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Aphidinae : Macrosiphini : Brachycaudus lateralis


Brachycaudus lateralis

Short-haired thistle aphid

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

Identification & Distribution:

Brachycaudus lateralis apterae (see first picture below) are green or reddish, with separate cross bars on thoracic segments, a large shining black spot situated dorsally on the abdomen and 2 or 3 black stripes at the tip. The rostrum is long and reaches the hind coxae. The longest hairs on abdominal tergite 8 are 20-61 µm long, and the longest hairs on the hind femur are 10-25 μm long (cf. the closely related Brachycaudus cardui for which the longest hairs on abdominal tergite 8 are 85-110 μm long, and the longest hairs on the hind femur are 40-80 μm long). Their siphunculi are black, thick and cylindrical and 2.3-3.4 times the length of the cauda. The body length of apterae of Brachycaudus lateralis is 1.6-2.6 mm.

Note: the results of recent DNA studies suggest that Brachycaudus lateralis should only be accorded subspecific status to Brachycaudus cardui.

The alate female (not pictured) has a dorsal patch irregularly bordered, and partly broken into crossbars and smaller sclerites. There are 18-35 secondary rhinaria on antennal segment III, and none on segment IV. Immatures (see second picture above) often have reddish patches on a greenish background. The pictures below are micrographs of Brachycaudus lateralis in alcohol. The first is an adult aptera whilst the second shows the very short hairs on the femur.

Brachycaudus lateralis is usually found close to the ground on the stems and leaves of numerous Asteraceae, including chamomile (Anthemis), thistles (Carduus, Cirsium) and ragworts and groundsels (Senecio), where they are usually attended by ants which tent over the colony with soil particles. Brachycaudus lateralis usually remains on Asteraceae all year, although it has been recorded host alternating to plum (Prunus). Brachycaudus lateralis is found over most of Europe.


Biology & Ecology:

Most work on Brachycaudus lateralis has been focused upon whether it can be regarded as 'good' species distinct from Brachycaudus cardui. Remaudière & Remaudière (1997) and Heie (1992) and others regard them as two separate species. Andreev (2004) and others regard Brachycaudus lateralis as a subspecies of Brachycaudus cardui, while Eastop & Hille Ris Lambers (1976) treat Brachycaudus lateralis as a synonym of Brachycaudus cardui. More recently Coeur d'acier (2007) using molecular techniques found all their Brachycaudus cardui and Brachycaudus lateralis samples clustered together in a highly supported clade showing very small intragroup genetic distance. Moreover, the two 'species' did not form two separate clades, indicating no genetic difference. Jousselin et al. (2009), Jousselin et al. (2010) found a lack of symbiont DNA divergence between aphid specimens identified as belonging to these two 'species, and concluded that the two morphospecies, Brachycaudus cardui and Brachycaudus lateralis, may actually correspond to a single biological species.

All the colonies of Brachycaudus lateralis that we have found have been attended by ants, often tented with earth particles. This was the case for the colony on spear thistle (Cirsium vulgare) shown below.

Lasius niger was usually the species of ant attending Brachycaudus lateralis. The picture below shows this species of ant attending on lesser burdock (Arctium minus).

Colonies of Brachycaudus aphids on thistles are often heavily parasitized especially by Lysiphlebus fabarum.


Other aphids on same host:

Primary hosts

There are unconfirmed reports of Brachycaudus lateralis on 2 Prunus species: Prunus domestica and Prunus spinosa.

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


  •  Andreev, A.V. (2004). The subgeneric classification of Brachycaudus Van der Goot. In Aphids in a new millennium. Proc. of the 6th Int. Symp. on Aphids (ed. J.C. Simon, C.A. Dedryver, C. Rispe & M. Hulle), pp. 111-117. Rennes, France: INRA Editions Abstract

  •  Coeur D'acier, A. et al. (2008). Molecular phylogeny and systematic in the genus Brachycaudus (Homoptera: Aphididae): insights from a combined analysis of nuclear and mitochondrial genes. Zoologica Scripta, 37(2), 175-193. Full text

  •  Eastop, V. & Hille Ris Lambers, (1976). Survey of the World's Aphids. W. Junk. The Hague.

  •  Heie, O.E. 1992 The Aphidoidea (Hemiptera) of Fennoscandia and Denmark. IV. Family Aphididae: Part 1 of tribe Macrosiphini of subfamily Aphidinae.Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, E.J.; New York, NY: Scandinavian Science Press Ltd.

  •  Jousselin, E. et al. (2009). Fine scale cospeciation between Brachycaudus and Buchnera aphidicola: bacterial genome helps define species and evolutionary relationships in aphids. Royal Society Proceedings B 276(1654), 75-83. Full text

  •  Jousselin, E. et al. (2010). Evolutionary lability of a complex life cycle in the aphid genus Brachycaudus. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10: 295. Full text

  •  Remaudière, G. & Remaudière, M. (1997). Catalogue des Aphididae du Monde. [Homoptera, Aphidoidea]. Techniques et Pratiques; INRA, Paris.