During the months of September, October and November, homes located near hackberry trees are often invaded by tiny grey to black bugs. Pachypsylla celtidismamma, or the Hackberry Gall Psyllid, as it is more commonly known, is an insect species that dwells in hackberry trees. When leaves begin to fall, millions of these insects make a mad dash into nearby homes where they pose a tremendous nuisance to residents. Every year in central Texas, these insects cover the exterior walls of homes, vehicles and everything in sight in an effort to secure warm shelter for the winter season. These minute insects often get stuck in people’s hair and ears, which prompts many residential calls to the Texas A & M extension office.
Most residential calls received by entomologists and pest control professionals at the extension office are from residents who are concerned that these insects may cause physical harm. Luckily, hackberry gall psyllids do not bite, sting or damage property, but they do cause a tremendous nuisance in residential areas. These insect pests are attracted to lights, and due to their small size at 1/10 of an inch in length, hackberry gall psyllids are small enough to enter homes through the tiniest of openings including window screens. Many people who have issues with these pests believe that they are gnats, flies or fleas, but they look more like cicadas when viewed with a magnification lense.
Hackberry gall psyllids are able to overwinter in natural conditions beneath the bark of trees, but unlike most insects that overwinter outdoors, these insects also squeeze into small cracks and crevices on the exterior walls of homes and vehicles. These cracks and crevices often lead indoors where the insects disturb residents, but luckily, they die within a short time after gaining access indoors. Since these invasions are an annual nuisance in residential areas of central Texas and elsewhere, many homeowners want their hackberry trees sprayed with insecticide to prevent infestations. Pest control professionals often spray hackberry trees during the spring before a large number of hackberry gall psyllids have a chance to develop.
Have you ever experienced an invasion of hackberry gall psyllids?