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"It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important" (Sherlock Holmes)

 

 

How to identify common British aphids:

A photographic guide to 67 species

On this page: Quick identification list 

  <April 2015>  

Our page on commonly observed (and photographed) British aphids  points out they are not necessarily the most common: being photographed depends not only on abundance, but also how large and conspicuous they are, what hosts they are on, and so forth. Many species are small and inconspicuous or otherwise hard to find.  Also numbers of aphids vary enormously over both time and space.

So how do we decide what is 'common'?

One possibility is to use the Rothamsted suction trap  records. These monitor numbers of winged forms of aphid species over space and time. But comparisons of abundance between different species are problematic. Of the 614 aphid species on the British list,  only 394 have ever been caught in the suction traps. The number of species detected is increasing gradually, but Bell et al. (2015)  estimate that at least 140 species are unlikely to be sampled by suction traps - either because of identification difficulties, because they produce fewer or no winged forms, or because they fly at a height not sampled by the traps. For example three common species, Aphis cytisorum Aphis grossulariae and Cryptomyzus alboapicalis have never been recorded in suction traps. In other words, they give a biased sample of the species composition. If we cannot use the suction trap data to assess presence or absence of species, then it is unwise to use them to compare abundance between species.

We therefore used our hand-sampling data on host plants in south-east Britain during the past five years. Our criteria are twofold:

  1. If you look at its host plant at the right time of year are you more likely than not to find that species of aphid?
  2. And are the aphid and its host plant both reasonably abundant and widely-distributed?

Our list of common aphids includes most of the important crop pest species focused on by Rothamsted, as well as many non-pest species found on a wide range of garden and wild plants. We think that if you find aphids on any of the host plants listed below, there is a high probability it will be one of the aphids on this list.

Below (in alphabetic order) are photos to help you identify 67 common UK aphid species. We note their usual host plants, their general appearance, important features, and whether they are ant-attended. We also note their effect upon the host plant - some aphids are serious pests, some cause little or no damage, some cause very characteristic galling.

Important:

  • Most plants can host more than one species of aphid: Just because an aphid is on Apple  do not assume it is the 'Apple aphid', Aphis pomi

  • For a more confident identification, follow the link on the species name to a more detailed species description.
Adelges cooleyi 

Alternates hosts between Sitka Spruce and Douglas Fir.

Wingless adults are covered in white 'wool'. Winged adults are reddish brown to purplish black.

Usually not ant-attended.

A pest: Nymphs damage Douglas Fir leaves in spring. Causes 'hedgehog' galls on Spruce.

Shown right: 'wool-covered' wingless adults on Douglas fir.

Adelges laricis 

Alternates hosts between Larch and Spruce, especially Sitka Spruce.

On larch winged adults are dark green with a greyish-green head & thorax, wingless adults are covered in white 'wool'. On spruce winged adults are greyish to blackish.

Occasionally ant-attended.

A pest: Provides an entry for fungi to larch trees. Causes 'hedgehog' galls on Spruce.

Shown right: eggs and their dead 'wool-covered' mothers on European larch.

Amphorophora rubi 

Preferred hosts:  Blackberries and related species (but not Raspberry).

Adults are green or yellowish green.

Feeds on the underside of leaves.

Not ant-attended.

Not usually considered a pest.

Shown right: winged adult and nymphs on Blackberry. Note the long siphunculi.

Aphis armata 

Preferred host:  Foxglove.

Adults are black. Immatures often also have white spots.

Colonies develop before migrating Aphis fabae  arrive.

Usually ant-attended.

Not a pest.

Shown right: colony of winged and wingless adults and nymphs on foxglove.

Aphis cytisorum 

Preferred hosts:  Broom and Laburnum.

Wingless adults are very dark green, or greyish.

Usually ant-attended.

May be a pest on ornamental laburnum.

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs on broom seedpod.

Aphis epilobii 

Preferred hosts:  Broad-leaved willowherb, sometimes other Epilobium species.

Wingless adults are blackish-green to reddish-brown, but look dark-grey to pinkish-brown because of the wax powdering.

Usually not ant-attended.

Not a pest.

Shown right: Wingless and winged adults and nymphs on willowherb.

