Aphids on maple and sycamore
Blackman & Eastop list 96 species of aphid as feeding on Acer (Maples and Sycamores) worldwide, and provide formal identification keys.
About fifteen of these are known to occur in Britain.
We show eight of these species below, in rough order of observed abundance.
Assistance on distinguishing native British maples is given below.
Drepanosiphum platanoidis (= platanoides) (Common sycamore aphid)
All adult viviparae are winged (= alates). Alate aphids have a yellow-brown head and thorax with darker brown markings, and a pale green abdomen. Those that develop early or late in the year have cross-bars present (see first picture below), but these are never restricted to abdominal tergites 4-5. Alates that develop in mid-summer are much paler and have no cross bars (second picture below). The antennae are brown and the siphunculi are pale with a brown tip. The forewing has no black spot at the tip nor one at the outer end of the pterostigma; the pterostigma is defined by two longitudinal brown stripes. The body length is 3.2-4.3mm.
Drepanosiphum platanoides is an incorrect, but commonly used, synonym for this species.
The aphid lives on the undersides of leaves of sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus). It is also recorded from many other Acer spp., as well as a wide variety of other trees which are apparently only visited on a casual basis. Sexual forms occur in September-November. It is a cosmopolitan species which is common on sycamores wherever they are grown. In Britain it is abundant in some years, less so in others.
Periphyllus testudinaceus (Common periphyllus aphid)
The apterae are dirty dark green to dark brown or blackish and have a clear pattern of dark abdominal sclerites (see below left). The antennae have a terminal process that is 2.5-3.7 times as long as the last antennal segment. The siphunculi are brown and short. The tibiae have a very pale middle section which contrasts with their dark base and tip. The cauda is twice as broad as long. The body length is 2.0-3.7 mm. Alates (see below right) have dark dorsal abdominal cross-bands and marginal sclerites, which are darker than the light brown pterostigma of the wing.
The common periphyllus aphid is found on the young growth, leaves and leaf petioles of various maple species (Aceraceae) including field maple (Acer campestre), Norway maple (Acer platanoides) and sycamore (Acer pseudoplanatus). It is often attended by ants. It is found throughout Europe and has been introduced to other parts of the world including New Zealand and North America. It is the most abundant Periphyllus in Britain, in some years exceeding numbers of Drepanosiphum platanoidis.
Periphyllus acericola (Sycamore periphyllus aphid)
Developing nymphs and adult apterae are pale green or yellowish green, with darker green flecks (see first picture below) and sometimes with dorsal brownish markings. The tips of the antennal segments are dark and the terminal process is 2.3 - 3.0 times as long as the last antennal segment. The head and pronotum are pale as are the legs and the siphunculi. The width of the base of the cauda is more than twice the length of the cauda. The adult aptera body length is 2.4-3.5 mm. The adult alates have broad dark dorsal abdominal cross-bars scarcely separated between segments, and paler marginal sclerites. The pterostigmata of the wings are black and darker than marginal plates (see second picture below) The adult alate body length is 3.0-3.5 mm.
The sycamore periphyllus aphid is found on the undersides of leaves, petioles and young shoots of sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) throughout most of Europe. It is fairly common and widespread in Britain, and is sometimes attended by ants. In late May first instar nymphs are produced which do not develop immediately, but aestivate through the summer. They are yellowish white with long, pointed hairs and aggregate in dense groups, appearing like whitish spots on undersides of leaves.
Periphyllus aceris (Maple periphyllus aphid)
Apterae are yellow with green flecks dorsally (see first picture below). The antennae have a terminal process that is 2.2-2.7 times as long as the last antennal segment. The siphunculi are pale and short - about 2.1 - 2.5 times as long as the cauda. The cauda is distinctly shorter than the width of the base. The head, pronotum and legs (except tarsi) are pale. The body length is 1.5-3.7 mm. Winged female viviparae (see second picture below) have dorsal cross-bands more widely separated than in P. acericola, and with equally dark marginal sclerites and pterostigma. The body length is 3.2-4.5 mm.
The maple periphyllus aphid lives on the undersides of leaves, petioles and growing shoots of maples (Acer spp.), especially Norway maple (Acer platanoides). It is not usually attended by ants. The species is found throughout most of Europe, but has apparently not so far established itself in North America.
Periphyllus lyropictus (Norway maple periphyllus aphid)
Identification:Apterae (first picture below) are yellowish with brown dorsal markings, usually comprising a broad spinal stripe on head and thorax and a large V-shaped mark on the dorsal abdomen. The cauda is tongue shaped, about as long as broad, and often with a slight constriction. The body length is 1.9-3.0 mm. Alatae have dark marginal sclerites, but other dorsal sclerotization is limited to the spinal area, not forming cross-bands.
The Norway maple periphyllus lives along veins (second picture above) on the undersides of leaves of Norway maple (Acer platanoides) (the other maple periphyllus does not live along the leaf veins). They often form large colonies producing much honeydew and are visited by ants and other insects. This species does not produce aestivating nymphs. Oviparae and alate males are produced in October-November. The Norway maple periphyllus is native to Europe, but it was introduced on Norway maple to North America, where it is now also widespread. In Britain it is locally common.
