Do Aphids Bite? Are They Harmful to Humans?
Aphids are known for sucking the sap of various plants. Found all around the world, aphids are sometimes wrongly believed to bite.
Aphids cannot bite people as they don’t have teeth or jaws. They have sharp mouth adaptations used to suck plant juice. Aphids may only accidentally sting people when they mistake human skin for plant leaves.
Most aphids never bite people. They might sting similarly to mosquitoes due to their sharp mouths that look like needles. Cases of humans bitten by these small Aphidoidea group insects aren’t easy to find.
Scientists that work with aphids all day might be among the few people ever stung by aphids.
While they cannot bite people, aphids cause significant economic loss to people, especially to farmers.
What are aphids?
Aphids are small insects that grow up to ¼ inches long. These insects are known for their soft colorful body.
Aphids are identified by their green, yellow, brown, or black coloring. These insects come in different colors but all of them are soft-bodied.
Aphids are found all around the world. They are known for drinking the sap of one plant species alone. These insects are perceived as harmful in agriculture where they invade certain plantations such as potato crops or squash crops.
Do aphids bite?
Aphids cannot bite as they don’t have teeth. They only have sharp mouthparts. Sharpness is key here as aphids rely on this characteristic to pierce different plants to sack out the sap as liquid food.
Aphids cannot bite people. They lack the teeth or mouth adaptations of other bugs or insects that can bite.
In very rare cases aphids can sting. However, it’s believed this occurrence is tied to aphids mistaking human skin with plant leaves.
Can aphids chew?
Aphids don’t have typical mouths and teeth. They cannot chew and they cannot consume foods by chewing. Aphids cannot bite as a result.
These insects only have a needle-like mouth which is used for piercing. Aphids only drink flower sap and plant juices through this sharp mouth that resembles a needle.
This needle mouth isn’t long enough to pierce human skin. While some aphids attempt a sting, they cannot completely pierce the skin and therefore they cannot cause major pain even if they decide to sting.
Can you tell you’ve been bitten by aphids?
There aren’t many situations where you can hear about aphids stinging people. These slow insects are known for detecting human skin when handled so they don’t sting or try to sting.
There’s an exception noted by scientists with Ceratoglyphnia styracicola, a type of aphid found in Taiwan. This species is known to sting and to even show cannibalistic behavior. It can eat the eggs of ladybugs and even try to attack its species.
However, aphids in North America aren’t known for stinging. They are known for their negative economic impact which has often been met by government action aimed at limiting the spread of aphids species throughout the US.
What happens if an aphid bites me?
A type of stinging sensation has been described by scientists in very rare cases of aphid stings. These resemble mosquito bites in effects and pain.
Mild sting sensation
A mild sting sensation is noticeable when an aphid bites. However, scientists agree these can often be overlooked as they aren’t very painful.
You may not notice an aphid bite if you aren’t specifically concentrating on the insect. On the other hand, you may notice skin coloring in the area of the bite.
Red skin is common in the area of the sting. The skin might remain red up to a few hours following aphid bites. Not all people show these signs and skin might not become red following aphid stings.
Aphid stings might also come with mental frustration as most people assume these insects only eat plants. While this is true, some types of aphids might accidentally sting your hands when handled, especially if your hands smell of leaves or flowers.
Are aphids harmful to humans?
Aphids aren’t directly harmful to humans. They cannot inflict pain since they cannot bite. Even rare species of aphids known to sting only cause mild skin rash and short-lasting burning sensations that can often be overlooked.
The biggest concern with aphids is the distress they cause to farmers and people with gardens. They are known to impact people indirectly in the following areas.
Aphids cause mental distress
The stress caused by aphid infestation has been properly recorded in North America in a few cases. Even certain types of ladybugs have been imported to the US to control aphids.
The Asian lady beetle is one of the imported species the US considered years ago to control aphids. These large ladybugs are known to specifically eat pests such as aphids.
For farmers, aphids have been known for the following negative impact.
The economic damage of aphids in the US is considerable. Without the right crop protection measures such as using insecticide, there would be almost no production left in some areas with certain crops.
For example, the Sugarcane aphid (Melanaphis sacchari) has been known to cause damages worth more than $100 million per year in Texas alone.
This type of aphid is known to suck the sap of Saccharum genus plants.
As with all aphids, there’s one type of crop these insects are known to drink sap from alone. This means controlling a certain species of aphids can make a difference for that crop.
Almost all other crops can be impacted by a type of aphid apart from sugarcane crops.
Lettuce crops are known to suffer from the Currant-lettuce aphid. This type of aphid attacks lettuce in all stages of growth.
Currant-lettuce aphids are among the most common aphids in homes as well as many people like to grow lettuce in the garden.
These aphids cause the most distress to those growing lettuce either commercially or at home.
Broccoli is one of the green vegetables impacted by aphids. Multiple measures need to be taken to keep aphids away from broccoli.
Some successful measures include introducing ladybugs or even covering broccoli with nets. However, all of these measures come with a high economic cost for humans.
Cherry aphids are among the pests that impact cherries grown in the US. Almost all types of cherries and particularly green cherries can be consumed by these aphids.
Both edible cherries and ornamental cherries are impacted by aphids. Controlling their impact is difficult due to the height of cherry trees.
Ornamental flowers are also impacted by aphids that suck their sap. Many flowers are attacked by Oleander aphids (Aphis nerii).
Managing these types of aphids is limited by the nature of flowers. Limiting watering levels is among the few measures people can take to control the impact of aphids on flowers.
Can you get sick from aphids?
Eating insects might not be the smartest idea for many people. Yet, many wonders what happens if you eat aphids?
This question is mostly tied to accidentally eating an aphid on lettuce, broccoli, or cherries. Fruits and vegetables need to be properly washed to avoid eating aphids.
You should not worry in case of accidental ingestion as aphids have no side effects when eaten. They are described as sticky insects by people who have eaten them without any obvious health side effects.
What happens if you eat aphids?
Nothing happens when you eat aphids as these insects don’t carry viruses transmittable to humans. They only carry bacteria that affect plants.
Accidentally eating aphids may be a positive sign, in turn. Aphids living on plants signal insecticides haven’t been used or haven’t been heavily used on crops. This means vegetables with aphids may be healthier or with reduced risk compared to vegetables that never have any visible pests.
Can aphids transmit diseases?
Aphids only transmit diseases to plants. They carry certain plant viruses which kill plants. Insects of this genus are also known for injecting saliva with bacteria which kills plants.
Aphids are known to be some of the most common insects for transmitting plant viruses. In some countries, certain types of plant viruses are specifically tied to aphid and aphid spread.
Aphids cannot bite people as they only have a needle-like mouth used to pierce plants to drink their juices. It’s very rare for these insects to attempt to sting people. Scientists believe this may only happen by accident.
Aphids are known to cause another type of damage that affects people. These insects are known to eat through entire crops. Potato or broccoli plantations are among the most affected crops.
These insects may also draw in other pests. As they eat, aphids produce honeydew. This sticky substance is known to attract a wide range of pests which are now known a certain plant can be eaten.
Aphids and aphid honeydew also draw in some of the natural predators of aphids such as the Asian lady beetle.
While not directly harmful to humans as they can’t bite, aphids are known for creating some of the most important economic losses to farmers as pests.