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Utamphorophora humboldti

American grass-leaf aphid

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

Identification & Distribution

Adult apterae of Utamphorophora humboldti are apple-green with a pair of distinct dorsal darker green broad longitudinal stripes, making it appear to have a pale spinal longitudinal stripe. The antennae are darker towards their apices, and tarsi are dark. The inner sides of the antennal tubercles are converging or nearly parallel, with low conical wrinkled processes. The median frontal tubercle is very low. The siphunculi are pale or dusky and have the apical two thirds swollen. The cauda is pale. The body length is 1.9-2.6 mm.

Second image copyright Jochem Kuhnen,  all rights reserved.

Utamphorophora humboldti alatae have much darker pigmentation, with dark marginal sclerites on the abdomen, as well as intersegmental markings and two rows of rather large and dark paired pleural spots.

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

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

In North America the American grass-leaf aphid host alternates from ninebark (Physocarpus, Rosaceae) to the upper side of the leaf blades or flowerheads of various grasses (such as Poa, Dactylis, Festuca, Lolium). In Europe it mainly overwinters parthenogenetically on grasses. Utamphorophora humboldti is native to North America, but since 1975 has also been found in England, France and The Netherlands.

 

Biology & Ecology:

Colour

The literature would appear to be a little misleading on the colour of the adult Utamphorophora humboldti when alive. Stroyan (1979)  and Heie (1980-1995)  state that the adult apterous aphid is "apple green with a light brown head". No mention is made of the stripes in the adult but they do note that "as a nymph it has a pair of distinct dorsal darker green longitudinal stripes." Blackman (2010)  does not mention the stripes on either the adult or nymphs.

We have found both adult apterae (see above) and immatures (see below) of Utamphorophora humboldti in life have a pair of distinct dorsal darker green longitudinal stripes, making it appear to have a paler spinal longitudinal stripe.

The same colour pattern is apparent in the image from the Netherlands (see above ), as well as in an image provided by Andy Jensen (see picture below) and in images given by Piron (2010). 

Image copyright Andy Jensen,  Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0). 

Many aphids have a darker spinal stripe, believed to function as countershading to help camouflage the insect. A paler spinal stripe would appear counter-productive in this respect, but may function to break up the outline of the aphid.

Phenology

Prior (1975)  first reported the presence of Utamphorophora humboldti in Britain, both in suction traps and on Poa grass. Bell et al (2015)  reviewed long-term phenological trends of 55 species of aphids in Britain over 50 years. He noted that Utamphorophora humboldti had the largest increase in numbers caught over the period - which was not surprising, given that species commenced its invasion of Europe in the early 1970's. The species also showed the most dramatic advancement in first flights, the most dramatic shift to later in the year of all last flights, and consequently the largest increase in the duration of flight season. This change in the flight season is most likely an artefact resulting from the increase in population size.

 

Other aphids on same host:

Blackman & Eastop list 43 species of aphid  as feeding on annual meadow grass (Poa annua) worldwide, and provide formal identification keys.

Of those aphid species, Baker (2015)  lists 31 as occurring in Britain: Anoecia corni,  Anoecia vagans, Aploneura lentisci,  Atheroides serrulatus, Baizongia pistaceae, Diuraphis noxia, Forda formicaria,  Forda marginata, Geoica lucifuga, Geoica utricularia, Hyalopterus pruni,  Melanaphis pyraria,  Metopolophium dirhodum,  Metopolophium festucae, Myzus ascalonicus,  Myzus ornatus,  Myzus persicae,  Paracletus cimiciformis, Rhopalomyzus lonicerae,  Rhopalomyzus poae, Rhopalosiphum maidis, Rhopalosiphum oxyacanthae,  Rhopalosiphum padi,  Schizaphis graminum,  Sipha elegans, Sipha glyceriae, Sipha maydis, Sitobion avenae,  Sitobion fragariae,  Tetraneura ulmi  and Utamphorophora humboldti.

Acknowledgements

We especially thank Jochem Kuhnen  for the image shown above, and for his kind donation supporting this website.

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

  •  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 (1), 21-34. Full text 

  •  Piron, P.G.M. (2010). The first observation of Utamphorophora humboldti (Essig, 1941) on its host, Poa annua, in The Netherlands (Homoptera, Aphididae). Mitt. internat. entomolo.Ver. 35 (1/2), 111-115. Full text 

  •  Prior, R.N.B. (1975). Three North American aphid species recently found in Britain infesting cultivated rose, Cupressus macrocarpa and Poa trivialis. Plant Pathology 24(2), 123-124.

  •  Stroyan, H.L.G. (1979). Additions to the British aphid fauna (Homoptera: Aphidoidea). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 65, 1-54. Full text