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Aphis plantaginis

Plantain aphid

Identification & Distribution  Biology & Ecology 

Identification & Distribution:

Adult Aphis plantaginis apterae are dark green, mottled to a greater or lesser extent with pale green. Most authorities describe Aphis plantaginis as not being wax powdered, but we have found the dorsum of both apterae and nymphs may be covered with particulate wax as shown in the first picture below. The terminal process of the antenna 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. The 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:

Most individials of Aphis plantaginis, whether immatures or adults, do not have any wax powdering, and appear as shown in the first picture below. Colonies are usually tented over with soil particles by Lasius ants which attend the aphids, as shown in the second 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.


The rare cases where a wax coating develops (as in our photo at the top of this page) may result from a lack of ant attendance. Moreover, close examination of the photos below shows that most aphids retain a few globules of wax scattered over the abdomen.


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

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


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 


  •  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