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Identification & Distribution:

Apterae of Cinara pectinatae are large and (usually) shiny bright olive green, with three diffuse paler green longitudinal bands.

The abdomen has numerous small spots scattered over the entire dorsum. The head and appendages are brown and the eyes are red.

The siphuncular cones are small and pale. The legs are pale and spotted or mottled with brownish. The first hind tarsal segment is at least half as long as the second hind tarsal segment. The body length is 2.8 to 5.0 mm.

Cinara pectinatae feeds on firs (Abies spp.), especially Abies alba (silver fir) but also Abies nephrolepis, numidica, pindrow, sutchuenensis (= Abies fargesii var. sutchuenensis) and veitchii. Oviparae and alate males are found in October. It is not recorded from any North American firs. Cinara pectinatae occurs throughout Europe eastward to Turkey.

 

Previously undescribed colour form

Most texts state that only male Cinara pectinataeare brown, but we have recently found a brown female morph (shown below) on two Abies species (Abies veitchii and Abies procera, in Bedgebury Pinetum, UK.

These brown females (shown below first) are morphologically identical to the usual green form, but produce brown nymphs (shown below second).

As with the green form, the siphuncular cones are small and pale (see below first) and the first hind tarsal segment is at least half as long as the second hind tarsal segment (see below second).

We have recently been informed by Andrea Binazzi that he recalls, in Tuscany, brown forms of Cinara pectinatae morphologically identical to the green forms appeared in late summer and autumn (see full comments below by Andrea Binazzi  and Stephan Scheurer ).

 

Biology & Ecology:

The green-striped fir aphid is a solitary species which lives singly on small branches where it sits on the needles. It feeds at the junction of petiole and stem as shown below.

Cinara pectinatae do not move very much and are well anchored by means of their strong claws. They rely on cryptic colouration to protect them from (avian ??) predators. The green female viviparae (above) resemble the needles, but the brown females and the males resemble the buds and stem.

The presence of Cinara pectinatae on tree foliage is often betrayed by the activities of wasps and ants. Lehr (1988)  confirms that Cinara pectinatae is ant attended, although there are rather few reports in the literature about which species attend. We have found Lasius fuliginosus on fir branches occupied by Cinara pectinatae and (eventually) observed them to be actively attending them. However, they are very sensitive to disturbance and both aphids and ants leave the scene very rapidly if disturbed.

 

The first picture above shows a Lasius fuliginosus tending a brown form of the aphid in September. Lasius also appears to glean honeydew droplets from the needles and possibly from the ground as shown in the second picture above. We have not observed any natural anemies attacking Cinara pectinatae, but Stary (1976)  records that it is parasitized by Pauesia infulata.

The population dynamics of Cinara pectinatae have been studied in both France and Germany because it is a copious honeydew-producer, important to forest bee-keepers in Central Europe. In a seven year study, Maquelin (1974)  found that the number of eggs laid in autumn was inversely related to peak numbers in summer. Bloc et al. (1984)  monitored populations in France over two years. They concluded that rainfall was an important factor affecting numbers. When rainfall was heavy during the development of the first virginoparae generations, it prevented Cinara pectinatae populations from reaching high levels. This in turn reduced honeydew production and a prevented a heavy 'fir honey' harvest by bees.

In Germany Liebig et al. (1982)  monitored populations over four years They found there were 4 or 5 phases in the population trends from March till October.

  1. Growth and development phase of the fundatrices (March/April/May).
  2. Reproduction phase (May/June). C. pectinatae was numerous only during this phase of sprouting of trees
  3. Stationary phase of population density (June).
  4. Decrease of population numbers (July/August).
  5. Appearance and development of sexuales (September/October). Eggs are laid singly on foliage.

Liebig concluded that variations in population size were not caused by rainfall and changes of temperature. Instead the fertility and mortality of Cinara pectinatae was influenced by the physiological state of the host-plant.

In southern Germany Cinara pectinatae is the most important honeydew-producing aphid feeding on white fir (Abies alba). Liebig (1987)  investigated the population dynamics of the species to determine the factors affecting honey flow from white fir. The fir plantations were suffering from a disease, so it was of interest whether this disease affected the population dynamics of Cinara pectinatae. Typical population trends included a population increase during sprouting of trees in May, June and July, to give a peak in July /August and a collapse of the populations afterwards in August and September. In heavily diseased fir plantations there was a second peak of population density in September, caused by intensive reproduction in the late summer.

 

Damage and control

There are no reports of Cinara pectinatae causing damage to fir trees, and in central Europe they are considered beneficial for honey production.

Feedback & comments

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    Comments are displayed here, in the order received.

    • Andrea Binazzi    3 Oct 2014

      As far as I can remember from the collecting conifer aphids during my research life, I confirm that Cinara pectinatae is a polychromatic species. As to my knowledge the only one inside the Lachninae group genus Cinara from Europe. Basing on my memories, in Tuscany the brown forms appear in late summer and autumn but they are morphologically identical.

      Before retiring (December 2010), I have published an atlas on conifer aphids  together with Stephan Scheurer, which might be useful for your studies. The title is: Binazzi A., Scheurer S., 2009 "Atlas of the Honeydew Producing Conifer Aphids of Europe.- Aracne editrice S.r.l., Roma: 132 pp."

    • Stephan Scheurer    6 Oct 2014

      Many thanks for this picture from Cinara pectinatae and for your informations. I hope you can understand my poor English. - I havenīt seen this brown form of this species. Bravo, this is a fantastic result! I know two color-varations only from Cinara pilicornis (red-brown and grey-green). - In the last days I have sought-after in my literature - but I havenīt found. I think you should observe steady. Perhaps you can caging both forms sucking of one Abies together and of two Abies. Have you found the brown form also on A. alba? To us in this time C. pectinatae Sexuparae and the first Sexuales sucking. - It is definite, Iīll search for in the next time on Abies concolor , A. grandis and A. veitchii in the region Eberswalde/Brandenburg, A. procera A. alba are rare in our region Berlin/Brandenburg.

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the UK Forestry Commission, Bedgebury Pinetum,  for their kind assistance.

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

  •  Bloc, A. et al. (1984). Étude préliminaire de la dynamique des populations d'un puceron producteur de miellat: Cinara pectinatae Nördl. (Homoptera-Lachnidae) dans le doubs. Relation avec la pluviométrie. Apidologie 15 (1), 11-22. Full text 

  •  Lehr, P.A. (Ed) (1988). Keys to the insects of the Far East of the USSR in six volumes: Volume II. Homoptera and Heteroptera Leningrad, Nauka publishing house. Full text 

  •  Liebig, G. et al. (1982). Witterungsverlauf und massenwechsel der grünen tannenhoniglaus Cinara pectinatae (Nördl.) (Homoptera, Lachnididae) in Den Jahren 1977-1981. Apidologie 13 (3), 275-295. Full text 

  •  Liebig, G. (1987). Der massenwechsel der grünen tannenhoniglaus Cinara pectinatae in Verschieden Stark erkrankten tannenbeständen 1977-1985. Apidologie 18 (2), 147-162. Full text 

  •  Maquelin, C. (1974). Observations sur la biologic et l'ecologie d'un puceron utile a V apiculture: Buchneria pectinatae (Nordl) (Homoptera, Lachnidae). PhD thesis, L'Ecole Polytechnque Federale de Zurich.

  •  Stary, P. (1976). Aphid Parasites (Hymenoptera, Aphididae) of the Mediterranean area. Springer.