Aphis fabae  species

Winter host: Spindle. Summer host: polyphagous  on many herbaceous plant species.

Wingless adults are black or very dark brown - nymphs may have white spots.

Often ant-attended.

A well-known pest.

Shown right: nymphs on spindle.

Aphis farinosa 

Preferred hosts:  Willow species, especially Sallow.

Wingless adults are green mottled with yellow-orange. Young nymphs (and males) are reddish orange. Winged adults are dark green.

Often ant-attended.

Not a pest.

Shown right: Wingless adults and nymphs on Sallow; note pale siphunculi.

Aphis grossulariae 

Winter host: Gooseberry. Summer host: Willowherb.

Wingless adults are dull green to dark green, moderately wax powdered.

Often forms colonies with Aphis epilobii 

Usually ant-attended.

A pest: damages gooseberry bushes in spring.

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs on Willowherb; note pale siphunculi.

Aphis hederae 

Preferred hosts:  Ivy, and house plants such as Fatsia and Schefflera.

Wingless adults are dark brown. Immatures are paler, sometimes with a greyish 'bloom'.

May be ant-attended.

Can be a house-plant pest.

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs on Ivy.

Aphis jacobaeae 

Preferred host:  Ragwort.

Wingless adults are dark green.

Usually ant-attended: may earth-tent over the aphids.

Not a pest: May reduce ragwort-risk to livestock.

Shown right: ant-attended wingless adult and nymphs on Ragwort.

Aphis pomi 

Preferred host:  Apple and related plants: Pear, Hawthorn, Sorbus & Cotoneaster.

Wingless adults are bright apple-green or yellow-green, but not powdered. Winged adults have a black thorax and green abdomen.

Forms dense colonies on young shoots and leaf undersides, which may curl but not discolor. Stunts young plants.

Often ant-attended.

A serious pest in nurseries.

Shown right: nymphs and nymph with wing-buds. Note the conspicuously blackish siphunculi and 'tail'.

Aphis sambuci 

Winter host: Elder. Summer hosts: herbs such as Docks & Campions.

On elder wingless adults may be dark green to yellowish brown. On herbs they are usually dark green. They sometimes have white stripes on the back.

Strongly ant-attended on Elder. Sheltered by ants on the summer-host roots.

May be a pest on ornamental elder.

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs on Elder.

Aphis ulicis 

Preferred host:  Gorse.

Very dark blackish green, but mainly covered with greyish powder.

Strongly ant-attended.

Not a pest.

Shown right: wingless adult and nymphs on Gorse.

Aulacorthum solani 

Polyphagous  on many glasshouse & wild species such as Foxglove.

Shiny greenish yellow, usually with two darker green patches on their rear. Winged adults have dark stripes across their abdomen.

Not ant-attended.

Major glasshouse pest. Causes leaf distortion. Often first aphid on young spring plants.

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs; note long antennae.

Betulaphis quadrituberculata 

Preferred host:  Downy Birch, sometimes on Silver Birch, occasionally on Grey Alder.

Pale yellowish green, to pale yellow, to almost white, with dark patches in late summer/autumn.

On leaf undersides.

Not ant-attended.

Not a pest.

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs; note very short siphunculi.

Brachycaudus cardui 

Winter host: Cherry, Plum & Apricot. Summer hosts: Daisies, Thistles & Borage.

Brownish-yellow, pale green or brown, with a large black spot on the abdomen. Immatures often have reddish patches on a greenish background.

May be ant-attended.

Can be a pest: Causes severe leaf-curl on Plums etc.

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs on Shore Thistle.

Brachycaudus helichrysi 

Winter host: Plum & Blackthorn. Summer host: Asters, Chrysanthemums, Yarrow, Groundsel, & Red Clover.

Their colour is variable, ranging from yellow to green to brown, often shiny with a slight wax dusting.

Usually not ant-attended.

A serious fruit-tree pest. Causes leaf-curl on Plum.

Shown right: gall on Blackthorn.

Brachycaudus lychnidis  species

Preferred host:  Red Campion & related species.

Wingless adults have a solidly-black shiny abdomen; nymphs are reddish-brown.

