Weird, Tiny, White, Fluffy 'Boogie-Woogie' Bugs Filmed Dancing Around Leaf

A video showing white, furry bugs seemingly dancing around on a leaf dancefloor has gone viral on Reddit.

The video, posted by user u/your_name_here___, shows the insects, which are covered in a stringy, white fur-like substance, rocking back and forth and waving their hair-like filaments in the air.

"Found some tiny strange bugs dancing around a leaf while hiking," the user said in the caption of the post. "Someone please tell me what the heck they are? They were on a walking path only around one single leaf."

The strange, dancing bugs seem to be beech blight aphids (Grylloprociphilus imbricator), affectionately nicknamed "boogie-woogie" aphids, according to entomologists. They can be found across the U.S., with their range extending from Maine all the way to Florida.

"The 'boogie-woogie' aphid, also called the beech blight aphid, looks like a miniature woolly sheep. Their bodies are covered with glands that produce long, white, waxy strands—much like toothpaste squeezed from a tube," Deby Cassill, an entomology professor at the University of South Florida, told Newsweek.

Beech blight aphids feed on the sap of beech trees, and very high numbers can be seen on individual branches, sometimes extending onto leaves. They become increasingly hairy throughout the summer, and by the fall, branches and twigs occupied by the bugs may appear to be coated in snow, according to the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

"What looks like a colony of unrelated individuals on a branch is actually a dynasty, often originating from one female. In one season, one aphid can clone millions of great-granddaughters ten times removed," said Cassill.

white aphids on leaf
This stock image shows root aphids sucking on dandelion roots. Beech blight aphids, woolly-looking white aphids, have been videoed seemingly dancing around on a leaf. iStock / Getty Images Plus

Their characteristic "dancing," as seen in the Reddit video, rather than a joyful jig, is actually a defense mechanism.

"Carbon dioxide from the breath of predators or curious humans causes the woolly aphids to raise their abdomen and 'shake that booty' as a defensive behavior that startles the would-be predator or the curious observer. The boogie-woogie dance also informs the predator that it has been spotted and [that the aphids may] soon deploy another defensive behavior. If you see these tiny dancers, enjoy the show," Cassill said.

The aphids leave a trail of excrement on the bark surface as they devour a tree's sap, which is rapidly occupied by mold. This leads to a characteristic dark coating on the tree in their wake, as sooty mold fungi (Ascomycete) turns the aphid excretions, called honeydew, black.

Only in very large populations on smaller, weaker trees will groups of the aphids cause damage to trees, according to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in which case the infestation can be treated with a jet of water or aphid insecticide.

The beech blight aphids are just one species of many from the large subfamily Eriosomatinae, also known generally as woolly aphids.

According to François Brassard, an insect ecology researcher at Charles Darwin University in Australia, the dancing bugs should not be touched, as they may bite in self-defense.

"Their waggling warns others of a danger, but the young aphids will actually attack and bite potential predators. To do so, they use their piercing mouthparts, a kind of straw they use to feed on sap," he told Newsweek.

"If bitten, the waxy strands clog the pharynx of a predator who eventually starves," Cassill said.