photo: Dr. Alan Windham, UT Plant Pathologist
The following is a real query sent to an Extension agent over the phone: “I have thousands of insects on 8 of my 10 maple trees. I fear they will kill my trees, one has already died. The insects huddle together. I am not positive they have wings, they may, but refuse to fly. Their antenna are twice as long as their body; 6 legs; body is 1/4” long, blackish, the body tapers to a pointed rear end. I see multiple groups on my tree branches. Smaller, shorter ones have white lines across body. They are the younger ones.
Barklice also called psocids (Order Psocoptera feed on mold/fungi etc. on the bark). They are harmless and tend to aggregate. There are immatures (without wings) and adult (winged) present. The photo shows the winged barklice adults.
Lesson learned: not all insects are harmful, ready to injure your garden plants. Are you curious what killed the homeowner's other maple tree last year? I am too, but he cut it down before anyone could diagnose it.
Contact your local county Extension office for gardening assistance.