Monday, July 2, 2012

Cute, Fuzzy Butt Bug

My daughter screamed.


I stared at her.  She was holding a dandelion that had gone to seed, which she had been happily blowing the seed puffs off of.  I saw no bug.

"Where?"  I asked.

She pointed to what looked like the fluff of a dandelion, resting on her shirt.

"No, sweetie, that's just a seed."  I flicked it off with my hand.

Then it flew away.

Yep, my daughter was right.  It wasn't a dandelion seed with the parachute puff on it that she saw.  She was right.

It was a bug.

I then noticed a few more of these little creatures that were masquerading as parachuting dandelion seeds.

It took me a little while, but I finally caught one.

It was, for lack of a better description, cute.  I know, not exactly the most common description for an insect, but...  it just was.

It had a bright white, nearly fluorescent, fuzzy butt.  The location of the wings relative to the head made it look like some sort of strangely drawn cartoon animal.  I smiled as I gazed upon this adorable little bug that was so content to sit peacefully in the palm of my hand, and thought,

What the heck is this thing?

Turns out, it's an aphid.  A woolly aphid, to be exact.  I sat in complete amazement upon discovering this.  See, I don't generally like aphids.  Before I went organic, aphids used to make their homes on my grapevines.  I never once considered them to be cute.  They're destructive.

But look how cute this little guy is!  How could I possibly dislike this sweet little creature with its white, fuzzy butt?

Awwww... so cute

It was hard to believe that such a cute bug could be so destructive to plant life, but sure enough, I found information from John F. Kyhle, an entomology technician at UMN that confirmed this:

"Woolly aphids feed by inserting needle-like mouthparts into plant tissue and withdrawing sap. They feed on leaves, buds, twigs, and bark, but can also feed on the roots. Symptoms of feeding include twisted and curled leaves, yellowed foliage, poor plant growth, low plant vigor, and branch dieback. Physical injury may result when large numbers of woolly aphids attack young trees or unhealthy, stressed trees. Fortunately, severe woolly aphid infestations only occur periodically and are generally kept in check by natural enemies. In addition to the physical damage to the plant, accumulations of wax and shed skins are sometimes very conspicuous signs on the leaves, twigs, and bark."

This made me rather sad.

Fortunately, when I got to the section about management of these aphids, I liked the advice.  In short, he said that the aphids rarely end up being truly harmful to trees and bushes, so the best thing to do is just suck it up and deal with it.

Ok, it was phrased in a slightly more sophisticated manner, but you get the point!

What does this mean for me?

It means that I get to enjoy my little fuzzy butt bugs without worry.  They really are cute, and since I haven't found any evidence that they're the ones that harmed my soybeans, I think I can leave them alone and just be happy.

Especially at night.  Dusk is when these little guys are the easiest to see, since their fuzzy white butts are so amazingly bright.  They almost remind me of tiny fairies.  Bonus!


  1. I have caught these since i was a kid. We always called them faeries.

  2. Faeries!!!! Oh, those cute little bugs really do resemble them, don't they?

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