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Wooly Aphids on Hackberry Trees


Over the past few weeks there have been numerous inquiries about whiteflies on trees. However, these insects are not whiteflies. They are actually a large infestation of Asian wooly aphids. Wooly aphids are small white insects that fall off hackberry trees and appear to float in the air. They suck the sap out of the leaves and secrete a sticky residue called honeydew. As a result, a black mold, known as sooty mold, covers the leaves, stems and possibly the bark of the tree. This black sticky substance covers the hackberry tree, and it can cover any plant or object underneath it. When I see black soot on certain plants that are not prone to any specific insect, I always ask, “what’s above this plant”? I will usually find a hackberry tree nearby. It does not have to be directly above, just nearby. This black soot gets on vehicles, lawn furniture and anything else in the fallout zone.

To control the problem, insecticides are not always necessary, but they may be justified when honeydew and sooty mold become intolerable. If the tree is small enough to spray, you can use spinosad. For larger hackberry trees, it may not be feasible to spray the leaves with an insecticide for control. It is possible to use a systemic insecticide such as Bayer Tree and Shrub Protect and Feed applied as a root drench around the base of the tree. Systemic chemicals take several weeks to move from the roots into the leaves. Systemic insecticides should be used in the spring shortly after the leaves emerge and again in late summer for longer control. I usually treat my neighbors tree in April since wooly aphids appear every year in June to July. That way I am sure the chemical is still at its optimal control strength.

deannaAnother option for control is to remove the host tree from the landscape. This will immediately eliminate the problem since these aphids only damage hackberry trees. The down side to systemic insecticides and tree removal is the hackberry is a wonderful tree for birds with its berries. It is also the host plant for the Snout butterfly. Most importantly, now you have the information needed to make the best decision for you, the tree and the environment.


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Reader Interactions


  1. Kathy says

    I have a large Hackberry tree in our back yard that is infested with woolly aphids. Being new to the south, it took a long time for me to find out what kind of tree it is, and what that bug is, and what is this horrible mess they create? I’m done dealing with the mess. Can I treat it myself effectively with a systemic drench, or should I call a specialist to inject the soil? What kind of specialist should I call? Approximately how much should I expect to pay for that treatment? Will the trees berries be poisonous to birds afterwards?

    • DeAnna says

      My neighbor has a Hackberry that gets wooly aphids every June. In April, I treat with Systemic drench and it lasts all season. A quart bottle runs $24.99 and one is all you need. The birds and my dog love the berries.

        • Jesse says

          Hi Barbs – DeAnna is referring to systemic drench products such as Bayer Tree and Shrub Protect and Feed. When you apply it, the tree takes up the chemical systemically, meaning up through the roots and through it’s entire system.


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