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Aphis plantaginis

Plantain aphid

On this page: Identification & Distribution  Biology & Ecology 

Identification & Distribution:

Adult Aphis plantaginis apterae are dark green, mottled to a greater or lesser extent with pale green. Aphis plantaginis is not wax powdered (note: the white dots on the backs of the aphids shown below are not wax, but droplets of condensed water after the specimens had been kept cool for a period and then warmed up). The antennal terminal process is 2.0-2.8 times the length of the base of the sixth antennal segment. The siphunculi are black and 1.62-2.42 times the length of the dusky cauda. Their body length of Aphis plantaginis aptera is 1.23-2.04 mm.

Their abdominal sclerotic pattern is variable, with the most heavily marked having dark intersegmental muscle sclerites (see micrographs below), small marginal and postsiphuncular sclerites and bars across tergites 7 and 8. Marginal tubercles are rather large, especially in alates.

Aphis plantaginis lives under the rosette leaves and on the root collar of great plantain (Plantago major), hoary plantain (Plantago media) and ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata). It does not host alternate. It is usually attended by ants which cover the aphid colony with soil particles. Sexual forms develop in autumn. Aphis plantaginis is widely distributed in southern Britain and throughout most of Europe and into Asia.

 

Biology & Ecology:

Colour

Aphis plantaginis adults are usually mottled with pale green and dark green (see first picture below) to a greater or lesser degree which can provide excellent cryptic colouration on the stems and leaves of plantain.

The mottling is most marked in adults and varies from colony to colony (see pictures below). Immatures tend towards a more uniform green colour.

Life cycle

The overwintering eggs hatch in late spring, but in mild years some aphids probably overwinter as viviparae.

The earliest we have found colonies on plantain (as evidenced by ant tenting of the leaves) is late June.

Sexual forms develop in autumn - the picture below shows an ovipara.

Ant attendance

Colonies are usually tented over with soil particles by Lasius ants which attend the aphids, as shown in the second picture below.

Most of the colonies we have found have been attended by and tented by Lasius niger (see picture below).

In Siberia Novgorodova & Gavrilyuk, 2012  found Aphis plantaginis was one of the most attractive aphids to ants, with 7 different species of ants attending the aphid.

Natural enemies

In common with many of the root aphids, syrphid larvae are important predators. The picture below shows an (unidentified) syphid larva predating Aphis plantaginis.

Acknowledgements

We thank Alan Outen Bedfordshire Invertebrate Group  for assistance in obtaining one of the images above.

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 

References

  •  Novgorodova, T.A. & Gavrilyuk, A.V. (2012). The degree of protection different ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) provide aphids (Hemiptera: Aphididae) against aphidophages European Journal of Entomology 109(1), 187-196. Abstract