Not ant-attended.

Not a pest.

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs.

Brevicoryne brassicae 

Preferred host:  Cabbages or other brassicas.

Wingless adults are green, powdered-grey. Winded adults have dots down the side and bands across the abdomen.

Not ant-attended.

Important Brassica pest:

Shown right: Winged adult and nymphs on Brussels sprouts.

Cavariella aegopodii 

Winter host: Willow species, especially Crack Willow & White Willow. Summer host: Carrots, Fennel & some wild Umbellifers.

Wingless adults are greenish or reddish.

Not ant-attended.

A carrot, parsnip & celery pest.

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs.

Cavariella pastinacae 

Winter host: Willow species. Summer hosts: Hogweed, Angelica, Wild Parsnip...

Wingless adults are light shiny green.

Not ant-attended.

May be a pest of Parsnips, Carrots & Celery.

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs.

Chaitophorus populeti 

Preferred host:  Poplar species, especially Aspen & White Poplar.

Wingless adults are usually shiny dark green to black. Winged adults are dark green to black with broad brown bands across the abdomen. Their nymphs are green or reddish-brown.

Nearly always vigorously ant-defended.

Not usually considered a pest.

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs on Aspen.

Cinara laricis 

Preferred host:  Larch.

Wingless adults are dark greyish-brown to reddish brown, usually with a greyish 'bloom'. The abdomen has many dark spots and hairs.

Usually ant-attended.

Can be a pest: May seriously damage Larch in urban areas.

Shown right: adult and nymph on Larch.

Cinara pini 

Preferred host:  Scots Pine.

Wingless adults are grey or greyish-green with black markings, a slight bronze iridescence or a grey dusting. The abdomen has regular greyish spots with prominent black siphuncular cones.

Can be heavily ant-attended.

Not usually considered a pest: Infestations benefit honey producers.

Shown right: maturing nymphs on Scots pine.

Cryptomyzus alboapicalis 

Preferred host:  White Dead Nettle, and occasionally related species.

Wingless adults are pale greenish with a green stripe along the 'spine', or yellowish with slightly greenish transverse stripes. They may look hairy.

Not ant-attended.

Not a pest.

Shown right: nymphs and wingless adult.

Cryptomyzus ribis 

Winter host: Redcurrant. Summer host: Woundworts.

Wingless adults are commonly yellowish, but may be pale green to whitish (often with a greenish stripe along the 'spine').

Cause leaf galls, red on the underside.

Not ant-attended.

Can be a serious currant-bush pest.

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs with wing-buds.

Drepanosiphum platanoidis 

Preferred hosts:  Sycamore and some maple species, or occasionally on other plants.

Wingless adults have yellow-brown head and thorax with darker brown markings, and a pale green abdomen with or without variably developed dark cross-bars.

On leaf underside.

Not ant-attended: Predated by wood ants.

Can be a serious pest to those who park their cars under sycamore trees.

Shown right: winged adults on Sycamore.

Dysaphis plantaginea 

Winter host: Apple. Summer host: Plantain.

Wingless adults are purplish-olive-green to mauve and covered with a whitish powdering.

Often ant-attended.

Apple pest: Causes crumpled leaves, stunted shoots and fruits.

Shown right: ant-attended wingless adults and nymphs on Apple.

Elatobium abietinum 

Preferred hosts:  Sitka & Norway Spruce, and occasionally Fir.

Wingless adults are pale green, with two darker-green longitudinal stripes.

Not ant-attended.

Can be a serious forestry pest due to defoliation.

Shown right: wingless adult and nymphs on Norway spruce.

Eucallipterus tiliae 

Preferred host:  Lime.

All adults are winged and are pale yellow with black lateral stripes on head and 'shoulders' and two rows of black dorsal abdominal spots. The forewing has a dark front edge and dark spots at the tips of the veins. The abdominal spots are prominent on the nymphs.

On leaf undersides.

Not ant-attended.

Can be a serious pest to those who park their cars under lime trees.

Shown right: Winged adult on Common lime.

Euceraphis betulae 

Preferred host:  Silver Birch.

