Aphids are pests that destroy gardens and vegetation, with their greatest victims being greenhouse crops. Besides eating them, they’re also known to carry viruses that can heavily damage the plants (source: Wikipedia: Aphid Pest Status). But do they pose any danger to humans?
Aphids are not harmful to humans, and they do not bite. Aphids evolved to feed on plants and have mouthparts for tasting plant sap. They have no teeth leaving them incapable of biting. Also, aphids are a known carrier for viruses, but these only affect plants and are not transmittable to humans.
In this article, I’ll discuss the various types of aphids, whether they can hurt humans, and if you should be worried about aphids living on your skin or in your hair. Read on!
Are Any Types of Aphid Harmful to Humans?
Knowing the harm that aphids cause to plants, people often wonder if aphids pose a danger to humans as well (source: AdamPestControl: Aphids). Can they infect humans with diseases? Are they dangerous to humans?
There aren’t any types of aphids harmful to humans. Aphids can’t bite humans or transfer diseases. However, they can cause a great deal of irritation by damaging crops. Also, different types of aphids carry various diseases and can damage a variety of vegetation.
Here are the three main types of aphids that you should keep an eye out for:
- Eriosomatinae or woolly aphids
- Lettuce aphids
- Phorodon humuli or white aphids
Let’s examine these different types of aphids and whether or not they might be harmful.
Eriosomatinae or Woolly Aphids
The woolly aphid (Scientific name: Eriosomatinae) gets its name because of the white, wool-like substance it produces to protect its body. Adult woolly aphids are reddish-brown under their “wool” covering (source: Wikipedia: Eriosomatinae).
The woolly aphid is native to North America and dwells mainly in the American elm tree. They can also be found mainly in the Northern Hemisphere, where they’re known to cause damage to crops and are considered pests, as they spread disease and fungi.
Another place the woolly aphid can be found is in apple trees.
Here’s an interesting 5-min YouTube video on Woolly Apple Aphid Research
While they’re indeed considered pests, they’re not harmful to humans.
Lettuce aphids are either green or orange with black markings. The winged adults are darker. As their name suggests, they tend to target lettuce in particular.
These aphids can be found in California, and though their life cycle is short, their numbers can increase with rapid breeding, accelerating the damage done to crops (source: IPM: Lettuce Aphid).
That said, these aphids don’t cause any direct harm to humans.
Phorodon Humuli or White Aphids
White aphids (Scientific name: Phorodon humuli), also known as Hop aphids, are pale white or green. They are mainly found in parts of Europe, including Denmark, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, but can also be seen in other parts of the world (source: Cabi: Phorodon Humuli).
They lay eggs inside various fruits during the winter, including peaches, apricots, cherries, almonds, and nectarines. In the spring, the new colony then feeds on the same fruit that hosted their eggs.
And while they are definitely a nuisance, especially if you’re a farmer, white aphids don’t attack or harm humans.
Do Aphids Bite Humans? Can They Hurt You?
Aphids don’t bite humans and can’t hurt you. They evolved to suck sap from plants and don’t have a mouth or even teeth to bite people. However, they do have sharp, piercing mouthparts that can sting. But still, the stings are so subtle that it’s hard to tell if it’s by an aphid or another irritant.
Much like bees, aphids only sting when they feel threatened. If they believe their colony is in danger, they might sting (source: Entomology: Aphids). Or, if your skin smells like a plant, they might sting you in an attempt to “taste” you for sap.
That said, if you recently came in contact with an aphid and developed an itch shortly after, that doesn’t necessarily mean you were stung by an aphid.
For instance, you could be allergic to the plant you were handling when you came in contact with aphids. Or perhaps your skin rubbed against a material you’re allergic to.
Now, it’s worth noting that some people have been known to develop a rash from aphid bites (source: Jacionline: The aphid—An insect allergen). However, because it’s so challenging to identify aphid bites in the first place, there’s very little research on the topic. Research is still underway.
Are Aphids Poisonous to Humans if Eaten?
Because aphids are so small and tend to piggyback on produce, it’s completely possible to accidentally eat them with your food. So, is there any problem if you ingest a few aphids?
Aphids are not poisonous to humans if eaten. They don’t contain venom or toxins harmful to us. On the contrary, aphids are among the many edible insects out there. And as far as taste is concerned, aphids can be sweet or bitter, depending on the type of plant they’ve been eating.
As such, you need not worry about eating aphids with your freshly picked apple (source: PestBanned: Are Aphids Harmful to Eat?).
However, this isn’t an excuse for not properly washing (in some cases boiling) your food before eating them. Although aphids aren’t harmful, raw food can contain plenty of other pathogens or toxins that can make you sick.
Can Aphids Live On or Infest Humans?
Some aphids have wings and can use them to hop on humans, ride on our clothes, or in our hair. But can aphids live on humans the way lice can? After all, some people refer to aphids as “plant lice,” given how they infect plants.
Aphids can’t live on nor infest humans. They feed on plants and can’t live without plant-based nutrients. They can barely stay alive for a few days without a host plant. As such, if they lived on a human, they would die from starvation.
So even if you think you got a few aphids in your hair on your shirt, you don’t need to get too worried. The aphids won’t live on you. And even if they don’t manage to escape, they’ll die within a couple of days (source: Webdoc: Rice Root Aphid).
So that brings us to the end of our comprehensive read on aphids and whether they can harm humans. I hope this article was able to ease all your concerns regarding the insect.