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Cinara piceae

Greater black spruce bark aphid

Identification & Distribution  Biology & Ecology  Damage & Control 

Identification & Distribution:

Identification: Apterae of Cinara piceae are uniformly jet black and are often described as "resembling the texture and shape of old droplets of tar". The anterior portion is more shiny. The spiracular openings are in a series of lateral depressions giving the abdomen a crenated appearance. The siphuncular cones are rather small with the sclerotized area usually no wider than twice the diameter of the rim. The coxae and tarsi are black. The hind femora are reddish brown and black distally. The body length is 2.1-4.2 mm.

 

Guest image (above-right), Copyright Ian Dawson, all rights reserved.

The alate (above right and below left) is similar in colouration to aptera. It is characterised by having 11-16 rather large secondary rhinaria on the third antennal segment (see picture below right).

 

The oviparous female (not pictured) is dark yellowish grey with a large pericaudal wax ring present. The apterous male is small (around 3.5 mm), more elongate than other forms and is dark bluish grey with sclerotized areas shining black.

Cinara piceae forms large colonies in spring on the undersides of older branches and on trunks of Spruce (Picea spp.). Numerous alatae are produced in May-June. The oviparae appear in September-October, move to the current year's growth and lay wax-dusted eggs on needles. They often move to ground level or the roots in summer. They are found throughout Europe and in the Far East, and may vary greatly in abundance from year to year.

 

Biology & Ecology:

As indicated above, Blackman & Eastop (1994)  suggest that Cinara piceae may move from the undersides of older branches and trunks in spring to ground level or roots in summer. However, Völkl & Novak (1997)  state they do not change feeding site through the year. The only colony we have found (shown below) was thriving in June, but could no longer be found on the tree by July, neither in its previous position nor near the base of the tree.

This colony of Cinara piceae shared the rather small tree (about 4 metres high) with populations of Cinara piceicola  and Cinara pruinosa . All three species were vigorously and effectively attended and defended by southern wood ants (Formica rufa). Carter & Maslen (1982)  note that although the species is sometimes ant attended, this is not a necessary association as substantial colonies have often been found on young spruce within recently afforested wet grass moorland.

Binazzi & Scheurer (2009)  also describe ant attendance for Cinara piceae as optional, whilst Völkl & Novak (1997)  suggest that the intensity of ant attendance varies throughout the year. Working in Russia, Novgodorova (2005)  found that Cinara piceae was tended by several Formica species but not by Lasius or Myrmica species. Gibb & Johansson (2010)  investigated the factors affecting honeydew harvesting from Cinara piceae and Cinara piceicola by the red wood ant (Formica aquilonia) in managed boreal forests in Sweden. The rate of honeydew harvesting from recently clear-cut stands was similar to that in old stands but significantly faster than in middle aged stands. The high level of activity in clear cut stands was because of the abundance of spruce seedlings with high aphid loads, a feature we have also noted.

 

Damage and control

Carter & Maslen (1982)  report that it is usually only a few trees that support extensive colonies. Where colonies have been feeding bark may show signs of cracking and bleeding and there may be needle desiccation. In heavy infestations the tree stem may become covered with sooty mould growing on the honeydew.

Kilpelainen (2003)  worked with mixed populations of Cinara piceae and Cinara pruinosa attended by Formica ants. They found that wood ant-aphid mutualism was associated with a clear positive but non-significant height growth response in individual 5-year-old Norway spruce seedlings, but had a small significant negative effect on the stem growth of individual fast-growing 30-year-old Norway spruces. However, again only a small number of trees were infested. Delfino & Binazzi (2002)  reported that infestations of Cinara piceae caused economic damage in Argentina.

On the benefit side, the aphid is welcomed by bee-keepers in Europe because it provides an important source of forage for bees and produces excellent honey.

Acknowledgements

We would like to specially thank Alan Outen and Ian Dawson of the Bedfordshire Invertebrate Group  for the photo of the live alate aphid.  Thanks also to them for sending us the specimen for identification so we could then take further photos of the specimen in alcohol (including tedious little details like the number of rhinaria on the antennae!).

We have mostly made identifications from high resolution photos of living specimens, along with host plant identity. Microscopic examination of preserved specimens was used for confirmation if necessary. We have used the keys and species accounts of Blackman & Eastop (1994)  and Blackman & Eastop (2006)  supplemented with Stroyan (1977),  Stroyan (1984),  Heie (1980-1995),  and Dixon & Thieme (2007).  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

  •  Binazzi, A. & Scheurer, S. (2009). Atlas of the honeydew producing conifer aphids of Europe. Aracne. 132 pp. Introduction 

  •  Carter, C.R. & Maslen, N.R. (1982). Conifer Lachnids. Forestry Commission Bulletin No. 58, 75pp.

  •  Delfino, M.A. & Binazzi, A. (2002). Áfidos de coníferos en la Argentina (Hemiptera: Aphididae). Rev. Soc. Entomol. Argent. 61 (3-4), 27-36.

  •  Gibb, H. & Johansson, T. (2010). Forest succession and harvesting of hemipteran honeydew by boreal ants. Annales Zoologica Fennica 47, 99-110. Full text 

  •  Kilpelainen, J. et al. (2009). Does the mutualism between wood ants (Formica rufa group) and Cinara aphids affect Norway spruce growth? Forest Ecology and Management 257 238-243. Abstract 

  •  Novgodorova, T.A. (2005). Ant-aphid interactions in multispecies ant communities: Some ecological and ethological aspects. European Journal of Entomology 102, 495-501. Full text 

  •  Völkl, W. & Novak, H. (1997). Foraging behaviour and resource utilization of the aphid parasitoid, Pauesia pini (Hymenoptera: Aphidiidae) on spruce: Influence of host species and ant attendance. European Journal of Entomology 942, 211-220. Full text 

 

Identification requests

Alan Outen, 29 November 2013, Aphid species

I have some images (some of which I have taken the liberty of attaching below) of a large species with orange and black legs that I collected in Chicksands Wood on 2 July 2013.

