Flying Aphids: Yes, They Exist And Here’s Why…

by | Aphids, Insects

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You may have looked up to see the sky full of insects that look a lot like tiny aphids with wings, or perhaps you’ve found winged insects lurking in your yard or on your indoor plants. And now you’re wondering if aphids can fly or if this is some other insect to be worried about. Well…

Most aphids have no wings and cannot fly. But when a plant gets overcrowded with aphids or the seasons change in spring and fall, aphids are born with wings. When big enough, these winged aphids fly away to look for a new plant or tree to live on and start their own colony.

Winged aphids are just as harmful as aphids without wings. In fact, they’re probably worse because they are mobile, reproduce extremely quickly, and spread disease. There are two reasons and seasons when aphids grow wings, and understanding these will help you know when to keep an eye out for these winged pests in your yard and on your indoor plants (along with how to get rid of them).

Aphids fly away in fall to start new colonies

Photos of a wingless female aphid and an aphid with wings
Above you will see a winged and a wingless green aphid, but not all aphids are green. Aphids come in many colors, such as black, brown, yellow, red, gray, or green. Winged aphids are usually a bit darker and larger than the wingless aphids.

During the warmer months, female aphids give birth to between 50 and 200 wingless aphids each. These baby aphids, called nymphs, are born pregnant. Each pregnant nymph starts giving birth within a week, adding another 50 to 200 pregnant aphids to the colony over her lifetime.

This is how an aphid colony grows so quickly on your plants – and all without any reproductive help from males.

But things change in fall, when aphids like to spread out and start new colonies.

During this time, the females start delivering nymphs with wings. These winged females soon give birth to winged males.

The males and females take flight, leaving the old colony to start new colonies elsewhere. Even though these aphids have wings, their wings aren’t very strong. They use their wings to lift off a plant or a tree, then they let the wind mostly carry them along in the air.

This is one of the five ways aphids get into your house or greenhouse, click here to find out about the four other ways they get inside.

Flying aphids are searching for a good, tasty host tree or plant, where they can start a new colony. They keep an eye out for potential hosts, and they use their antennae to smell out hosts too.

When they see and smell a possible host, the aphids drop onto it for a taste test. They pierce the softer tissues of the plant or tree with their mouth and taste the sweet sap inside.

If they don’t like the taste, they soon fly off and keep looking for another host. In fact, flying aphids often fly and taste many plants and trees before choosing one to settle down on. When they’re tasting different plants and trees, they pick up and spread diseases between these plants. This is how aphids spread diseases to other plants and can kill many plants, trees, and crops.

If winged aphids like the taste of a plant or tree, they move onto it.

These flights are mating flights, and the males and females mate so that the female produces eggs. She lays her eggs on the new host. These eggs stay on the plant or in the tree over winter in colder areas and hatch in spring.

In some species, like the woolly apple aphid, the egg-hatched aphids give birth to a generation of winged aphids, and they fly off to find an apple tree where they can start a colony.

The entire new generation of aphids is female, and they start giving birth to pregnant females within days. And so another colony of wingless aphids grows and grows, until fall comes around again or until there are too many aphids on one host…

Aphids fly away when their host plant gets overcrowded

Photo of many aphids on a single branch to demonstrate overcrowding

Because each female aphid gives birth to between 50 and 200 pregnant females, an aphid colony grows very quickly. And soon enough, there are too many aphids feeding off a single tree or plant.

The plant or tree will start showing signs of distress, become sick, have stunted growth, and may even die from this feeding frenzy.

Too many aphids means that there won’t be enough food for everyone or enough space for the females to keep on reproducing.

When this overcrowding happens, female aphids are programmed to give birth to young females with wings.

The females fly away to find a new host plant or tree, where they start their own colonies. Click here to find out how to be sure it’s aphids that just arrived on your plant or tree.

How to get rid of winged aphids

If you see aphids with wings on your plants or trees, then you probably have a new colony starting there or an established colony with winged aphids that are getting ready to leave and look for new plants to feed on.

It’s important to take action as soon as possible to get rid of these aphids, before the colony establishes itself or the winged aphids take flight and start new colonies around your yard.

Tip: Always wear gloves when removing aphids, as some gardeners have reported an aphid bite or two.

Here are my top tips and the most effective products available on Amazon to get rid of winged aphids on your plants:

  • Follow the instructions to make this easy homemade insecticidal soap with dish soap, and thoroughly wash the plants infected with aphids. Be sure to wash the tops and bottoms of all leaves, and around all the branches, stems, and new shoots – where aphids love to feed.  
  • Use these dual-sided non-toxic sticky traps to catch flying aphids. They’re waterproof, and you can cut them to the size you need for your flower beds, vegetable gardens, outdoor potted plants, or indoor plants. When the aphids fly to or from the plants, they get stuck on and die on the sticky pads.
  • Release live ladybugs (aka ladybirds) into your yard. I’ve given you an Amazon link but you might also be able to find these at your local nursery. Ladybugs are natural predators that will eat all the flying and wingless aphids in your yard. You could also try attracting more natural predators to your yard by planting plants with colorful flowers and that beneficial beetles and insects love, such as gardenias, nasturtiums, and marigolds.
  • Click here to get the recipe to make a white oil spray that will kill any aphids living on your plants and trees, especially fruit trees. This spray is also very good at stopping aphids from laying eggs wherever you spray it because it creates an oily film and aphids won’t lay eggs on this film.

If you want to use something stronger (and usually more effective), below is my top list of Amazon products to get rid of flying aphids…

Best products to get rid of aphids

If your backyard or houseplants are plagued by aphids, here are the top recommended products from Amazon to get rid of these pesky insects:

Bonide Ready-to-Use Insecticidal Soap Spray: This is an option for indoor and outdoor plants, including houseplants, citrus, ornamentals, fruit trees, and vegetables. The spray must make contact with the aphids to kill them.

Bonide Rose Spray: Don’t let the name fool you – this spray isn’t just for roses. It kills all life stages of aphids on roses, flowers, potted plants, indoor plants, ornamentals, shrubs, fruits and vegetables, and more. It also kills sooty mold and prevents fungal attacks.

Houseplant Insect Control Granules: These granules can be used on houseplants, flowers and roses, but not on any edibles like fruits and vegetables. The granules are highly recommended for potted plants or plants in containers and raised beds.

Food-Grade diatomaceous earth: Sprinkle this all-natural, organic product on your aphid-infested plant and around the bottom of the plant or tree. When aphids walk over the diatomaceous earth, it cuts them and kills them, yet this is not harmful to humans. Be sure to use this earth when it is dry, and sprinkle more after it has rained.

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MONIQUE

Monique loves gardening and spending time in her backyard, where she grows flowers, succulents, herbs, fruits, and vegetables.

Monique spends a lot of time researching how to protect her backyard from harmful pests and trying to attract beneficial insects and animals.

She shares everything that she learns and tests here at Backyard Pests.

 

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