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Identification & Distribution

Adult apterae of Aphis spiraephila vary in colour from hazel to chestnut-brown. They are coated with powdery white wax. (Note their original description by Patch describes these aphids as "huckleberry black with a slight white bloom of wax powder"). The head, siphunculi and cauda are dusky or dark, but their antennae and legs are mainly pale. The antennal terminal process is 1.3-1.5 times the length of the base of antennal segment VI. Abdominal tergites I and VII bear marginal tubercles. The siphunculi are quite short, only 0.4-0.5 times as lomg as the cauda (c.f. Aphis spiraecola, which has siphunculi more than 0.6 times the caudal length). The cauda bears 13-16 hairs. The body length of adult Aphis spiraephila apterae is 1.3-1.7 mm.

Both images above by permission, copyright Claude Pilon, all rights reserved.

Aphis spiraephila alatae have a black head and thorax, but are otherwise coloured much like the apterae. Their siphunculi are cylindrical or slightly tapering without a distinct flange and sometimes slightly curved inwards. The cauda is elongate, spoon-shaped and bears 3-4 lateral and 3-4 dorso-lateral hairs on each side. Immatures also resemble the adults in general appearance.

Image above by permission, copyright Claude Pilon, all rights reserved.

Aphis spiraephila is found on the terminal shoots, leaves and twigs of meadowsweet (Spiraea species). They do not host alternate, but remain all year on meadowsweet. The brown spirea aphid is usually ant-attended. Sexual forms develop in autumn, with oviparae having been found in October. Oviparae are more spindle-shaped than the apterous viviparae, with pale hind tibiae that are hardly swollen and bear scattered rather large sensoria, mostly on the proximal half. Males are so far undescribed. Aphis spiraephila is a widespread North American species; records elsewhere (Ukraine & East Asia) are probably erroneous.

 

Biology & Ecology

Ant attendance

Guyton (1924-1926) recorded Aphis spiraephila being attended by the ant Formica fusca var subsericea in Pennsylvania, USA.

McPhee et al. (2012) conducted surveys of Homoptera in sites infested and uninfested with the invasive ant Myrmica rubra in Maine, USA. They also conducted manipulative experiments to quantify the effects of Myrmica rubra on homopteran abundance and composition. In both surveys and experiments they specifically looked at the impact of Myrmica rubra on Aphis spiraephila populations on white meadowsweet (Spiraea alba), a native herbaceous plant species common in both ant-infested and uninfested sites.

  • In their surveys, Aphis spiraephila was more abundant in ant-infested sites than in uninfested sites, both as apterous and alate forms. Also aphid colony sizes were larger in sites with Myrmica rubra than in those with native ants.
  • In their manipulative ant-exclusion experiments, ant-access (whether by native or invasive ants) significantly increased apterous aphid abundance on meadowsweet. Apterous aphid abundance started out low in all treatments, but increased (13-fold) over time on plants for which Myrmica rubra had access. Apterous aphid abundances also increased with time for the plants to which native ants had access, but final abundances were significantly lower than Myrmica rubra access treatments. Aphid populations in their 'control' treatment (=no ant access) did not grow significantly over the duration of the experiment.

 

Other aphids on the same host

Aphis spiraephila has been recorded on 4 species of the Spiraea genus : (Spiraea alba var latifolia, Spiraea betulifolia, Spiraea douglasii, Spiraea elegans).

Acknowledgements

We are especially grateful to Claude Pilon for pictures of Aphis spiraephila (for more of her excellent pictures see).

We have made provisional identifications from high resolution photos of living specimens, along with host plant identity. Identifications have been confirmed by microscopic examination of preserved specimens. We have used the keys and species accounts of Palmer (1952) and Hottes & Frison (1931) supplemented with Blackman & Eastop (1994) and Blackman & Eastop (2006). 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

  • Guyton, T.L. (1924-1926). Aphids attended by ants in Pennsylvania. Proceedings of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science 1, 102-104. Full text

  • Hottes, F.C. & Frison, T.H. (1931). The Plant Lice, or Aphiidae, of Illinois. Illinois Natural History Survey Bulletin 19(3), 123-447. Full text

  • Palmer, M.A. (1952). Aphids of the Rocky Mountain Region: including primarily Colorado and Utah, but also bordering area composed of southern Wyoming, southeastern Idaho and northern New Mexico. Thomas Say Foundation, Denver. Full text

  • McPhee, K. et al. (2012). Homopterans and an invasive red ant, Myrmica rubra (L.), in Maine. Environ. Entomol. 41(1), 59-71. Full text