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Aphids on maple and sycamore

Blackman & Eastop list 96 species of aphid as feeding on Acer (Maples and Sycamores) worldwide, and provide formal identification keys.

About sixteen of these are known to occur in Britain. Twelve are maple specialists and four are common polyphagous species ( Aphis craccivora, Aphis fabae, Aulacorthum solani, Macrosiphum euphorbiae).

We show eight of these species below, in rough order of observed abundance. Assistance on distinguishing native British maples is given below.

 

Drepanosiphum platanoidis (= platanoides) (Common sycamore aphid)

Immature Drepanosiphum platanoidis (see first picture below) are pale green with long cylindrical siphunculi and red eyes. All adult viviparae are alates. The alate female Drepanosiphum platanoidis has a yellow-brown head and thorax with darker brown markings. The abdomen is pale green. If the alate develops in spring or autumn, it has variably developed dark cross-bars (see second picture below), but if it develops in mid summer, there are no cross-bands and the aphid is generally paler (see third picture below). The dark cross-bars are never restricted to abdominal tergites 4-5 (cf. Drepanosiphum acerinum which has one or two short brown bars on abdominal tergites 4-5 only). The antennae are brown, and the siphunculi are pale with a brown tip. The forewing has no black spot at the tip nor one at the outer end of the pterostigma; the pterostigma is defined by two longitudinal brown stripes. The body length is 3.2-4.3 mm.

The common sycamore aphid is found on the undersides of leaves of sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus). It is also recorded from many other Acer species, as well as a wide variety of other trees which are only visited on a casual basis. Sexual forms occur in September-November. Drepanosiphum platanoidis is common or abundant on sycamores wherever they are grown in Europe, central Asia, north Africa, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada.

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Periphyllus testudinaceus (Common periphyllus aphid)

Periphyllus testudinaceus apterae are dirty dark green to dark brown or blackish and have a clear pattern of dark abdominal sclerites (see first picture below). The antennae have a terminal process that is 2.5-3.7 times as long as the last antennal segment. The siphunculi are brown and short. The tibiae have a very pale middle section which contrasts with their dark base and tip (cf. Periphyllus obscurus which has tibiae which are are more or less pale throughout). The cauda is twice as broad as long. The body length of Periphyllus testudinaceus is 2.0-3.7 mm.

Periphyllus testudinaceus alates (see second picture above) have dark dorsal abdominal cross-bands and marginal sclerites, which are darker than the light brown pterostigma of the wing (see second picture above).

The common periphyllus aphid is found on the young growth, leaves and leaf petioles of various Maple species (Aceraceae) including Field Maple (Acer campestre), Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) and Sycamore (Acer pseudoplanatus) as well as sometimes on Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastaneum). It is often attended by ants. Periphyllus testudinaceus is found throughout Europe and has been introduced to other parts of the world including New Zealand and North America.

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Periphyllus acericola (Sycamore periphyllus aphid)

Adult Periphyllus acericola apterae are pale green or yellowish green, with darker green flecks and sometimes with dorsal brownish markings (see first picture below). The tips of the antennal segments are dark and the terminal process is 2.3 - 3.0 times longer than the base of the last antennal segment. The longer of the two hairs on the base of antennal segment VI is more than half as long as the base of antennal segment VI (cf. Periphyllus testudinaceus and Periphyllus californiensis which have the longer of the two hairs on the base of antennal segment VI less than half as long as the base of antennal segment VI) . The head and pronotum are pale as are the legs and the siphunculi. The siphunculi are stump shaped, their lengths a little less than their basal diameters. The width of the base of the cauda is more than twice the length of the cauda. The adult Periphyllus acericola aptera body length is 2.4-3.5 mm.

Note:
it is much easier to confirm identification on the alates (see below) than on the apterae.