Images copyright Alan Outen,  all rights reserved.

     

Unfortunately I do not know the host as the two specimens appeared crawling on my shirt, presumably having been dislodged from a tree that I had beaten at some point but having missed the beating tray! I wonder if the images suggest an identication to you. I think I do have the specimens. I would be very grateful if you can help. If the images are of any interest to you then please feel free to make use of them in any way that you wish.

Bob, Influentialpoints:

  • It would appear from the time of year and the appearance of the insect to be a winged viviparous female Cinara piceae. We have found this species in Sussex, but only rarely and in one location. Nor have we found alates (winged) ones before. Hence we would much appreciate being able to use your images on our site as you suggested - we will of course credit you.

    Although the species is rather distinctive, we can only be certain of its identity if you could let us have the specimen (in alcohol?) so we can count the rhinaria (scent-producing plaques) on the antennae - a distinctly fiddly if straightforward operation mostly done by my colleague Bob Brightwell.

    NB: Normally we need to know their host plant since identifying alate aphis without the host information is generally much more difficult and time consuming!

I am delighted that the probable Cinara piceae was of interest. I was sure that I had the specimen of this which I would surely have put into alcohol after photographing. However I cannot at present locate the specimen which I suspect I have mis-filed.

This is not however a problem as my good friend Ian Dawson also photographed the same thing and definitely has his specimen! He says he has "had a look at it under the microscope and can see lots of swollen plates on the antennae" which presumably are the rhinaria that you mention. He is certainly willing to let you have the specimen so between us we will ensure that you get this. I think his images are better than mine so you may prefer those on this occasion. I attach them below.

Images copyright Ian Dawson,  all rights reserved.

     

Bob, Influentialpoints:

  • Many thanks for your e-mail. It's my turn to apologise for the delay in replying 'cause we're busy doing a major check through of all our specimens in alcohol + taking photos of many of them.

    Many thanks for the alate Cinara piceae specimen. We have confirmed the identification as Cinara piceae - and have included a copy of your photo, and ours, on this webpage. It's not supposed to be a particularly rare species but it is quite large (for an aphid) and big colonies can be quite dramatic.

    We've acknowledged you and Ian Dawson at the foot of that page. - If you would like us to provide your website address, &/or a description of BIG, we would be very happy to include them.

 


 

Teresa Lawton 10/10/2014

Please can you identify this aphid. Its is on a pine tree in my garden, I live near Weymouth Dorset UK. They have infested one whole lower branch since the weather turned cooler & wet this week, still there after one week. They are large, the size if a wood ant, black with a white tip on the bottom, no wings. Are they a problem, should I destroy them????

Image copyright Teresa Lawton, all rights reserved.

Bob, Influentialpoints:

  • Interesting picture.

    It looks very much like the aphid Cinara piceae. The ones with the white wax around their backsides are the oviparae - egg-laying females only found in the autumn.

    The only problem with this identification is that Cinara piceae are found on spruce, not pine.

    Are you sure that the tree is a pine and not a spruce of some sort?

    If you're uncertain you could send me a sample of the foliage or (better) take a bit into your local nursery and check it with them.

    Cinara piceae can damage young trees but are very unlikely to cause a mature tree any problems. They will probably disappear over the next few days when they get eaten by predators.

Teresa Lawton 11/10/2014 Well that's good to know what they are likely to be. I've enclosed some other photos of the tree.

Images copyright Teresa Lawton, all rights reserved.

   

It very well might be a spruce, it was probably a Christmas tree that got planted years ago, it is quite large now & has never looked in the best of health, it often looses a lot of new shoots in the spring. You can see the aphids travelling up the trunk, they don't seem to have reached the higher branches.

What would you do about them, should I kill them or are they no great problem, I'm not bothered by them but if they are a problem to our environment I'll spray them with something.

I'm glad I know what they are now.

Bob, Influentialpoints:

  • It looks like a Norway spruce or possibly Sitka spruce.

    We're 99% certain they are oviparae of Cinara piceae (see http://influentialpoints.com/Gallery/Cinara_piceae_greater_black_spruce_bark_aphid.htm) but it would be nice to be certain. And we would rather like to take some close-up photos of the ovipara of that species.

    I know aphids have a bad reputation, but in most cases this is quite unjust, many species are harmless (see http://influentialpoints.com/Blog/Why_hunt_for_aphids.htm) and a few are considered beneficial (most especially by beekeepers).

    They really are not a problem for the tree - better to leave them be and see if anything interesting turns up to eat them naturally.

Teresa Lawton 12/10/2014

I'll get some of the little critters in the post to you. I'm happy to leave them be, no problem to me & it's been interesting finding out what they are. There are less now, yesterday when the sun was out they were active moving down the tree trunk, still loads on the underside of the branch, so they've been there for about 10 days now, catching the last bit of summer. Today is cold & they arn't doing much.

Bob, Influentialpoints:

  • I'm delighted to say your beasties have just arrived alive and well and, more to the point, some of them are oviperae.

    I put them into a container with a thickish piece of our old Xmas tree, so they can (hopefully) settle down and pose for some nice photos. Now the photoshoot is done they are resting in alcohol awaiting an appointment with my microscope for some up-close and deeply personal shots - albeit there is rather a queue awaiting such, so that will be awhile.

    Many thanks once again for posting them to us. We will obviously credit you when we update the Cinara piceae webpage.