A strange, feathery-looking insect called a "fairy fly" has been spotted in many places throughout Illinois and Wisconsin, but what exactly is it and what does it do?

What is a Fairy Fly?

Insects are not my jam, so I avoid interactions with them at all costs. That being said, I spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in Wisconsin, so I've seen a lot of different creepy bugs in my days, but I've never seen one even I would call adorable.

A man named Brian Kotel who lives in Spooner, Wisconsin shared two photos he took of a 'Fairy Fly' in The Northern Way of Life Facebook group, which then got shared by many other Wisconsin-related groups. Here are the photos...

Brian Kotel via Facebook, Canva
Brian Kotel via Facebook, Canva

That bug sure is pretty, but now I have to know what exactly a "Fairy Fly" is, and if it will kill me.

Let's start with the most obvious answer...no, a Fairy Fly will not kill you, but my first few Google searches nearly had me believing it could. Please allow me to explain...

Are Fairy Flies Dangerous?

When I first typed the question; "What is a Fairy Fly" into Google, the very thing I saw was this description from Wikipedia;

The Mymaridae, commonly known as fairyflies or fairy wasps, are a family of chalcidoidwasps found in temperate and tropical regions throughout the world.

Oh heck no, I HATE wasps, so just seeing that word and the fact that it stings instantly made me despise this deceptively adorable insect. Wait a sec...if these wasps are typically found in tropical climates, why are they traveling so far from home?!?

Thankfully, I searched for a second opinion and discovered "fairyflies" and "fairy flies" are two very different things. (THANK GOD!)

Fairy Flies in Illinois and Wisconsin

After reading that this pretty bug might really be a wasp that is very far from home, I decided to actually read through the comments on the post the picture came from. Many people called it a "wooly aphid", so what exactly is that?

According to Wikipedia, "Woolly aphids (subfamily: Eriosomatinae) are sap-sucking insects that produce a filamentous waxy white covering which resembles cotton or wool".

Just so we're clear, the pretty white feathers on this insect are actually wax.

The good thing is, wooly aphids are harmless unless you are a plant. They can do some major damage to plant leaves and leave ugly waxy blobs on them too. Here are some easy ways to get rid of wooly aphids in case you start noticing fuzzy-looking blobs on the plants and trees in your yard...

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