Periphyllus acericola alates (see second picture above) have broad dark dorsal abdominal cross-bars scarcely separated between segments. The pterostigmata of the wings are very black and darker than the marginal sclerites (cf. Periphyllus testudinaceus which has the pterostigma of the wing paler than the marginal sclerites). The adult alate body length is 3.0-3.5 mm. The Periphyllus acericola fundatrix is greenish-brown and strongly hairy with numerous black tubercles. It is unusually large, with a body length of up to 4.5 mm.

The sycamore periphyllus aphid is found on the undersides of leaves, petioles and young shoots of Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus). It is sometimes attended by ants. Periphyllus acericola is found through most of Europe.

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Periphyllus aceris (Maple periphyllus aphid)

Periphyllus aceris apterae are yellow with green flecks dorsally (see first picture below). The head, pronotum and legs (except tarsi) are pale (cf. Periphyllus testudinaceus which has the hind tibia with a pale middle region contrasting with a dark base and distal section). The antennae have a terminal process that is 2.2-2.7 times as long as the last antennal segment. The siphunculi are pale and short - about 2.1 - 2.5 times as long as the cauda. The cauda is broadly rounded and distinctly shorter than the width of its base (cf. Periphyllus lyropictus which has a tongue-shaped cauda, about as long as broad). The body length is 1.5-3.7 mm.

Periphyllus species are most readily differentiated using characters on the alates. Periphyllus aceris alates (see second picture above) have widely separated dorsal cross-bands (cf. Periphyllus acericola alates which have broad dark dorsal abdominal cross-bars scarcely separated between segments). The marginal sclerites and the pterostigma are equally dark (cf. Periphyllus testudinaceus which has the cross-bands and marginal sclerites darker than the light brown pterostigma of the wing). The alate body length is 3.2-4.5 mm.

Periphyllus aceris lives on the undersides of leaves, petioles and growing shoots of Acer species, especially Acer platanoides (Norway maple). It is not usually attended by ants. The species is found throughout most of Europe, but has apparently not so far established itself in North America.

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Periphyllus lyropictus (Norway maple periphyllus aphid)

Periphyllus lyropictus apterae (see first picture below) are yellowish with brown dorsal markings, usually comprising a broad spinal stripe on head and thorax and a large V-shaped mark on the dorsal abdomen. The terminal process of the sixth antennal segment is 4.5-6.0 times longer than the base of that segment. The antennal and dorsal hairs are acute and fine pointed. The siphunculi of the Periphyllus lyropictus aptera are pale to dusky, conical, and about as long as their basal widths. The cauda is tongue shaped, about as long as broad, and often with a slight constriction (cf. Periphyllus testudinaceus where the cauda is clearly shorter than its basal width). The body length is 1.9-3.0 mm.

Periphyllus lyropictus alatae (see second picture above) have dark marginal sclerites, but other dorsal sclerotization is limited to the spinal area, not forming cross-bands. The shorter hair on the basal part of the sixth antennal segment is 0.025-0.04 mm long (cf. Periphyllus hirticornis, which has this hair 0.019-0.025 mm long). The siphunculi are 0.17-0.23 mm long (cf. Periphyllus hirticornis where the siphunculi are 0.21-0.28 mm long).

The Norway maple aphid lives on the undersides of leaves of Norway maple (Acer platanoides). They often form large colonies producing much honeydew and are visited by ants and other insects. Periphyllus lyropictus does not produce aestivating nymphs. Oviparae and alate males are produced in October-November. The Norway maple periphyllus is native to Europe, but it was introduced on Norway maple to North America, where it is now also widespread.

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Periphyllus californiensis (Californian maple aphid)

Periphyllus californiensis apterae (see first picture below) are reddish brown to dark olive-green. The length of the antennae is about 0.6 times the body length, with the terminal process about twice as long as the last antennal segment.The broken dorsal cross bands are dark as are the head, pronotum, and siphunculi. The siphunculi are about as long as the second hind tarsal segment. The hind femur and tibia are uniformly dark (cf. Periphyllus testudinaceus where the tibiae have a very pale middle section which contrasts with their dark base and tip). The cauda is broadly rounded with 8-12 hairs. The body length is 2-3 mm.

