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Aphids in the home yard and garden

Quick facts 

  • Aphids are very common insects and are found on most plants in yards and gardens.

  • In most cases they cause little or no damage to the health of plants.

  • Signs of severe aphid feeding are twisted and curled leaves, yellowed leaves, stunted or dead shoots and poor plant growth.

  • Treating aphids for the health of plants is usually unnecessary.

  • Aphids can often be managed with only non-chemical options or low risk pesticides.

How to identify aphids

One small and one larger green, pear-shaped aphid on a green leaf
Adult and nymph aphids

Aphids are small, 1/16- to 1/8-inch-long (2-4 mm), pear-shaped, soft-bodied insects. They can range in color from green, black, red, yellow, brown or gray.

  • Mature aphids can be wingless or can have wings.

  • Winged aphids are similar in color but are a little darker.

  • Immature aphids (nymphs) look like adults  but are smaller.

The best way to identify aphids is to check for two tail pipes (cornicles) found at the end of the abdomen. All aphids have cornicles, but some are smaller and less obvious.

Brown aphid with blackish tailpipes at the end of the abdomen
All aphids have tailpipes

Aphids shed their exoskeletons (skins) as they grow. These white cast skins can be found on leaves or stuck in honeydew secretions of the aphid.

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Common aphids in Minnesota

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Damage caused by aphids

 

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    How to protect your plants from aphids

    Check plants for aphids regularly throughout the growing season. Because aphid populations can explode, it is important to monitor plants as often as possible. Carefully check leaves and stems for the presence of aphids.

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    Woolly aphids

    Many white aphids on a brown branch
    Woolly alder aphids

    Woolly aphids are found on trees and shrubs.

    They are similar to true aphids, but have white waxy strands covering their pear-shaped bodies.

    The wax filaments make these aphids look fluffy and cottony, as if they are covered with wool. The wax also keeps predators away from these aphids and helps them move easily around plant hairs.

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    Jeffrey Hahn, Extension entomologist and Suzanne Wold-Burkness, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

    Reviewed in 2019

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