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Aphids on common fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica)

On this page: Species lists Ovatus inulae Brachycaudus helichrysi Identifying fleabane

Aphids on common fleabane

Blackman & Eastop list about 11 species of aphids as feeding on common fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica) worldwide, and provide formal identification keys for aphids on Pulicaria. Baker (2015) lists 6 of these species as occurring in Britain: Aphis fabae, Aulacorthum solani, Brachycaudus helichrysi, Myzus ornatus, Myzus persicae and Ovatus inulae.

The two species below are those we have found on fleabane most frequently, listed in rough order of abundance. Only one of these - Ovatus inulae - is (more or less) specific to fleabane. Assistance on identifying the plant, common fleabane is given below.

 

Ovatus inulae (Fleabane aphid)

Adult apterae of Ovatus inulae range from lemon-yellow to pale green in colour. The head has a well-developed median frontal tubercle, as well as rounded forwardly directed processes on the antennal tubercles, all clearly visible in the first micrograph below. The fused last two segments of the rostrum (RIV+V) are 2.2 - 2.4 times longer than the second segment of the hind tarsus and bears 15-25 small accessory hairs (cf. all other Ovatus species which have a shorter RIV+V with only 2-6 accessory hairs). The body length of adult Ovatus inulae apterae is 1.0-1.6 mm.

The Ovatus inulae alate (see second picture above) has a pale greeny-yellow abdomen and a brown thorax. Like the aptera, the apical rostral segment (RIV+V) is unusually long - more than 2.2 times longer than the second segment of the hind tarsus (HTII).

Ovatus inulae lives all year round on fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica). It feeds on the undersides of the leaves and shoot apices, and especially the bases of the flowers. It can also be found on certain Inula and some other Asteraceae species. Sexual forms are produced in the autumn. The species is found throughout Europe into central Asia.

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Brachycaudus helichrysi (Leaf-curling plum aphid)

On its primary host, the adult aptera of Brachycaudus helichrysi (see first picture below) is variable in colour, ranging from yellow to green to brown, often shiny with a slight wax dusting. On its secondary hosts (see second picture below) Brachycaudus helichrysi can be yellow, green, or almost white or pinkish. Their antennae are shorter than the body with dusky tips. The dorsum of the abdomen is without a black shield. Their siphunculi are pale, tapered and short - 0.8-2.0 times the length of the cauda. The cauda is pale, short and blunt. The body length of Brachycaudus helichrysi apterae is 0.9 - 2.0 mm.

The alate Brachycaudus helichrysi (see second picture above on fleabane) has a dark dorsal abdominal patch, with 13-46 secondary rhinaria on the third antennal segment and 0-18 on the fourth.

The leaf-curling plum aphid host alternates between various plum (Prunus) species (especially domestic plum and blackthorn) and a wide range of Asteraceae including Pulicaria dysenterica (common fleabane).

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Identifying fleabane

We only look at one fleabane species, the common fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica) which is native to Europe and western Asia, and is common and widespread in southern England. It is a perennial which is about 60 cm high at maturity and forms dense clusters of plants. Leaves are alternately arranged, densely hairy and clasp the stem. The yellow flowers are composed of a centre of 40-100 disc florets surrounded by 20-30 ray florets.

 

The name 'fleabane' arises because smoke from burning the plant is reputed to drive away fleas and midges. Chemical investigation of the Pulicaria genus has shown the presence of terpenes, diterpenes and sesquiterpenes. Various biological activity, including antibacterial, antifungal and insecticidal properties, has been reported by Khan & Asghari (2012).

Acknowledgements

Whilst we make every effort to ensure that identifications are correct, we cannot absolutely warranty their accuracy. We have mostly made 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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References

  • Blackman, R.L. & Eastop, V.F. Aphids on the world's plants An online identification and information guide. Full text