All adults are winged and have a pale green to pale yellow abdomen, covered with bluish-white powder. The head and thorax are black. The dorsal abdomen may be unmarked, or have transverse black bands or patches. Immatures are green.

On leaf undersides.

Not ant-attended.

Can be a pest of ornamental birches.

Shown right: winged adult (note bluish powdering) and nymphs.

Euceraphis punctipennis 

Preferred host:  Downy Birch.

All adults are winged and have a pale green abdomen covered with bluish-white wax. The head and thorax are dark brown. Dorsal black patches when present are confined to the middle abdomen. Dark cross bands are never present in spring. Immatures are green.

On leaf undersides.

Not ant-attended.

Not a pest.

Shown right: winged adult (note bluish powdering) and nymph.

Eulachnus rileyi 

Preferred hosts:  Pine species, commonly European Black Pine & Mountain Pine, occasionally on Scots Pine.

Wingless adults vary in colour from dark olive green to orange-brown or grey. Older specimens become covered in bluish-grey hairs.

Hides on pine needles. Active when disturbed.

Rarely ant-attended.

Occasionally regarded as a pest of pine.

Shown right: wingless adult.

Hyalopteroides humilis 

Preferred host:  Cocksfoot Grass

Wingless adults are pale green.

On midline of the leaf upperside.

Not ant-attended.

Not a pest.

Shown right: nymphs and wingless adult, showing feeding damage.

Hyalopterus pruni 

Winter hosts: Plums, sometimes Peach, Apricot & Almond. Summer host: Reeds and other wetland grasses.

Wingless adults are usually pale green with a fine darker green mottling, covered with greyish wax. Winged adults are green with white patches on each abdominal segment.

Not ant-attended.

Can be a pest of plums. Invasive pest in USA.

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs paving underside of Wild damson leaf.

Hyperomyzus lactucae 

Winter host: Blackcurrant. Summer host: Sowthistle.

Wingless adults are opaque green. Winged adults have a rather broken central dark patch on the abdomen.

Not ant-attended.

Pest of blackcurrant: Causes leaf curling and stunting.

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs. Note slightly swollen siphunculi.

Lachnus roboris 

Preferred host:  Oak and sometimes Sweet Chestnut.

Wingless adults are shiny blackish brown. Winged adults have the forewing membrane partly pigmented.

On twigs and small branches.

Nearly always ant-attended.

Not usually considered a pest.

Shown right: Wood ant attended wingless adult and nymphs.

Macrosiphoniella tanacetaria 

Preferred hosts:  Tansy, Chrysanthemum & Mayweed.

Wingless adults are either greyish-powdered green or pinkish-brown aphids. Winged adults look similar.

Sometimes ant-attended.

Not usually considered a pest.

Shown right: green and red forms of wingless adults and nymphs.

Macrosiphum euphorbiellum 

Preferred hosts:  Spurge species, especially Wood Spurge & Red Spurge.

Wingless adults are usually green, sometimes with a darker green longitudinal stripe.

Not ant-attended.

Can be a pest of ornamental euphorbias.

Shown right: wingless adult and nymphs.

Macrosiphum euphorbiae 

Polyphagous  on Potato, Lettuce, Beets, and many garden ornamentals.

Wingless adults are either green with a darker green longitudinal stripe, or red, often rather shiny.

Not ant-attended.

Well-known pest: an especial problem in unheated greenhouses.

Shown right: green wingless adult, green and red form nymphs, and young (yellow) nymphs.

Macrosiphum hellebori 

Preferred hosts:  Hellebore species.

Wingless adults are yellowish green with darker marbling.

May form large colonies on leaf undersides.

Not ant-attended.

Major pest of hellebores.

Shown right: wingless adult and nymphs.

Macrosiphum rosae 

Winter host: Rose species. Summer host: Teasels & Valerians.

Wingless adults are either pink or green.

Not ant-attended.

An important horticultural pest.

Shown right: green and red-form wingless adults and nymphs. Note long black outward-curved siphunculi.

Metopolophium dirhodum 

Winter host: Rose. Summer host: grasses and cereals especially wheat, barley and maize.

Winged adults are green to yellowish green. Wingless adults also have a brighter green longitudinal stripe down their 'spine'.

Not ant-attended.

