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Aphidinae : Aphidini : Aphis fabae


Aphis fabae

Black bean aphid, Blackfly

On this page: Identification & Distribution Aphis fabae subspecies Other aphids on the same host

Identification & Distribution

In spring Aphis fabae curl the leaves of common spindle (Euonymus europaeus, see first picture below). The adult aptera of Aphis fabae (see second and third picture below) is dark brown to matt black, sometimes with a distinct greenish hue. Their antennae usually have segments III-IV and the base of segment V quite pale (cf. Aphis rumicis, which has the antennae dark from the middle of segment III to the apex). The terminal process is 1.7-3.5 times the length of the base of antennal segment VI. The Aphis fabae aptera has a variable abdominal sclerotic pattern - which is confined to abdominal tergites 6-8 in smaller apterae, but broken bands are present in larger ones (cf. Aphis gossypii, which has no dark sclerotized markings on the dorsum). Marginal tubercles are protuberant but small. The longest femoral and tibial hairs are longer than the least width of the tibia. Their siphunculi and cauda are dark (cf. Aphis gossypii, which has the cauda usually paler than the siphunculi). The siphunculi are 0.70-1.81 times the length of the cauda which bears 11-24 hairs. The body length of Aphis fabae adult apterae is 1.2-2.9 mm.

Note: The term Aphis fabae species group is sometimes used to collectively describe Aphis fabae sensu stricto (=Aphis fabae fabae), its subspecies, and related species.

The black bean aphid immatures (see first picture below), especially the immature alatae, often have discrete white wax spots, as do sometimes the adults. The alate Aphis fabae (see second picture below) is similarly coloured to the aptera but has mostly dark antennae and fragmented sclerotic bands across the dorsum.

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

Micrographs of clarified mounted aptera & alate courtesy PaDIL. Copyright Rebecca Graham (Department of Agriculture, Western Australia) under Commons Attribution 3.0 Australian License.

The black bean aphid host alternates between spindle (Euonymus europaeus) as the primary host and many herbaceous plant species including crops as secondary hosts. It is particularly important as a pest for its direct feeding damage to broad beans (Vicia faba) and as a virus vector in sugar beet. Colonies are usually attended by ants. Sexual forms occur in autumn. Aphis fabae is found throughout the northern continents, and has been introduced to many tropical and subtropical countries where it may reproduce parthenogenetically all year round.


Biology & Ecology


In Europe Aphis fabae sensu lato comprises a complex of sibling-species or -subspecies which can only be distinguished by their choice of secondary host coupled with transfer experiments.

  • The nominate subspecies Aphis fabae fabae migrates to broad beans (Vicia faba, pictured below first). It also migrates to poppies (Papaver spp., pictured below second) as well as Chenopodium species and beet (Beta vulgaris). Aphis fabae fabae will not colonise thistle (Cirsium) nor black nightshade (Solanum).

  • Aphis fabae cirsiiacanthoidis migrates to thistle (Cirsium arvense, pictured below).

  • Aphis fabae mordvilkoi migrates to burdock (Arctium, pictured below).

  • Aphis evonymi (note the spelling) does not host alternate, but spends all year on spindle (Euonymus europaeus, see picture below). Some authorities have assigned this aphid full species status as Aphis evonymi, but other still treat it as a subspecies: Aphis fabae evonymi.

  • A species which overwinters on spindle (Euonymus europaeus), and host alternates to black nightshade (Solanum nigrum), used to be called Aphis fabae solanella, but has now been assigned full species status as Aphis solanella (see picture below).

Although one can tentatively assign Aphis fabae on the plants above to a particular subspecies, they also colonise a huge range of other plants (for example many umbellifers) which are not associated with a particular subspecies. Also some hosts, such as docks (Rumex spp), seem to be acceptable to all Aphis fabae subspecies.


Other aphids on same host:

Primary host
Secondary hosts


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


Identification requests

David Fenwick, 05 July 2013, Parasite 2

Had a bit of a different Aphis on Cirsium arvense, Creeping Thistle, from what I've seen of late. At least it's nicely marked.

Image copyright all rights reserved.

Bob, Influentialpoints:

  • Re aphid on Cirsium, it's almost certainly a colour form of Aphis fabae cirsiicanthoides. They can sometimes be dark green rather than black.

Ah that's interesting, thanks for that, I wasn't aware cirsicanthoides could be that colour.



David Fenwick, 4 August 2013, Aphis fabae mordvilkoi ?

Aphis fabae mordvilkoi ? was ant attended on Burdock, Arctium minus, tucked in between flower buds. Mites present.

Images copyright all rights reserved.

Bob, Influentialpoints:

  • Given the host, yes.



Dr. Wagner, 24 May 2014

Today I am sure I have found aphids. These black ones were attended by ants.

Image(s) copyright V. Wagner, all rights reserved.

Bob, InfluentialPoints:

  • Your black aphids are clearly of the 'Aphis fabae' type, but without the host, that's as far as I can go.



Alan Outen, 03 June 2014, Re: Aphid hunting

Many thanks for this. [These] are bugging me!

I had today what I believe to be Aphis rumicis on Rumex obtusifolius

Bob, InfluentialPoints:

  • If the aphid on Rumex was causing a gall (major crumpling of leaf) then it was A. rumicis. We have found lots this year, but are a bit behind on putting things on the website.

I have now finished playing with the species on dock that I thought might be Aphis rumicis and although there was some crumpling of upper leaves the aphids were mainly confined to the top of the stem and I now think these are just A. fabae again. I attach one image:

Image copyright Alan Outen, all rights reserved.



V. Wagner 28/9/2014 aphids on galium aparine

Once again I need help on identification. Adult winged, unwinged and nymphs ant attended, found June 01 2014 on Galium aparine. Also some Hamonia axyridis predating those aphids could be found. Is it possible to identify this species?

Images copyright V. Wagner, all rights reserved.


Bob, Influentialpoints:

  • These are Aphis fabae - they commonly occur on Galium aparine.