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Tulip bulb aphidOn this page: Identification & Distribution Biology & Ecology Damage & Control Other aphids on the same host
Identification & Distribution:
Adult apterae of Dysaphis tulipae are pale greenish yellow, but may appear whitish because of an overlay of white powder. There is often a reddish suffusion around the siphunculi which is more prominent in immatures. The longest hairs on the third antennal segment are 10-27 μm, often somewhat blunt apically, and 0.6-1.1 times longer than the basal diameter of that segment. There are spinal tubercles on the head and on abdominal tergite 8. The body length of the Dysaphis tulipae aptera is 1.7-2.3 mm.
The tulip bulb aphid is found on the bulbs, shoots and leaves of many monocotyledonous plants in the lily and tulip (Liliaceae), crocus, gladiolus and iris (Iridaceae), arum (Araceae) and banana (Musaceae) families. The species is entirely parthenogenetic with no sexual forms. Colonies are commonly ant attended. Dysaphis tulipae has a worldwide distribution apart from South America.
Biology & Ecology:
The tulip bulb aphid can be seen on the older leaves of lilies and irises in summer, where it forms tight colonies as shown in the pictures below. It can also be seen on bulbs and rhizomes of lilies and crocuses in winter storage.
In Britain we have not found Dysaphis tulipae to be a common species, but colonies are not especially noticeable being low down near the base of the plant (see picture below), or concealed under the dried outer scales of the bulb.
The few Dysaphis tulipae colonies we have found have been rather loosely attended by the black garden ant (Lasius niger).
Other aphids on the same host
Dysaphis tulipae has a fairly varied cohort of potential competitors depending on whether it is feeding on iris, lily or Araceae.
Bell et al. (2015) (Appendix S2) have also published an "annotated checklist of aphids present in the UK". We discuss some of the reasons for the differences between Baker's and Bell's lists in our rare aphids page.
Damage and control
The tulip bulb aphid can inhibit and distort the growth of young shoots, and heavy infestations may kill the plant. It can also transmit viruses such as tulip breaking virus. Alford (ed) (2000) recommends regular fumigation of bulb stores with nicotine smoke to prevent a build-up of aphid numbers.