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Hormaphidinae : Cerataphidini : Cerataphis brasiliensis


Identification, Life cycle & Distribution

Primary host

The gall of Cerataphis brasiliensis on its primary host, Styrax benzoin (see first picture below) is bag-like, greyish- or brownish-green, 1.0-4.7 cm long, with a single cavity and an apical slit-shaped opening. The gall arises on a stem, either from a terminal or an axillary bud. Apterae (not pictured) in the galls are orange-yellow with dark red eyes, and are covered with a thick layer of wax. The body is oval with a distinct border between the pronotum and mesonotum. They have spine-like frontal hairs on the head, including one pair of particularly sturdy hairs. The antennae are short and 5-segmented. The apical rostral segment is 0.86-0.95 times as long as the second hind tarsal segment. The abdomen is membranous with linear S-shaped wax glands. The siphuncular pores are set on small cones with a ring of 3-5 hairs. The body length of adult Cerataphis brasiliensis apterae is about 1.3 mm. Second instar sterile soldier larvae move in and around the galls.

Note: Cerataphis brasiliensis has several synonyms because the host alternation was not initially recognised, so forms on the primary and secondary hosts were given different names. Synonyms include Cerataphis palmae, Cerataphis variabilis and Cerataphis fransseni.

First image above copyright Aoki & Kurosu (2010) under a creative commons licence.
Second image above copyright Blackman & Eastop.

Cerataphis brasiliensis alatae emerging from the galls (see second picture above) have 15-23 secondary rhinaria on antennal segment III, 2-8 on segment IV, and 0-4 on segment V. The body length of these alatae is 1.2-1.6 mm. They migrate to found colonies on palms.

Secondary hosts

Image above by permission, copyright Sunil Joshi & Poorani, J. Aphids of Karnataka (accessed 12/2/20).

Adult Cerataphis brasiliensis apterae on palms (see first picture above) appear sedentary but are mobile, especially if the host plant deteriorates (Aoki, pers. comm.). They are dark brown flattened, almost circular, fringed with white wax, and often have one or more very narrow transverse white stripes across the middle region. The antennae are about 0.18 times the body length, with a terminal process 0.4 times as long as base of that segment. The front of the head is with or without cephalic horns; when present (see clarified mount below) these horns are usually triangular with the apices pointed (cf. Cerataphis formosana on palms, which has the horns finger-shaped with rounded apices). Two forms of the aptera have been recognised - one with horns 45-110 μ long, and the other either lacking horns or with horns up to 18 μ long (further differences are given by Noordam, 1991). In addition there are always one, two or three pairs of short dagger-shaped spines with strongly tuberculate bases on the underside of the head next to the antennae (cf. Cerataphis lataniae, which does not have dagger-shaped spines with strongly tuberculate bases, but instead has three pairs of elongate, slender hairs with flat or slightly raised bases next to the antennae). There are wax glands around the body margin, except at the cephalic horns. The legs are short and hidden under the body. Their siphunculi are pore-like, rather near the body margin, and each have 2-4 hairs. The cauda is rounded.

Immatures (see second picture above) have a light green to olive body colour, with a very short waxy fringe. Abdominal segments of the nymphs are evident, and a mid-dorsal ridge occurs on the head and thorax.

Image above by permission, copyright Sunil Joshi & Poorani, J. Aphids of Karnataka (accessed 12/2/20).

Cerataphis brasiliensis is native to South-east Asia where it galls its primary host, gum benjamin (kemenyan, Styrax benzoin). Emigrant alatae then colonise the secondary host, palms of various species especially coconut palms (Cocos nucifera) and fan palms (e.g. Livistona chinensis) and sometimes oil palm (Elaeis guineensis). Immatures can often be seen walking around the plant, but adults are mainly sedentary. Populations on palms are often attended by ants. Outside South-east Asia anholocyclic populations on palms are common in the tropics and subtropics and also in greenhouses in temperate climates. Cerataphis brasiliensis was disseminated worldwide by the international commerce of living palm plants which began in the early 20th century.


Other aphids on the same host

Primary host

Cerataphis brasiliensis has been recorded on 1 Styrax species (Styrax benzoin).

Secondary host


Damage and control

Young coconut palms may suffer substantial damage from palm aphids (Cerataphis brasiliensis), both direct feeding damage and from sooty mould growing on the honeydew deposits. For more on the economic importance and management of palm aphids see Wells (2012-22).


We are grateful to Shigeyuki Aoki & Utako Kurosu, Sunil Joshi & J. Poorani, and Roger Blackman for permitting us to use their images on this page.

We have used the keys and species accounts of Noordam (1991), Russell (1996) and Aoki & Kurosu (2010) together with those of 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


  • Aoki, S. & Kurosu, U. (2010). A review of the biology of Cerataphidini (Hemiptera, Aphididae, Hormaphidinae), focusing mainly on their life cycles, gall formation, and soldiers. Psyche 2010, Article ID 380381, 34 pp. Full text

  • Noordam, D. (1991). Hormaphidinae from Java (Homoptera: Aphididae). Zool. Verh. Leiden 270, 1-525. Full text

  • Russell, L.M. (1996). Notes on Cerataphis brasiliensis and synonyms palmae, variabilis and fransseni (Homoptera: Aphididae), with a key to Cerataphis species living on palms and orchids. Proc. Entomol. Soc. Wash. 98(3), 439-449. Full text

  • Wells, B.C. (2012-22). Palm aphids Cerataphis brasiliensis (Hempel) (Insecta: Hemiptera: Aphidae: Hormaphidinae). Entomology and Nematology Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Florida. 4pp. Full text