A pest: Large numbers damage cereals. Also transmit maize mosaic virus and barley yellow dwarf virus.

Shown right: Wingless adult.

Microlophium carnosum 

Preferred host:  Common Nettle.

Wingless adults are various shades of green, pink or reddish purple.

Not ant-attended.

Not a pest: may be beneficial by supporting a reservoir of aphid natural enemies.

Shown right: pink and green nymphs and nymphs with wing-buds.

Myzocallis coryli 

Preferred hosts:  Hazel species.

All adults are winged and are pale yellow to yellowish white.

On leaf undersides.

Not ant-attended.

Nuisance pest: Can produce large populations on hazel hedges.

Shown right: winged adult and nymphs.

Myzus ascalonicus 

Polyphagous  on Onions, Shallots, Strawberries, Lettuce, Brassicas & Potatoes, and many garden ornamentals.

Wingless adults are shiny pale green to dirty yellow.

Not ant-attended.

A serious pest.

Shown right: wingless adults, nymph with wing-buds, and nymphs.

Myzus cerasi 

Winter hosts: Sweet Cherry & Sour Cherry. Summer hosts: Bedstraws, Eyebrights, & Speedwell.

Wingless adults on cherry are shiny, very dark brown to black.

Ant-attended.

Pest of cherry: Cause curled 'leaf-nests'

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs in gall on Sweet cherry.

Myzus ornatus 

Polyphagous  on Crucifers, Cucurbits, Onions, Peas, Soybean, Strawberry, & many garden ornamentals, and trees such as Catalpa and Prunus.

Wingless adults are pale yellow or green, marked with conspicuous dark paired abdominal bars.

Often occurs in mixed-species colonies.

Not ant-attended.

An important pest.

Shown right: wingless adult.

Myzus persicae 

Winter host: Peach species. Summer hosts polyphagous  on Potatoes, Sugar Beet, Lettuce, Brassicas, & Legumes.

Wingless adults are mainly yellowish green but may vary from whitish to rose-pink or red. They are often darker in cold conditions. Winged adults have a solid pigmented area in the middle of the abdomen.

Not ant-attended (but ants may glean honeydew around very large colonies).

An important pest. Carries a number of viruses between plants.

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs.

Periphyllus acericola 

Preferred host:  Sycamore.

Wingless adults and nymphs are pale green or yellowish green, with darker green flecks and sometimes with dorsal brownish markings. Winged adults have broad dark dorsal abdominal cross-bars.

Sometimes ant-attended.

Not usually considered a pest.

Shown right: winged adults (including a pale recently-moulted, winged adult) and nymphs with wing-buds.

Periphyllus aceris 

Preferred hosts:  Maple species, especially Norway Maple.

Wingless adults are yellow with green flecks. Winged adults have dorsal cross-bands.

Usually not ant-attended.

Not usually considered a pest: but their honeydew may be a nuisance in urban areas.

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs.

Periphyllus testudinaceus 

Preferred hosts:  Maple species, including Field Maple, Norway Maple & Sycamore, sometimes on Horse Chestnut.

Wingless adults are dirty dark green to dark brown or blackish with dark spots on the abdomen. Winged adults have dark dorsal abdominal cross-bands.

Usually ant-attended.

Not a pest: Attending ants deter herbivores.

Shown right: Wood ant-attended nymphs and winged adult.

Phorodon humuli 

Winter hosts: Plum & Blackthorn. Summer host: Hops.

Wingless adults are whitish to pale yellowish green and relatively shiny. The abdomen has 3 dark green longitudinal stripes.

Does not cause leaf curling.

Not ant-attended.

Pest of hops.

Shown right: wingless adult and nymphs on hop.

Phyllaphis fagi 

Preferred hosts:  Beech species.

Wingless adults are pale yellowish green, covered with 'wool'. Winged adults have their abdomens covered in 'wool', which conceals variably-developed dark cross-bars.

On underside of leaves.

Not ant-attended.

May be a pest of ornamental beech: causes leaf-curl and die-off

Shown right: nymphs and 'wool-covered' wingless adults in curled-leaf.

Pineus pini 

Preferred hosts:  Pine species: Scots Pine & Mountain Pine.

