Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fuzzy White Flying Bugs

   I don't believe in fairies, even though I took a picture the other day that sure looks like it has one down in the corner. I snapped the picture when I was chasing a small white fuzzy bug flying through the edge of the woods.
   My regular readers know I do stuff like chase tiny flying white bugs just to see if I can get a good picture.  It's kind of fun to see a little fuzzy bug go drifting past...  run for my Nikon, set everything to manual, find the bug again, and start snapping pictures.
   Now, if you've come to this page wondering what these tiny white bugs are called... the ones that look like drifting lint, floating pieces of fluff, or tiny fairies... they are woolly aphids.  The Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America says, "Woolly aphids owe their appearance to filaments of wax secreted from their bodies.  The coating keeps them from drying out and repels some predators that would rather not get a mouthful of wax."
   These aphids feed on plant juices. Wooly aphids are from the family Eriosomatidae.  The book, An Introduction To The Study Of Insects, says, "Nearly all members of this family alternate between host plants, with the primary host (on which the overwintering eggs are laid) usually a tree or shrub, and the secondary host a herbaceous plant.  These aphids may feed either on the roots of the host plant or on the part of the plant above the ground."
   There are various species of woolly aphids.  The ones I have pictures of were probably moving from one host plant to another. Here's one I saw last fall.
   The picture above was taken with a Pentax Optio .  The rest of the pictures on this page were taken with a Nikon D3100 and a zoom lens, a Nikon 55-300mm.
  I'm glad these woolly aphids fly slowly... they just drift along like lint or fluff floating on the breeze which makes it easier to chase them and take pictures of them on the wing.
 Farewell fairy-fly.
( I mean farewell in the sense of good-bye, not a wish to fare well... woolly aphids are pests that can damage plants and trees.)

Here is a post on another amazing fuzzy white bug.

34 comments:

  1. Dana, What amazing photos ! How do you manage to get your camera to focus on the teeny insect and not on the background ? Quite the feat.

    Your posts never disappoint.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sybil,
      One of the benefits of having a dslr is... I can set everything manually, including the focus. What I did was set the exposure (with a small aperture for a greater depth-of-field) and then zoom to 300mm and set the focus to its closest setting (which is 4 feet unfortunately). Than I went after the woolly aphid, snapping pictures as it came into focus.
      There would be better ways to accomplish this, but what I have works tolerably well :)

      Delete
  2. I hope they hibernate during winters because I always put out my tongue to catch snowflakes.

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    Replies
    1. Wong,
      You know, they might taste ok.... aphids excrete honeydew. :)

      Delete
  3. Anonymous7/09/2012

    What happens if you accidently touch their white fluff????

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    Replies
    1. Good question... nothing really happened to the ones I've touched.

      Delete
    2. Well, you could pluck those fluff off.
      The white fluff will come loose easily (I believe), that's what happened to the bugs around here.

      Delete
  4. Nice shots! One landed on my leg yesterday and eventually flew away.

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    Replies
    1. Jamie,
      Thanks!
      Yes, they seem to bumble around as rather poor fliers... just the other day, one landed ker-flop, upside-down... right in front of my trowel at my archaeological excavation.

      Delete
  5. Anonymous7/28/2012

    Why do they bite you if they normally feed off plant juices?

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  6. Anonymous7/29/2012

    Thank you so much for clarifying what these tiny, flying fairy-like insects are that just hatched all around my house! I laughed when I read your description, since I had just said they look like little fairies. Each year they hatch around this time, and they all just came out of the shrub outside my kitchen window in the past few days. My shrubs are so high right now, and need cutting, so they can help themselves to them! It'll be less that I'll have to cut when I get around to it... Haha!
    ~Christine

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  7. Anonymous10/25/2012

    Wondering where you took your photos. Just curious to know where these flies normally are found. I am in Campton NH & just took photos of them on my porch today. I've never seen them before & there's a ton of them that seem to be attracted to my furry coat. I was covered with them, lol :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I took these photos in Northern Pennsylvania. There are a number of species of woolly aphids and they have a fairly widespread distribution. Woolly aphids can be found on alders, beeches, elms, etc. Generally they are more noticeable when they are moving from one kind of host plant to the other.

