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Identification & Distribution:

Adult Clypeoaphis suaedae apterae are pale olive-green and covered in mealy wax (see first picture below). The terminal process of the sixth antennal segment is slightly shorter than the base of that segment. The antennae of Clypeoaphis suaedae apterae have no secondary rhinaria whilst those of alates have 4-7 on the third antennal segment. The siphunculi are short, tubular or barrel shaped, much longer than their basal width and with a weak flange (see micrograph below). The cauda is thumb-shaped and longer than the siphunculi; its length is more than twice its basal width and it bears 4-9 hairs. Adult apterae of Clypeoaphis suaedae are very small at only 1.2-1.6 mm long.

Clypeoaphis suaedae alates are reputedly rare, and we have yet to find any. Oviparae (see second picture above) have very slightly to moderately swollen hind tibiae. The males are apterous and small. The micrographs below are dorsal and ventral views of a Clypeoaphis suaedae aptera in alcohol.

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

Micrographs of clarified mounts  by permission of Roger Blackman, copyright AWP  all rights reserved.

Clypeoaphis suaedae feeds on Chenopodioideae, especially annual sea-blight Suaeda maritima and Suaeda fruticosa. Oviparae and small apterous males are produced in autumn. The sea-blight aphid is found in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and Korea.

 

Biology & Ecology:

We have found this rare species of aphid in two saltmarsh locations in southern England. The first was in Rye Harbour Nature Reserve in East Sussex, and the second was at the Lymington to Keyhaven Nature Reserve in Hampshire. Clypeoaphis suaedae is rare at Rye Harbour, but at Keyhaven we found good populations on a few plants.

Clypeoaphis suaedae is a salt marsh specialist, although little is known about this aphid's adaptations to the marine environment. It has a reputation for being difficult to find and not easily dislodged (Gimingham, 1942  ) - beaters take note. It is found on annual sea-blight (see picture below) and shrubby sea-blight, plants restricted to salt marshes and sea shores.

Clypeoaphis suaedae uses two methods to escape natural enemies. When the aphid is on the green parts of the plant, the olive-green colour of the aphids is excellent cryptic coloration  (see picture below).

An additional method of avoidance, less often used by aphids, is active hiding. Any disturbance to the sea blight aphid sends the aphids down the stem where they are concealed under the leaf sheaths (see picture below taken immediately prior to the aphid disappearing from sight).

The abundance of chrysopid eggs on infested plants (see picture below) suggests that lacewing larvae may be important predators.

Mifsud et al. (2011)   reported finding Clypeoaphis suaedae as small colonies or scattered on stems of Suaeda vera and Suaeda maritima in salt marshes in Malta. Joger et al. (2012)   reports Clypeoaphis suaedae as one of only 19 aphid species found on plants growing on the dried up floor of the Aral sea (see picture below), surely one of the more hostile environments for any insect.

Image Copyright Staecker, Wikimedia Commons.

 

Other aphids on same host:

Clypeoaphis suaedae has been recorded on 5 Suaeda species (Suaeda fruticosa, Suaeda glauca, Suaeda maritima, Suaeda physophora, Suaeda vermiculata), also on Kochia scoparia and Salsola komarovii.

  • Blackman & Eastop list 5 species of aphid  as feeding on annual sea-blight (Suaeda maritima) worldwide, and provide formal identification keys.

    Of those aphid species, Baker (2015)  lists 3 as occurring in Britain: Aphis fabae,  Clypeoaphis suaedae, and Smynthurodes betae. 

  • Blackman & Eastop list 3 species of aphid  as feeding on shrubby seablight (Suaeda fruticosa) worldwide, and provide formal identification keys.

    Of those aphid species, Baker (2015)  lists 1 as occurring in Britain: Clypeoaphis suaedae.

Acknowledgements

We especially thank Rye Harbour Nature Reserve  for their kind assistance, and permission to sample.

Our particular thanks to Roger Blackman for images of his clarified slide mounts.

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

  • Gimingham, C.T. (1942) Clypeoaphis suaedae Soliman, a genus and species of Aphididae new to Britain. Entomologist's Monthly Magazine 78, 32-34.

  • Joger, U. et al. (2012). Fauna of the Aralkum. Chapter 11 in Breckle, S.-W et al. (eds). Aralkum - a man-made desert. Ecological Studies 218. Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg. Full text 

  • Mifsud, D. et al. (2011). Aphids associated with shrubs, herbaceous plants and crops in the Maltese Archipelago (Hemiptera, Aphidoidea). Bulletin of the Entomological Society of Malta 4(1), 5-53 Full text