Periphyllus californiensis alates (see second picture above) have dark bands across abdominal tergites, apparently darker than the pterostigma.

The Californian maple aphid is not indigenous to Europe (nor to California), but is from East Asia. Periphyllus californiensis has proved highly invasive and has spread to Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand on planted Asian ornamental maples such as smooth Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) and downy Japanese maple (Acer japonicum).

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Periphyllus hirticonis (Green Maple periphyllus aphid)

Periphyllus hirticonis apterae are light green or yellow-green with red eyes and no dark markings. The antennae are 0.7 times the body length, and have a terminal process that is 5 times as long as the last antennal segment. The two hairs on the base of antennal segment 6 are very unequal in length with the longer more than 4 times as long as the shorter (cf. Periphyllus obscurus which has the two hairs on the base of antennal segment 6 both long and fine, the longer one being 1.3-3.0 times the shorter). Some dorsal hairs have forked apices. The siphunculi are pale, longer than the second hind tarsal segment and strongly flared at the apex. The cauda is knobbed with 6-8 hairs, and is more than half as long as its basal width. The body length is 2-3 mm.

Periphyllus hirticornis alates are bright green with variably developed marginal plates, no dorsal cross bands, and brownish siphunculi and cauda.

The green maple periphyllus aphid lives on the undersides of young leaves, leaf petioles and developing seeds of field maple (Acer campestre). Colonies are often attended by ants. Aestivating nymphs with foliate marginal hairs are present in summer. Oviparae and alate males are produced in October-November. Periphyllus hirticornis is widely distributed in Europe.

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Drepanosiphum acerinum (Sapling sycamore aphid)

Immature Drepanosiphum acerinum (see first picture below) are pale yellow-green or pinkish green with long cylindrical siphunculi and red eyes. All adult viviparae are alates. These alates are pale whitish-green to chrome yellow, with thoracic lobes darker (see second picture below). The forewings may have dusky spots at the ends of the veins, but the pigment does not extend between the vein endings (cf. Drepanosiphum aceris which has a dusky patch at the end of the forewing). There are often one or two short brown bars on abdominal tergites 4-5 only (cf. Drepanosiphum platanoidis which never has black bands across abdominal tergites 4-5 only), and usually a conspicuous brown-black spot in front of the base of each siphunculus (see second picture below). The siphunculi are only slightly swollen, and are either entirely or distally dark or black. The long antennae are pale but the segments have brownish tips. The body length of an adult Drepanosiphum acerinum is 2.1- 3.3 mm.

Drepanosiphum acerinum aphids live on sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) saplings in the shade. Sexual forms occur in September-October. The species is found throughout Europe, except the Baltic region.

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Drepanosiphum aceris (Scarce maple aphid)

Immature Drepanosiphum aceris (see first picture below) are a very pale green, usually with darker green patches down each side of the abdomen and between the siphunculi All adult viviparae are alate. Adult females are yellowish or pale whitish-green with brown thoracic lobes. At the apex of the forewing membrane there is a dusky cloud (see second picture below) (cf. Drepanosiphum dixoni, which never has a dusky cloud at the apex of the forewing membrane). There is another (less clear) dark patch at the outer end of the pterostigma. There are often rather narrow cross-bands on abdominal tergites 4 and 5 (see third picture below) (cf. Drepanosiphum platanoidis which never has dark bands across abdominal tergites 4-5 only). Drepanosiphum aceris also usually have lateral spots in front of their siphuncular bases. The siphunculi are dusky (not black) at least distally. The body length is 2.7-4.2 mm.

The scarce maple aphid lives on field maple (Acer campestre), usually under leaves near ground. Sexual forms occur in September-November. Drepanosiphum aceris is distributed throughout Europe and east to the Caucasus.

