Aphids pull the wool over gardeners’ eyes

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ONE pest on my apple trees is woolly aphid.

You might think they’re patches of mildew, but the sneaky little blighters hide themselves under a mass of white fluff they secrete.

They also love pyracantha and Cotoneaster horizontalis.

Woolly aphids suck sap from woody stems, rather than foliage.

Between spring and early autumn, infested branches are covered with a fluffy white waxy material – the blackish-brown aphids hide underneath.

Thinner bark around old pruning cuts is a prime site for insects in spring but by midsummer, the pest is likely to have spread on to younger shoots. Affected branches develop soft, lumpy growths in the bark as a result of feeding, easily spotted during winter pruning.

These swellings can split in frosty weather and create entry wounds for the fungal disease apple canker, which is why the two are often found together.

One organic (and very physical control) is by scrubbing the colonies with a stiff-bristled brush in spring-early summer before an extensive infestation has built up.

However, if you have a lot of large trees, this is very impractical.

Another method is using an organic winter wash (see above), as immature nymphs overwinter on the host plants in cracks in the bark or crevices around old feeding areas. During the winter months, the aphids do not produce their woolly coating – so don’t be fooled into thinking they’ve gone!