      Delete
  8. Anonymous12/08/2012

    Would they feed off of mold,furniture, clothes etc...? I have something that looks similar in my house. Driving me nuts!! Do not know what or where they came from.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous,
      These aphids feed on plant juices. Do you have plants in the house? Perhaps you have some whiteflies.

      Delete
  9. Anonymous4/02/2013

    I have to say - THANK YOU - for this information!! My oldest daughter & I were sitting on my mother's deck when I saw many of the flying 'lints' - I told them both that this is what the Kig Fairy looks like, knowing that I love fairies & have a tat on my left shoulder of one. The both laughed histerically when I literally crawled under the table to follow the one I had my eye on...! The thought I was nuts - and there are pictures of me "chasing the fairies" on my daughter's phone. So beautiful....!!! Tina

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  10. Anonymous6/08/2013

    Thank you Dana for the beautiful - truly magical -photos. Don't know why I woke up thinking of those little white fuzzy bugs this morning but I did. Thanks to the power of google I landed here, questions answered and pictures inspiring. You really captured how fairy-like they look, all that improbable white fluff they fly around with.... !

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  11. Anonymous6/12/2013

    squished up fairies in parkas

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  12. Anonymous7/12/2013

    So very glad to find this info with beautiful pictures. It took three sessions of investigation to decide they were animals. They chase each other in a circle!
    I was so amazed by them. There are no plants were I was - just a concrete terrace in a convention center (my work place). I was so glad they came back so I could see them again.Tried to pick up one but they are too fragile. Thanks so much for the photos and the info. Keep shooting!

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  13. Anonymous8/08/2013

    Thanks for the info.My little sister had one land on her the other day and I had never seen one before so it's great knowing what the bugs are :)

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  14. Anonymous8/18/2013

    Awesome shots! I have found these bugs in my backyard and my first thought was what the heck are these and I want to go grab my camera to capture them! Www.clickadeephotography.com

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  15. Anonymous8/28/2013

    Has anyone noticed that some are white, some pale blue, some light pink? Fairies indeed!

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  16. Anonymous8/31/2013

    Thanks for identifying these for me. Today is the first time that I have seen them, and had no clue what they were. Great shots! I never thought of trying to get a picture of them, but I'm sure they'll be out again tomorrow.

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  17. do these little bugs agfect ur allergies or asthma???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rosa
      I don't know much about that. I did go to the website of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, http://www.niaid.nih.gov, and searched for aphids... no results.
      I suspect aphids could affect allergies in at least one round-about way - Some aphid infestations are plentiful and sooty mold grows on the aphid's waste product of honeydew. The mold spores could aggravate allergies.

      Delete
  18. Anonymous9/08/2013

    I think they are beautiful! I had one land on me and thought oh you must be a wisp.. lol seeing one always makes me smile

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  19. Anonymous9/08/2013

    HOW DO YOU GET RID OF THEM?

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    Replies
    1. You could try some of the recommendations on sites like this one... http://extension.missouri.edu/p/g7274

      Delete
  20. Anonymous10/01/2013

    They bite me too!! Ive never noticed them before but the last couple days.... they remind me of the little fairies on The Labrynth movie!! Cute but biters! (just not as hard as those)

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  21. Anonymous10/06/2013

    Do they bite? I heard they do, but they have been on me several times with no bites :-) thank goodness cuz they are so cute!

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  22. I see these all the time lately while sitting out on my front steps (suburban Nashville). I was trying to describe them to a friend who lives in PA, he thought I was nuts when I said they looked like flying lint! I decided to google bugs flying lint, hit on your photos first try. That's them, alright!

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  23. I m having a lot of trouble getting this in with my iPhone. Anyway, I see these little bugs all the time lately (suburban Nashville) I was describing them to a friend in PA, used the exact words "flying lint". He thought I was nuts! I decided to google those same words & came up with your amazing pics. They are exactly like the ones we have down here. They do land on me a lot & sit, maybe it's my diabetic blood that attracts them?

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    Replies
    1. cyn,
      Those little pieces of "flying lint" are moving to new host plants this time of year. That is probably why you are seeing them lately. As far as why they land on people, I always thought is was because they seem like very poor flyers and simply bumble into whatever chances to be in their path.

      Delete
  24. Anonymous11/09/2013

    I grew up in West PA and saw these all the time. When I told people about them when I moved to Colorado, they thought I was nuts. Even some people in PA. I was thinking about these and glad I saw this site. Thanks for posting those pictures.

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