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Periphyllus obscurus (Dark periphyllus aphid)

The adult aptera of Periphyllus obscurus is rather small and blackish green. The terminal process of the antenna is 3.2-6.9 times the length of the base of the last antennal segment. The hind tibiae are more or less pale throughout (cf. Periphyllus testudinaceus which has tibiae with a contrasting dark base and distal section). The siphunculi are dark and only about as long as the basal width. The cauda is rounded with a constriction near its base and is more than half as long as its basal width. The body length is 1.8-2.6 mm.

The dark periphyllus aphid is found on young shoots, leaf petioles and undersides of leaves of field maple (Acer campestre). Aestivating nymphs are not produced, and all stages are present through the summer (cf. Periphyllus testudinaceus which spends mid-summer as aestivating nymphs). Colonies are usually attended by ants. Oviparous females and males are produced in the autumn. Periphyllus obscurus is found in central and western Europe.

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Mimeuria ulmiphila (Maple leaf-nest aphid)

Fundatrices of Mimeuria ulmiphila live in terminal leaf nests (see first picture below) formed on field maple (Acer campestre), by inhibition of shoot growth, twisting and folding of leaves. These fundatrices are olive green-grey, covered with white wax wool. Their antennae are 5-segmented and are less than 0.25 times the body length. The third antennal segment is 1.2-1.9 times the length of the fifth antennal segment (including the terminal process). The body length of apterous Mimeuria ulmiphila fundatrices is 3.5-4.5 mm. These fundatrices produce numerous dark brown alates, with a body length of 2.6-3.3 mm (see second picture below), which fly over an extended period (June-November). They have transversely elongate secondary rhinaria extending at least over the third to the fifth antennal segment. The sixth antennal segment of these alates is without secondary rhinaria other than those beside the primary rhinarium.

Images copyright Dr László Érsek, all rights reserved.

Apterous exules of Mimeuria ulmiphila live mainly on roots of elm (Ulmus); they are yellow, thickly wax-powdered, and have a body length of 1.3-2.3 mm.

Maple leaf-nest aphids host alternate between their primary host, field maple (Acer campestre), and their secondary host, elm roots (Ulmus). On elm they live singly encased in brown microrrhizal cysts. It appears that several common saprophytic fungi combine to enclose the aphids and exploit their honeydew, in return for the protection provided to the aphids. Sexual forms are produced in autumn and return to field maple, but in western Europe they may remain on elm roots all year. There may also be overwintering of immature stages on the bark of field maple. Mimeuria ulmiphila has been recorded from several European countries including Britain, France, Germany, and Hungary as well as Turkey and Russia.

 

Species of maple

We cover four species of maple, sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), Norway maple (Acer platanoides) , field maple (Acer campestre) and Japanese maple (Acer palmatum). The sycamore is a tree with large dark green leaves. Each leaf has a long petiole, five lobes with toothed edges and thick veins protruding on the paler underside. The picture below shows sycamore seedlings on the forest floor that had been colonized by Drepanosiphum acerinum.

The field maple is a rather small tree with finely fissured bark. The leaves (see first picture below) are opposite and have five blunt rounded lobes with a smooth margin.

The Norway maple is a larger tree with grey-brown shallowly grooved bark. The leaves (see second picture above) have five lobes each bearing 1-3 side teeth and an otherwise smooth margin.

The Japanese maple (see picture below) originates from Japan where it has been cultivated for centuries.

They were brought to Europe in the early 1800s ,and numerous cultivars have been developed. It is usually a small tree sometimes with multiple trunks joing closer to the ground. The leaves are 4-12 cm long , palmately lobed with with five, seven or nine pointed lobes. Many cultivars have red leaves as shown here, others green. The flowers have five red or purple sepals and five whitish petals.

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).

Useful weblinks

References

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

  • Dixon, A.F.G. & Thieme, T. (2007). Aphids on deciduous trees. Naturalist's Handbooks 29. Richmond