'Chubby' pests likely aphids - Albuquerque Journal

‘Chubby’ pests likely aphids

Tracey FitzgibbonQ. I was going to cut a few branches from my pine tree for indoor decoration when I noticed lots of chubby black bugs that have six legs, massed where the needles grow from the branches, pretty much all over the tree. I hope you can tell me what type of bugs are on my pine tree and what I should do about them? – D.F., Albuquerque

A. I like your description of the black bugs being “chubby” and seeing six legs on them. If you can get up close and personal, look to see if they have delicate antennae and are sporting twin “tailpipes” on their rear ends. If so, I’d be willing to bet your pine tree is hosting an aphid infestation.

Now, I can hear some of you yelling “Aphids are green not black!” Well, I’ve seen aphids that don’t follow that rule. Aphids can come in a whole rainbow of colors and are usually “chubby”-shaped and have “tailpipes” which is the dead give away.

So, what to do to get rid of them this time of year?

Hook up the hose and spray the tree with the hardest stream of water it’ll stand. You want to spray top to bottom, getting the whole tree, including the trunk. Once the aphids have been dislodged or beaten up by the hard water stream, they usually die.

If you own a hose end sprayer, see if it adapts so it shoots a hard stream of water instead of a fan spray. Just be positive the sprayer hasn’t had an herbicide run through it.

Once you’ve sprayed off the tree twice in 10 days, give the tree a good look-see. Are there still congregations of living aphids? If so, you might want to apply a pesticide.

Start with the “safest” pesticide first, applying an insecticidal soap or a dormant oil. Read the product label first because there are usually temperature restrictions. If the label says the temperature needs to be, let’s say 45 degrees or higher, then you need to wait until the temperature is 45 degrees or warmer the day you choose to spray,, just long enough for the tree and pesticide you’re applying to dry.

Also, by having read the product label completely, you’ll know if the pesticide is recommended for the type of plant you are wanting to spray and if it’ll hunt the bugs you want to hunt.

By reading labels, I’ve learned that you should not apply dormant oil to Colorado blue spruce trees.

Oh, and don’t forget to undo the hose from the spigot after you’re done to prevent any freeze damage.

So start with spraying the tree with a hard stream of water and see if it takes care of the “chubbies.” Then step up to a pesticide if you need to.

Happy Diggin In.

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to features@abqjournal.com.


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