Periphyllus californiensis (Californian maple aphid)
Periphyllus californiensis apterae (see first picture below) are dark olive-green to brown with dark dorsal cross bands. The apterae have the head, pronotum, and siphunculi dark. The length of the antennae is about 0.6 times the body length. The terminal process is about twice as long as the last antennal segment. The siphunculi are about as long as the second hind tarsal segment. The hind femur and tibia are uniformly dark (distinguishes from Periphyllus testudinaceus). The cauda is broadly rounded with 8-12 hairs. The body length is 2-3 mm. Periphyllus californiensis alates (see second picture below) have dark bands across abdominal tergites, apparently darker than the pterostigma.
The Californian maple aphid, Periphyllus californiensis, is not indigenous to Europe (nor to California), but is from East Asia. It has proved highly invasive and has spread to Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand on planted Asian ornamental maples such as smooth Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) and downy Japanese maple (Acer japonicum).
Drepanosiphum acerinum (Sapling sycamore aphid)
All adult viviparae are winged (= alates). Alate aphids are pale whitish-green to chrome yellow, with thoracic lobes darker. There are often one or two short brown bars on abdominal tergites 4-5 (see first picture below) which do not extend to the marginal plates (this distinguishes from the rarer Drepanosiphum dixoni - not pictured here - which also feeds on sycamore, but has the cross bands almost touching the marginal plates.) There is usually a conspicuous brown-black spot in front of the base of each siphunculus (visible in the second picture below). The siphunculi are only slightly swollen and are either entirely or distally dark or black. The long antennae are pale but the segments have brownish tips. Body length 2.1-3.3mm.
Aphids live on sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) saplings in the shade. Sexual forms occur in September-October. The species is found throughout Europe, except the Baltic region. In Britain it is local, but we have found it common on very young sycamore saplings (2-3 inches high) in mixed woodland.
Drepanosiphum aceris (Scarce maple aphid)
All adult viviparae are winged (= alates). Immatures - below first - have a dark green cross band on abdominal tergite 5. Alate aphids are yellowish or pale whitish-green with dark thoracic lobes. There are often rather narrow cross-bands on abdominal tergites 4 and 5 and usually lateral spots in front of bases of siphunculi. Siphunculi are dark at the tips. Forewing has a dark spot at the wing-tip and another (less clear) at the outer end of the pterostigma (see below second). The body length is 2.7-4.2 mm.
The scarce maple aphid lives on field maple (Acer campestre), usually under leaves near ground. Sexual forms occur in September-November. It is distributed throughout Europe and east to the Caucasus. In Britain it is distinctly local and we have only found it a few times.
Periphyllus hirticonis (Green Maple periphyllus aphid)
Periphyllus hirticonis apterae are light green with red eyes and no dark markings. The antennae are 0.7 times the body length, and have a terminal process that is 5 times as long as the last antennal segment. The two hairs on the base of antennal segment 6 are very unequal in length with the longer more than 4 times as long as the shorter. Some dorsal hairs have forked apices. The siphunculi are pale, longer than the second hind tarsal segment and strongly flared at the apex. The cauda is knobbed and has 6-8 hairs. The body length is 2-3 mm. Periphyllus hirticornis alates have variably developed marginal plates, no dorsal cross bands and brownish siphunculi and cauda.
The first picture above shows an aptera of the green maple periphyllus aphid. The second picture shows a developing colony. The green maple periphyllus aphid lives on the undersides of young leaves, leaf petioles and developing seeds of field maple (Acer campestre). Stroyan (1977) notes the species may be locally common but is little recorded.
Periphyllus obscurus (Dark periphyllus aphid)
The aptera (first picture below) is rather small and dark blackish green (this distinguishes from Periphyllus hirticornis on field maple - not pictured here - which is green). The terminal process of the antenna is 3.2-6.9 times the length of the base of the last antennal segment. The siphunculi are dark and only about as long as the basal width. The hind tibiae are more or less pale without a contrasting dark base and distal section. The cauda is rounded with a constriction near its base and is more than half as long as its basal width. The body length is 1.8-2.6 mm. Very young nymphs of Periphyllus obscurus are green, whilst older nymphs are brownish.(second picture below)
The dark periphyllus aphid is found in ant-attended colonies on young shoots, leaf petioles and undersides of leaves of field maple (Acer campestre). Aestivating nymphs are apparently not produced. The oviparous female has been described. The species is found in central and western Europe. It has been described as being 'very rare' in Britain, but we have found it to be locally common in southern England.
Species of maple
We cover three species of maple, sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), Norway maple (Acer platanoides) and field maple (Acer campestre).
The sycamore is a tree with large dark green leaves. Each leaf has a long petiole, five lobes with toothed edges and thick veins protruding on the paler underside. The picture below shows sycamore seedlings on the forest floor that had been colonized by Drepanosiphum acerinum.
The field maple is a rather small tree with finely fissured bark. The leaves (see below first) are opposite and have five blunt rounded lobes with a smooth margin. The Norway maple is a larger tree with grey-brown shallowly grooved bark. The leaves (see below second) have five lobes each bearing 1-3 side teeth and an otherwise smooth margin.
- Blackman, R.L. & Eastop, V.F. Aphids on the world's plants An online identification and information guide. Full text
- Dixon, A.F.G. & Thieme, T. (2007). Aphids on deciduous trees. Naturalist's Handbooks 29. Richmond