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Aphids on tansy & feverfew

The genus Tanacetum comprises about 160 species of flowering plants (Asteracea), mostly native to the Northern hemisphere. Just two species are native to Britain: Tanacetum vulgare (garden tansy) and Tanacetum parthenium (feverfew) see below. 

Blackman & Eastop list 28 aphid species  as feeding on plants in the Tanacetum genus worldwide.

Of those aphid species, Baker (2015)  lists 23 species as occurring in Britain: Aphis fabae,  Aphis gossypii,  Aphis spiraeola, Aphis vandergooti,  Aulacorthum solani,  Brachycaudus cardui,  Brachycaudus helichrysi,  Colaradoa tanacetina,  Macrosiphoniella abrotani, Macrosiphoniella artemisiae,  Macrosiphoniella millefolii,  Macrosiphoniella oblonga,  Macrosiphoniella persequens, Macrosiphoniella sanborni, Macrosiphoniella tanacetaria,  Macrosiphoniella tapuskae, Macrosiphum euphorbiae,  Metopeurum fuscoviride,  Myzus persicae,  Nasonovia ribisnigri,  Pleotrichophorus glandulosus, Trama troglodytes,  and Uroleucon tanaceti. 

Bell et al. (2015)  (Appendix S2) have also published an "annotated checklist of aphids present in the UK". We discuss some of the reasons for the differences between Baker's and Bell's lists in our rare aphids page. 

Below are pictures and descriptions of the aphid species we have found most frequently on tansy and/or feverfew in Britain, roughly in order of how often we have encountered them.


Metopeurum fuscoviride (Pink tansy aphid) - a garden tansy specialist

Metopeurum fuscoviride is a medium-sized pink aphid with a large blackish spot on the abdomen (see first picture below). The antennal tubercles are very weakly developed, so that front of head is very shallowly concave. The siphunculi are dark and thin and 1.3-2.0 times the length of the cauda. The cauda is dusky or dark, elongate triangular with a rather narrow apex, less than 1.7 times longer than its basal width. The body length of apterae is 2.2-2.9 mm. Immature Metopeurum fuscoviride are initially green, with older instars pink (see second picture below).


The pink tansy aphid mainly feeds on tansy (Tanacetum vulgare). It is regularly tended by ants, of which Lasius niger is the most common. Metopeurum fuscoviride is found throughout most of Europe.

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Macrosiphoniella tanacetaria (Tansy aphid) - a garden tansy specialist

Macrosiphoniella tanacetaria apterae are large wax powdered green or pinkish-brown aphids. The antennae are black including the base of the third segment (distinguishes from artemisiae). The legs, siphunculi and cauda are also black. There are no body hairs on dark scleroites. The antennae are 1.0-1.3 times the body length with the terminal process 2.9-3.5 times the length of the base of the last antennal segment. The siphunculi are 0.1-0.2 times the body length and 0.6-0.9 times the length of the cauda. The body length of apterae is 3.2-4.1 mm. The female alate is much like the Macrosiphoniella tanacetaria aptera. Immature and winged forms are similar to the adult aptera


The tansy aphid spends it entire lifecycle on tansy (Tanacetum spp.), chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum spp.) and mayweed (Matricaria spp.) Colonies occur on upper parts of stem and between the flowers. Eggs are laid on the stem and withered leaves. Macrosiphoniella tanacetaria is common and widespread throughout Europe extending into North Africa, parts of Asia and the Americas.

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Aphis fabae (Black bean aphid) - a polyphagous species, common on feverfew

Aphis fabae is a black or very dark brown aphid species with a variable abdominal sclerotic pattern - confined to abdominal tergites 6-8 in smaller apterae, but broken bands are present in larger ones. Their siphunculi and cauda are dark. Aphis fabae antennae have joints of III-IV and base of V are usually quite pale. Marginal tubercles are protuberant but small. The longest femora and tibial hairs are longer than the least width of tibiae. The black bean aphid apterae (see first picture below) sometimes, and immatures (see second picture below) very often, have discrete white wax spots. The body length of Aphis fabae apterae is 1.2-2.9 mm.


The black bean aphid host alternates between spindle (Euonymus europaeus) as the primary host and many herbaceous plant species including feverfew (Tancetum parthenium) as secondary hosts. Sexual forms occur in autumn. Aphis fabae is found throughout the northern continents, and has been introduced to many tropical and subtropical countries where it may reproduce parthenogenically all year round. In Europe there is a complex of sibling species or subspecies which can only be distinguished by their choice of secondary host coupled with transfer experiments.

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Brachycaudus cardui (Plum-thistle aphid) - a polyphagous species, on garden tansy and feverfew

The Brachycaudus cardui aptera (see first picture below) is brownish-yellow, pale green or brown with a large shining black spot situated dorsally on the abdomen. It has separate cross bars on thoracic segments and 2 or 3 black stripes at the tip of the abdomen. The Brachycaudus cardui rostrum is long and reaches the hind coxae. The longest hairs on abdominal tergite 8 are 85-110 μm long, and the longest hairs on the hind femur are 40-80 μm long. The length of these hairs distinguishes Brachycaudus cardui from the short-haired Brachycaudus lateralis Their siphunculi are black, thick and cylindrical and 1.7-3.4 times the length of their cauda. The body length of apterae is 1.8-2.4 mm. Immature Brachycaudus cardui lack the black spot (see second picture below) and may have reddish patches on a greenish background. Those shown below were sharing the same plant with Metopeurum fuscoviride and Trama troglodytes.


