As I went out inspecting my trees I noticed what looked like a white fungus growing on the bark. This worried me and when I tried to brush it off it “mushed” in my hands like a bug. Obviously about 2 minutes later Google was busy storing information on my search habits related to white mushy fungus on apple trees and trying to see how that applied to selling ad space…
I quickly learned that the fungus was NOT a fungus. It was a waxy protective coating around a bug called a woolly aphid. Apparently woody aphids like to grow on fruit trees. If they are not killed can burrow into the bark and make knots. Therefore, the next Google search was for “bee safe methods to kill woolly aphids” and “Woolly Aphids in Fruit Trees”
How to Get Rid Of Woolly Aphids WITHOUT Hurting Bees
I read on several sites that the best thing to use was mentholated alcohol. This eats through the waxy protective coating that made the aphid resistant to most pesticides. It is also bee friendly. This is because it is non-persistent and not used on flowers. It is sprayed directly on the bug and the trunk of the tree.
Next step was to find mentholated alcohol. The local pharmacy said they did not carry it. The said they could order me some. Unfortunately I wanted the bugs killed TODAY…
The garden department at lows had no idea what it was and sent me to the paint department. The paint guy looked puzzled and said they don’t carry mentholated alcohol. I was stuck again.
Back to the interwebz….
Mentholated alcohol led to Methanol which lead to denatured alcohol. This lead back to the paint aisle at Lowes to get some solvent and a spray bottle.
I kicked myself all the way out as I learned about mentholated alcohol. Recently, I was doing some research into alcohol stills for making fuel. I learned that to get a license to own a still for fuel production you had to be able to make the alcohol non-potable. A common commercial way was to denature it with menthol. Basically, complex chemistry lesson aside, was that denatured alcohol and mentholated alcohol are pretty much the same thing.
It was easy once I got the right equipment. Just a quick spray MELTED the aphid. It was the coolest thing. I sprayed one tree to see what would happen. The mext day all the aphids were gone. So I sprayed all the other trees.
It has been over a month and no more aphids came back.
My trees are doing great, and are as strong as I have ever seen them (but they have only been planted a year)…
Denatured alcohol sprayed on wooly aphids kills them quickly and seems to prevent them from coming back.