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Genus Mindarus

Fir twig aphids

Species Overview: Genus Mindarus  Mindarus abietinus 

Genus Mindarus [Pemphigini]

Wingless forms have a fused head and pronotum and well well-developed wax glands which produce a covering of wax wool. The antennae are short. The siphunculi are pore-like and the cauda is bluntly triangular. Winged forms have forewings with an elongate pterostigma, tapering to a point at the wing apex. Oviparae and males are wingless and reduced in size.

There are 8 or more species worldwide feeding on the growing tips and young cones of spruces or firs. They have a sexual stage in the life cycle, but there is no host alternation and aphids are not attended by ants.

 

Mindarus abietinus (balsam twig aphid)

The wingless viviparae are yellowish green and covered with wax wool. The antennae and legs are distinctly darker. Note that the one in the picture was disturbed and has shed much of its wax covering. The body length of apterae is 1.7-2.0 mm. The winged viviparae have dark dorsal abdominal cross-bands and a body length of 1.5-2.7 mm.

 

The balsam twig aphid is found on young shoots of fir (Abies spp.) especially silver fir (Abies alba) and Nordmann fir (Abies nordmanniana). Eggs hatch in winter and there are then three generations. Small apterous sexual form are produced in June and the females lay the eggs which hatch the following January.

The balsam twig aphid is found throughout Europe, as well as the Middle East, Pakistan and possibly India and parts of the Far East. It may cause serious damage or kill young shoots, or cause deformation and loss of needles. There is also some evidence that infestations affect susceptibility to spruce budworm.

Acknowledgements

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).

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