Biology, images, analysis, design...
Aphids Find them How to ID AphidBlog
"It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important" (Sherlock Holmes)



Aphis fabae species-group

Black Bean aphid

Identification & Distribution  Other aphids on the same host 

Identification & Distribution:

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 aphids' apterae (see second picture below) often, and immatures (see first picture below) very often, have discrete white wax spots. The body length of Aphis fabae apterae is 1.2-2.9 mm.


The clarified slide mounts below are of adult viviparous female Aphis fabae : wingless, and winged.


Micrographs of clarified mounted  aptera & alate courtesy PaDIL.  Copyright Rebecca Graham (Department of Agriculture, Western Australia) under Commons Attribution 3.0 Australian License. 

The black bean aphid host alternates between spindle (Euonymus europaeus) as the primary host and many herbaceous plant species 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.


Aphis fabae sibling species / subspecies

The nominate subspecies Aphis fabae fabae migrates to both broad beans (Vicia faba) (pictured above first) and poppies (Papaver spp.) (pictured above second) as well as Chenopodium species and beet (Beta vulgaris). Aphis fabae fabae will not colonise thistle (Cirsium) or black nightshade (Solanum).


Aphis fabae cirsiiacanthoidis migrates to thistle (Cirsium arvense) (pictured above first) and Aphis fabae mordvilkoi to burdock (Arctium) (pictured above second). The fourth subspecies is Aphis fabae solanella, which migrates to black nightshade (Solanum nigrum).

Although one can tentatively assign Aphis fabae on the plants above to a particular subspecies, they also colonise a huge range of other plants (for example many umbellifers) which are not associated with a particular subspecies. Also some hosts such as docks (Rumex spp) seem to be acceptable to all Aphis fabae subspecies. Lastly (just to confuse things further) what was called Aphis euonymi has now been renamed Aphis fabae evonymi, and Aphis fabae solanella has been renamed as Aphis solanella.


Other aphids on same host:

Blackman & Eastop list 7 species of aphid  as feeding on spindle (Euonymus europaeus) worldwide, and provide formal identification keys. Baker (2015)  lists all 7 as occurring in Britain: Aphis aurantii,  Aphis fabae cirsiiacanthoidis, Aphis fabae euonymi,  Aphis fabae fabae, Aphis fabae solanella, Macrosiphum euphorbiae  and Myzus persicae 


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 


Identification requests

David Fenwick, 05 July 2013, Parasite 2

Had a bit of a different Aphis on Cirsium arvense, Creeping Thistle, from what I've seen of late. At least it's nicely marked.

Image copyright  all rights reserved.

Bob, Influentialpoints:

  • Re aphid on Cirsium, it's almost certainly a colour form of Aphis fabae cirsiicanthoides. They can sometimes be dark green rather than black.

Ah that's interesting, thanks for that, I wasn't aware cirsicanthoides could be that colour.



David Fenwick, 4 August 2013, Aphis fabae mordvilkoi ?

Aphis fabae mordvilkoi ? was ant attended on Burdock, Arctium minus, tucked in between flower buds. Mites present.

Images copyright  all rights reserved.

Bob, Influentialpoints:

  • Given the host, yes.



Dr. Wagner, 24 May 2014

Today I am sure I have found aphids. These black ones were attended by ants.

Image(s) copyright V. Wagner, all rights reserved.

Bob, InfluentialPoints:

  • Your black aphids are clearly in the 'Aphis fabae' type group, but without the host, that's as far as I can go.



Alan Outen, 03 June 2014, Re: Aphid hunting

Many thanks for this. [These] are bugging me!

I had today what I believe to be Aphis rumicis on Rumex obtusifolius

Bob, InfluentialPoints:

  • If the aphid on Rumex was causing a gall (major crumpling of leaf) then it was A. rumicis. We have found lots this year, but are a bit behind on putting things on the website.

I have now finished playing with the species on dock that I thought might be Aphis rumicis and although there was some crumpling of upper leaves the aphids were mainly confined to the top of the stem and I now think these are just A. fabae again. I attach one image:

Image copyright Alan Outen,  all rights reserved.



V. Wagner 28/9/2014 aphids on galium aparine

Once again I need help on identification. Adult winged, unwinged and nymphs ant attended, found June 01 2014 on Galium aparine. Also some Hamonia axyridis predating those aphids could be found. Is it possible to identify this species?

Images copyright V. Wagner, all rights reserved.


Bob, Influentialpoints:

  • These are Aphis fabae - they commonly occur on Galium aparine.