They cover bicyclists and hover in swarms that make it look like it's raining or snowing outside. The teeny-tiny green critters are known as soybean aphids and they're everywhere. While the aphids don’t pose any danger to people, pets or livestock, they can damage soybean fields.
Rich Moscardelli, a manager at Ace Bicycle Shop in Springfield, has definitely noticed the swarms of little green gnat-like bugs that have descended on the city.
On a few occasions, customers who rode their bikes to the shop have had to brush themselves off because they are covered in the tiny bugs.
“A couple of the days, I’ve been able to look out of the front door here, across the parking lot of Town and Country, and see them in the air. It looks like it’s raining or snowing,” Moscardelli said.
David Robson, horticulture educator with the University of Illinois Extension Office, said the little bugs are called soybean aphids. They’ve been in the environment for many years, but Robson isn’t sure why there are so many of them right now.
Some people have speculated that the relatively cool summer could be the cause.
“Through some freak of nature, breeding, maybe lack of predators and ideal growing conditions, they are just (a lot of them) this year,” Robson said.
The soybean aphid has a green abdomen, a black head and a black thorax. Most are the size of a pinhead.
Luckily, the little bugs don’t sting or bite. They eat plant juice, and as their name suggest, their preferred food source is soybean leaves.
When dozens of the little bugs end up on people’s clothing, Robson said, it’s basically an accident.
“It’s not like they are attacking us like a mosquito. They are flying there and you just happen to be in their way,” Robson said.
While the aphids don’t pose any danger to people, pets or livestock, they can damage soybean fields.
The aphids eat the leaves on the soybean plants, which produce sugars. When the leaves are damaged, the soybeans can be smaller, or there may not be as many soybeans per pod.
Robson said the bugs probably won’t be that bothersome in another one or two weeks.
If any survive after that point, they will be killed during the first good frost.
John Reynolds can be reached at (217) 788-1524 or email@example.com.
While soybean aphids don’t bite, there are still a few flying pests in the air that do pack a little sting, the Illinois Department of Public Health reports.
_Minute pirate bugs: These bugs, which are about one-fifth of an inch long, usually feed on other insects. Their wing pattern creates what appears to be a black X on their back.
_Thrips: These elongated bugs also are about one-fifth of an inch in length. They come in a variety of colors, and their wings look like little feathers. They feed on plants, but will sting people to find out if they have landed on an edible plant.
_Mosquitoes: These bugs will continue to annoy until the first hard freeze and temperatures fall to 25 to 28 degrees.