In continental Europe Brachycaudus cardui host alternates between various Prunus species, mainly cherry, plum and apricot, and various wild and cultivated daisies (Asteraceae) especially thistle (Carduus and Cirsium spp.) and borage (Boraginaceae). It is also commonly found on feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium). In Britain it seems to live all year round on Asteraceae. Infested leaves undergo severe curling. Dense colonies occur at the base of flower heads and on the leaves. A return migration to primary hosts occurs in autumn. The plum-thistle aphid is found throughout Britain and Europe as well as in Asia, north Africa and North America.

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Coloradoa tanacetina (Tansy leaf margin aphid) - a garden tansy specialist

Adult apterae of Coloradoa tanacetina are yellowish green or greenish yellow-brown, with the tips of the antennae and tarsi dark. The antennal terminal process is 1.4-2.0 times longer than the base of antennal segment 6. The last two fused segments of the rostrum (RIV+V) are 0.9-1.0 times longer than the second hind tarsal segment The longest hairs on abdominal tergite 8 are only 14-24 μm. The siphunculi are cylindrical and 1.3-2.2 times longer than the cauda. The length of the adult aptera of Coloradoa tanacetina is 1.1-2.0 mm.


Winged forms (not shown) have 9-15 secondary rhinaria on antennal segment 3, 5-11 on segment 4 and 1-9 on segment 5.

Coloradoa tanacetina feed in the indentations at the leaf margins of tansy (Tanacetum vulgare). Sexual forms of the aphid (pale green oviparae and very small orange-yellow males) occur in September and October. Coloradoa tanacetina are found across northern Europe, and have been introduced to USA.

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Trama troglodytes (Artichoke tuber aphid) - a polyphagous species, mainly on garden tansy

Trama troglodytes adult apterae are white, yellowish-white or grey depending on age. The antennae are about 0.5-0.6 times the body length, and the terminal process of the antenna is shorter than the base of the sixth antennal segment. The most distinctive character of this aphid is the elongate hind tarsus which is at least as long as the hind tibia (see pictures below). Their cauda is semi-circular. The body length of Trama troglodytes aptera is 2.5-3.9 mm. The Trama troglodytes alate has dark dorsal sclerites and marginal sclerite. The antenna of the alate has 0-4 secondary rhinaria on segment III, 0-4 on segment IV and 0-6 on segment V.


The artichoke tuber aphid lives on the roots of many Asteraceae, especially Achillea, Artemisia, Cirsium, Sonchus and Tanacetum. They are invariably attended by ants. These aphids mainly overwinter as parthenogenetic forms, but oviparae and blind wingless males have been found in southern England. Trama troglodytes is found in Europe, west Siberia, Central Asia and Japan.

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Uroleucon tanaceti (Crimson tansy aphid) - a garden tansy specialist

Apterae of Uroleucon tanaceti are red, reddish brown or crimson, with yellowish antennae and black apices. The legs are (usually) yellow with the apices of the tibiae black. The siphunculi are brown or black, often with the middle part paler brown giving a characteristic bicoloured appearance. Antesiphuncular and marginal sclerites are absent. Body hairs are long and placed on small, discrete scleroites.The cauda is yellow. The body length of Uroleucon tanaceti is 2.2 to 3.4 mm.


Second image copyright Nigel Gilligan, all rights reserved

The crimson tansy aphid is found on garden tansy (Tanacetum spp.), especially on the lower yellowing leaves. It also occurs on cultivated Chrysanthemum species. Winged males and wingless female oviparae occur in October. Uroleucon tanaceti is distributed throughout Europe to Siberia and Central Asia, and North America.

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Species of Tanacetum

We cover two species of Tanacetum, tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) and feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium). Tansy (see first picture below) is a perennial herb with a stout erect stem which grows up to about 80 cm. The leaves are fragrant. alternate and pinnately lobed. The golden-yellow flowers are roundish, flat -topped and button-like and are produced in terminal clusters. The leaves and flowers contain thujone which is toxic.


Feverfew (see second picture above) is also perennial and grows up to around 60 cm high. The leaves are pinnate. It produces many flower heads which have a yellow centre surrounded by white rays. Feverfew has been used as a herbal treatment to reduce fever and treat headaches, but there is little evidence of its efficacy.

Both tansy and feverfew are common herbs throughout Europe, and are now invasive in other parts of the world.


We have made provisional identifications from high resolution photos of living specimens, along with host plant identity. In the great majority of cases, identifications have been confirmed by microscopic examination of preserved specimens. We have used the keys and species accounts of Blackman & Eastop (1994)  and Blackman & Eastop (2006)  supplemented with Blackman (1974) , Stroyan (1977) , Stroyan (1984) , Blackman & Eastop (1984) , Heie (1980-1995) , Dixon & Thieme (2007)  and Blackman (2010) . We fully acknowledge these authors as the source for the (summarized) taxonomic information we have presented. Any errors in identification or information are ours alone, and we would be very grateful for any corrections. For assistance on the terms used for aphid morphology we suggest the figure  provided by Blackman & Eastop (2006).

Useful weblinks 


  •  Blackman, R.L. & Eastop, V.F. Aphids on the world's plants An online identification and information guide. Full text