flying bugs that look like cotton

So, you’ve got the answer. The little white fluffy and furry bugs that you see on the plants in your garden are woolly aphids.

With the arrival of spring, woolly aphids appear out of nowhere. 

Woolly aphids are plant bugs. They target the plants’ soft stems, twigs, buds, and roots. 

Woolly aphids are outdoor, and they seldom enter indoors unless you’ve introduced them to your home by bringing in potted plants.

However, white plant pests like whiteflies, mealybugs, and spider mites are threats to indoor plants.

These tiny white pests will suck out the sap of the plants by targeting the plants’ softer parts.

You’ll find woolly aphids on most fruit trees (mainly apple trees) and vegetable plants. But they can also infest flower plants like roses, marigolds, and lilies. 

Shape And Size Of Woolly Aphids – How Do Woolly Aphids Look Like

Woolly aphids have pear-shaped bodies. An adult woolly aphid grows up to ¼ inches in size when fully matured.

Waxy strands on their bodies make woolly aphids appear as cotton balls. These strands are also a defense mechanism meant to keep their predators away.

The strands also help woolly aphids grip the plants’ branches and twigs, helping them crawl easily on the plants.

Lifecycle Of Woolly Aphids

Adult woolly aphids will lay their eggs in the thin gaps and cracks on the host plants’ branches in the winter months.

After laying eggs, they go for hibernation.

Female aphids hatch out of the eggs in the spring months, producing offspring without mating.

Newborn aphids develop their white wooly wings after reaching adulthood. Then they move onto different plants to infest.

The lifespan of woolly aphids is of one month. Woolly aphids are ready to lay eggs within four to ten days of birth.

These matured woolly aphids will lay eggs before hibernating in winters to continue their lifecycle.

Damages On Plants Woolly Aphids Cause

Woolly aphids have needle-like mouthparts that they use to suck out the sap from the tender portion of the plants.

They feed on the bark, leaves, twigs, and buds. On certain seedlings, woolly aphids will also feed on their roots.

Signs of woolly aphid infestation in plants are –

  • Clusters of white cotton-like balls on plants
  • Wrinkled, twisted, and curled leaves
  • Yellow pigments on the leaves’ undersides or on the portions of plants where they’re feeding.
  • Plants stop to grow
  • Seedlings die because woolly aphids can damage their roots
  • Plants look weak and tender
  • Woolly aphids deposit waxy deposits on the plants’ leaves and twigs. 
  • White shed skin of woolly aphids on the plants

Woolly aphids produce large amounts of honeydew which leads to the formation of sooty molds on plants.

The honeydew attracts bugs like ants that feed on it. Those ants can also cause damage to the plants.

However, woolly aphids don’t cause severe irreparable damage to plants. Getting rid of them from the plants helps the plants to regain their lost vigor.

And woolly aphids won’t kill your trees or plants. But to seedlings, woolly aphids can be lethal as they attack the tender roots.

How To Get Rid Of Woolly Aphids?

As per the University of Minnesota, allowing natural predators of woolly aphids in your garden or yard is the best way to control them.

Lacewings, ladybugs, and wasps are some of the predators of woolly aphids. Inviting them in your garden is an excellent way of natural bug control for your plants.

You don’t need any extensive pesticide management to get rid of woolly aphids. Also, home stuff like soapy water, essential oils, and vinegar don’t work on woolly aphids either.

If woolly aphids infestation in your garden is high, then hire a professional pest controller to do the job.

Pest controllers will use pesticides like imidacloprid and dinotefuran. But these are harmful pesticides to pollinators like bees and wasps.

So, it’ll be best to avoid these pesticides altogether and wait for the plants to bloom. Then hire a professional landscape company to get rid of woolly aphids.

Apart from woolly aphids, there are many other tiny white bugs on plants that look like dust. These are also all outdoor bugs.

Do Woolly Aphids Bite?

No, woolly aphids don’t bite humans or pets despite having needle-like mouthparts.

They rarely land on humans or get inside homes. Their mouthparts are too weak to penetrate the human skin.


The white flying bugs that look like cotton are woolly aphids. They’re active starting from the late spring till late fall.

Woolly aphids are plant pests that don’t cause severe damage to the plants. 

However, when their numbers increase, the infestation signs, like curled yellow leaves and a reduction in plant growth, are visible.

Woolly aphids are not the kind of plant pests you should worry about. Their natural predators like wasps and bees will finish them off.

However, if their numbers in your garden have gone over the roof, then you’ll need to hire a landscape pest control firm to get rid of woolly aphids.