Aphids Are Joining the Wildfire Smoke Party in New York City

Warmer weather may be to blame

NYC Skyline
Would you like a side order of aphids with your wildfire smoke?
Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

It’s been a challenging time for the New York City area when it comes to the local air quality. Smoke from Canadian wildfires has made breathing somewhat more hazardous than usual this summer, and it’s not the only thing showing up in the air in and around the city that you probably don’t want to inhale. Now, the smoke has been joined by small bugs — aphids, to be more specific.

As Gothamist noted when the bugs first showed up, aphids aren’t an uncommon presence in New York City most of the time, but something about this year seems to be different. Writing at Curbed, Adriane Quinlan spoke with entomologist Louis N. Sorokin, who clarified a few things about what these bugs’ deal is — and what it might mean for the city going forward.

First, the fact that these aphids are flying is significant. “[A]phids don’t normally have wings,” Sorokin said. “Most of the time, they’re wingless. They only have a generation with wings when the population size gets very large.”

That population increase has to do with the weather. “The warmer it is, the faster they develop,” he told Curbed. “I think that’s what we’re seeing.”

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Unfortunately, that also means that climate change could make swarms of flying aphids a more common sight around New York City, and in similar places where these bugs haven’t had as much of a presence in the past. “As long as the weather is conducive for them to survive, they will continue,” Sorokin said. “They are active in some parts of the South year-round.”

The good news is that they don’t bite — but if you’d prefer to not run the risk of inhaling tiny bugs when you go outside, climate change has some bad news for you.

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