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Calaphidinae : Calaphidini : Callipterinella minutissima


Callipterinella minutissima

Birch catkin aphid, Minute birch aphid

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

Identification & Distribution

Adult apterae of Callipterinella minutissima (see first picture below) are very small, stout, oval-bodied, green to yellowish-green. A white tuft of wax is often present below the cauda. The antennae of apterae are only 5-segmented, and are 0.25-0.33 times the body length (cf. Callipterinella tuberculata and Callipterinella calliptera, which have 6-segmented antennae, which are more than 0.5 times body length). The terminal process is 1.2-1.8 times the length of the base of antennal segment VI (cf. Betulaphis quadrituberculata, which has the terminal process as long as or slightly shorter than the base of segment VI). The antennae bear no secondary rhinaria. Abdominal tergite VIII has a dark transverse bar; other tergites have very small scleroites bearing long, fine, pointed hairs. The siphunculi are small dark truncate cones, without hairs. The apterae are very small with a body length of only 0.9-1.4 mm. Immature Callipterinella minutissima are pale yellow-green.

Images above copyright Andrew Jensen under a cc by-nc-sa licence

The alate Callipterinella minutissima vivipara (see second picture above) has a greenish abdomen. The antennae are 6-segmented, 0.4-0.8 times the body length with a terminal process that is 1.3-1.5 times the base of antennal segment VI, and 5-8 secondary rhinaria on segment III. The alate is larger than the apterous female with a body length of 1.5-1.9 mm.

Callipterinella minutissima is monoecious holocyclic feeding on several birch (Betula) species. When the buds burst in spring, they feed inside bud scales and developing leaves, moving to the female catkins in summer and leaf undersides in autumn. Oviparae and alate males occur on the leaves in September-November. Callipterinella minutissima is found in Western, Central & Southern Europe and Central Asia, although it seems to be rare in most European countries. It has been introduced into western North America.


Biology & Ecology

Life cycle

Overwintering eggs laid on birch hatch in spring around the time of budburst to give the fundatrices. When the buds burst, the aphids feed inside bud scales and developing leaves, reproducing parthenogenetically when reaching adulthood. Subsequent spring and summer generations move to the female catkins where they feed and reproduce. The extremely small size of Callipterinella minutissima (apterous viviparae are 0.9 - 1.4mm long) enables it to utilize feeding sites between bracts in the catkins. In autumn, the aphids move to the undersides of the leaves. Hajek (1985) suggests this seasonal alternation of feeding sites enables exploitation of favourable microhabitats when conditions would otherwise be unfavourable.

From September onwards, increasing numbers of sexuales are produced. The ovipara (see first picture below) is dark green or reddish-brown with well marked scleroites, some of which may be fused. The antennae are 5 or 6-segmented. Marginal tubercles may be present on some abdominal segments. The hind tibiae of oviparae are characteristically dark and swollen, the entire surface covered with many scent plaques (pseudosensoria). The oviparae are larger than the viviparae with a body length of 1.4-1.9 mm.

Images above copyright Andrew Jensen under a cc by-nc-sa licence.

The alate male (see second picture above) has a dark head and thorax; the abdomen is dark green with narrow black crossbands on each segment. The antennae are 6 segmented, about 0.6-0.7 times body length, and with 7-11 rather large secondary rhinaria placed in a row on segment III.

After mating the ovipara deposits the overwintering eggs on birch twigs.


Other aphids on the same host

Callipterinella minutissima has been recorded on 10 species of birch (Betula caerulea, Betula ermanii, Betula litwinoii, Betula maximowicziana, Betula ovalifolia, Betula papyrifera, Betula pendula, Betula platyphylla, Betula pubescens, Betula sandbergii).


We are grateful to Andrew Jensen for making his pictures available for use under creative commons licences.

We have used the keys and species accounts of Stroyan (1977) and Heie (1980-1995), along with information from Roger Blackman & Victor Eastop in Aphids on Worlds Plants. We fully acknowledge these authors and those listed in the reference sections 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


  • Hajek, A.E. (1985). Callipterinella minutissima (Stroyan), an aphid living in birch catkins. Journal of Natural History 19(4), 623-626. Abstract