Galls caused by poplar vagabond aphid form at the ends of aspen and cottonwood branches. The galls are caused by aphids feeding at the tips of twigs. This feeding causes the tree to grow an elaborate structure that the aphids can live inside. One of the galls in the photo is broken open so you can see the aphids inside. This damage does not usually kill the tree, but reduces branch growth because the formation kills the terminal buds. The aphids feed during the spring and early summer within the gall, and then leave to feed on an unknown second host plant. When the aphids leave the gall it will turn brown and woody, and will remain on the tree for several years before weathering off. Adult aphids return later in the fall and lay eggs on the woody gall or in crevices in the bark. Eggs will hatch the following spring and repeat the process. For control, prune the galls prior to egg hatch early in the spring. Because the aphids return to the same trees with the original galls it is common to see a single tree heavily infested while a nearby tree will have no galls at all. I have always seen this problem in trees that are open grown, either along the edge of a stand, along a roadway or fence row, or in a yard. I’m not sure how much of a problem it is in the interior of a stand.
Written by: Linda Williams, forest health specialist, Woodruff, (Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov), 715-356-5211 x232.