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Pterocallis maculata

Green-barred alder aphid

On this page: Identification & Distribution  Biology & Ecology  Other aphids on the same host 

Identification & Distribution:

Adult apterae of Pterocallis maculata are yellowish-green or green, with a pattern of diffuse dark green dorsal cross bands, giving an overall blotchy appearance (see first picture below). The antennae of Pterocallis maculata are short, only 0.6-0.8 times the body length, and have black apices to the antennal segments. Antennal segments III-V bear conspicuous hairs (see first micrograph below) (cf. Pterocallis alni   which only has 1-2 conspicuous hairs on segment III). Each abdominal segment bear 5 pairs of dark pigmented capitate hairs (see second micrograph below) situated on pale round sclerites (cf. Pterocallis alni   which has pale dorsal hairs). The siphunculi of Pterocallis maculata are dark, at least at the tip. There is a black spot near the apex of the hind femur and the tarsi are black. The body length of the aptera is 1.4-2.1 mm.

Second image copyright Alan Outen,  all rights reserved.

The Pterocallis maculata alate (see second picture above) has a pale green abdomen and dark-tipped siphunculi.

The first micrograph below shows the long hairs on antennal segment III; the second shows the dark capitate hairs on the abdominal segments.

Pterocallis maculata lives in colonies along the veins (cf. Pterocallis alni which is more or less scattered) on the undersides of the leaves of alder (Alnus glutinosa and other species). It is nearly always attended by ants (cf. Pterocallis alni which is never attended by ants). Apterous males and oviparae occur in September-October. The green-barred alder aphid is quite rare in Britain, but is widely distributed in Europe, east to Turkey and Iran.

 

Biology & Ecology:

Despite many years of searching alder in southern Britain, our first encounter with this aphid was when photos of it were sent to us by Alan Outen from Bedfordshire. The images below show both immature and mature alates in their characteristic position along the veins on the undersides of the leaves of common alder.

 

Images above copyright Alan Outen,  all rights reserved.

On a later visit to Bedfordshire, we found the species ourselves on alder trees bordering a layby. Our attention was drawn to the aphid populations by the presence of Lasius ants attending the aphids. The ants were nesting between the trunk and a protective plastic cover around the tree base (used to prevent herbivores damaging young trees).

 

Very little seems to have been written about Pterocallis maculata, presumably reflecting its scarcity. In ornamental nurseries in Poland Labanowski & Soika (2011)  found Pterocallis maculata on grey alder (Alnus incana). Only Pterocallis alni  was found on common alder (Alnus glutinosa).

 

Other aphids on same host:

Pterocallis maculata has been recorded from 4 Alnus species (Alnus firma, Alnus fruticosa, Alnus glutinosa, Alnus incana).

Acknowledgements

We especially thank Alan Outen (Bedfordshire Invertebrate Group,  for much assistance, and some of the images above.

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

  • Labanowski, G. & Soika, G. (2011). Aphids (Hemiptera, Aphidoidea) on trees and shrubs belonging to Betulaceae family in ornamental plants nurseries. Aphids and other Hemipterous Insects 17, 81-97. Full text 

 

Identification requests

Alan Outen, 03 June 2014, Re: Aphid hunting

[This] was on Alnus cordata (Italian Alder), a host for which Blackman and Eastop give possibles as: Crypturaphis grassii; Pterocallis alni.

This is surely a Pterocallis sp. and I thought P. alni and mine does indeed seems to match some on-line illustrations of this but does not look like your images or description of this species.

Image(s) copyright Alan Outen,  all rights reserved.

   

Bob, InfluentialPoints:

  • Nice piccies! They appear to be Pterocallis maculata, a species we've been after for ages. I know P. maculata is not given by Blackman for this alder species, but there is no reason why it should not also occur on A. cordata. Was it ant attended??. It is supposed to be nearly always ant-attended whilst P. alni is much less so. I think I know the on line piccies you're referring to for P. alni - they are also (I think) P. maculata.

I am very pleased about Pterocallis maculata. Feel free as always to use the images if you wish. I do also have more. There were not a lot of ants in attendance with these but certainly a few.