Wingless adults are dark brown to dark red, and covered in 'wool'. Winged adults are mainly reddish grey with opalescent forewings.

Not ant-attended.

A pest of pine in Africa.

Shown right: 'wool-covered' wingless adults.

Rhopalosiphum oxyacanthae 

Winter host: Apple and related species (Cotoneaster, Crataegus, Malus, Pyrus, Sorbus). Summer host: roots of various Grasses.

Wingless adults are light-green to yellow-green with dark green stripes down their 'spine' and along each side. Winged adults have a blackish head, thorax and siphunculi and a green abdomen with brownish markings.

May roll young Apple leaves, but plants usually recover.

Not ant-attended.

Not considered a serious Apple or cereal pest. May improve natural control of later-arriving pest-aphids on Apple.

Shown right: Wingless adults on Apple.

Rhopalosiphum padi 

Winter host: Bird cherry, or sometimes just their summer host: Grasses and some cereals.

Wingless adults are pale green to dark green, brown or nearly black, with a rust-red rump. Those on Bird cherry have a 'mealy' grey coating.

Not usually ant-attended.

A pest: The principal vector of barley yellow dwarf virus.

Shown right: Wingless adult and nymphs on Oat leaf.

Schizolachnus pineti 

Polyphagous  on Pine species, especially Scots Pine.

Wingless adults are dark greyish-green covered in greyish 'meal' giving a light bluish-grey appearance.

Dense colonies on previous year's needles.

Not ant-attended.

Can be a pest of pine: Heavy infestations damage plantation trees.

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs on pine needle

Sitobion avenae 

Preferred hosts:  Cereals and most grasses.

Has several colour forms: green and red-brown are most common. Wingless adults have dark stripes across the abdomen.

Not ant-attended.

A pest: Can reduce yield, encourage sooty moulds, and transmit barley yellow dwarf virus.

Shown right: brown-form wingless adults and nymphs (plus three hoverfly eggs).

Sitobion fragariae 

Winter host: Blackberry, or occasionally other Rosaceae. Summer host: Grasses and Sedges.

Wingless adults are dirty yellowish-green.

Not ant-attended.

Regarded as a minor pest of Blackberry and cereals.

Shown right: Wingless adult on Blackberry.

Symydobius oblongus 

Preferred hosts:  Silver Birch & Downy Birch.

Wingless adults are shiny dark brown. Winged adults have dark stripes across the abdomen.

Strongly ant-attended.

Not a pest.

Shown right: Wood ant-attended winged adult, wingless adults and nymphs.

Takecallis arundinariae 

Preferred hosts:  Bamboos, especially Arundinaria & Phyllostachys.

These are whitish, pale yellow or greyish-yellow. Winged adults have rows of dark spots running down their back.

On underside of mature leaves.

Not ant-attended.

Can be a pest of bamboo.

Shown right: nymphs and nymphs with wing-buds.

Toxoptera aurantii 

Preferred hosts:  Citrus, Tea, Coffee, Mango, & ornamental Camellias.

Wingless adults are shiny black, brownish-black or reddish brown.

On leaf undersides.

Ant-attended.

A pest: Spring infestation very harmful to citrus crops.

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs.

Tuberculatus annulatus 

Preferred hosts:  Oak species, especially English Oak, and less commonly on Sessile Oak.

All adults are winged and are very variable in colour ranging from yellowish, greyish-green or pink to purple in summer.

On leaf undersides.

Not ant-attended.

Not a pest.

Shown right: winged adult and nymph.

Uroleucon cirsii 

Preferred hosts:  Creeping Thistle and related species.

Wingless adults are bronzy or reddish brown.

Not ant-attended.

Not a pest.

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs. Note long black siphunculi.

Uroleucon jaceae 

Preferred hosts:  Knapweeds.

Wingless adults are blackish.

Not ant-attended.

Not a pest.

Shown right: wingless adults and nymphs. Note long black siphunculi.

References

  • Bell, J.R. et al. (2015). Long term phenological trends , species accumulation rates, aphid traits and climate: five decades of change in migrating aphids. Journal of Animal Ecology 84, 21-34. Full text