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Aphis epilobii

Willowherb aphid

Identification & Distribution  Biology & Ecology 

Identification & Distribution:

Aphis epilobii is a blackish-green to reddish-brown aphid which appears dark-grey to pinkish-brown because of the rather uniform powdering of wax (see pictures below). The siphunculi and basal parts of the antennae are pale but the cauda is dusky or dark. The body length of apterae is 1.3-2.1 mm.


The abdominal dorsum of Aphis epilobii is membranous with only a dusky narrow band across tergite 8 and sometimes 7. The siphunculi are 1-1.6 times the length of the cauda. There are small conical marginal tubercles on tergites 1 and 7 (visible if you zoom the first image below), but not on tergites 2-6. The apical rostral segment (RIV+V) is 1.3-1.6 times the length of segment II of the hind tarsus. The latter two characteristics distinguish it from the closely related Aphis grossulariae.


The alate has marginal, postsiphuncular and small marginal sclerites but no dorsal cross bands in front of the siphunculi. The ovipara is reddish brown or greenish black with the hind tibia more or less distinctly swollen on the basal half. The winged male (see pictures below) is dark but has an entirely membranous dorsum. The antennal terminal process is about 3 times the length of the basal part of antennal segment 6. Antennal segment III has 30-32 secondary rhinaria, IV has 17 and V has 7-9.

The willowherb aphid does not host alternate. Sexual forms occur in autumn. It feeds on broad-leaved willowherb (Epilobium montanum spp.) or more rarely other Epilobium species. It is not usually ant attended. It is widely distributed throughout Europe.


Biology & Ecology:

We have only found colonies of Aphis epilobii late in the year when they have already started to produce sexual forms. The picture below shows several wingless oviparae with immatures feeding on the stem. Winged males which were moving up and down the colony seeking suitable mates.

Mating takes place on the drying stems of Epilobium.

The oviparae then lay the shiny black eggs along the dead stems of the host plant shown below.

By this time, many of the colony have been killed by parasitoids, in this case by a Praon species which give the characteristic mummies shown below:

Two species of Praon have previously been found on Aphis epilobii in Europe, Praon dorsale (see Müller et al., 1999 ) and Praon abjectum (see Kavallieratos et al., 2004 ). Other parasitoids recorded are Binodoxys angelicae (Kavallieratos et al., 2004 ) and Lysiphlebus fabarum (Rakhshani et al. (2013) .

Little else seems to have been published about the ecology of this species, although O'Doherty & Ring (1987)  found that this species was capable of considerable supercooling. They noted however that this seemed to be a general property of aphids rather than specific to those species encountering such conditions.


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. (2006) Aphids on the World's Herbaceous Plants and Shrubs. Vols 1 & 2. J. Wiley & Sons, Chichester, UK. Full text 

  •  O'Doherty, R. & Ring, R.A. (1987). Supercooling ability of aphid populations from British Columbia and the Canadian Arctic. Canadian Journal of Zoology 65(3), 763-765. Abstract 

  •  Kavallieratos et al. (2004). A survey of aphid parasitoids (Hymenoptera: Braconidae: Aphidiinae) of Southeastern Europe and their aphid-plant associations. Appl. Entomol. Zool. 39 (3), 527-563.Full text 

  •  Müller, C.B. et al. (1999). The structure of an aphid-parasitoid community. Journal of Animal Ecology 68, 346-370.Full text 

  •  Rakhshani, E. (2013). Tritrophic associations and taxonomic notes on Lysiphlebus fabarum (Marshall) (Hymenoptera: Braconidae: Aphidiinae), A keystone aphid parasitoid in Iran. Arch. Biol. Sci., Belgrade, 65 (2), 667-68. Full text 

  •  Stroyan, H.L.G. (1977). Homoptera: Aphidoidea (Part) - Chaitophoridae and Callaphidae. Handbooks for the identification of British insects. 2 (4a) Royal Entomological Society of London.