Identification & Distribution:
Immature Drepanosiphum acerinum (see first picture below) are pale yellow-green or pinkish green with long cylindrical siphunculi and red eyes. All adult viviparae are alates. These alates are pale whitish-green to chrome yellow, with thoracic lobes darker (see second picture below). The forewings may have dusky spots at the ends of the veins, but the pigment does not extend between the vein endings (cf. Drepanosiphum aceris which has a dusky patch at the end of the forewing). There are often one or two short brown bars on abdominal tergites 4-5 only (cf. Drepanosiphum platanoidis which never has black bands across abdominal tergites 4-5 only), and usually a conspicuous brown-black spot in front of the base of each siphunculus (see second picture below). The siphunculi are only slightly swollen, and are either entirely or distally dark or black. The long antennae are pale but the segments have brownish tips. The body length of an adult Drepanosiphum acerinum is 2.1- 3.3 mm.
Drepanosiphum acerinum aphids live on sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) saplings in the shade. Sexual forms occur in September-October. The species is found throughout Europe, except the Baltic region.
Biology & Ecology:
In Britain Drepanosiphum acerinum is the least common of the four aphid species that live on sycamore - the others are Drepanosiphum platanoidis, Periphyllus acericola and Periphyllus testudinaceus. It is described by Stroyan (1977) as being local. It is the last of these species to hatch from the eggs, well after bud burst in late April when the leaves are nearly fully grown. Unlike the common sycamore aphid, the sapling sycamore aphid reproduces all summer with no aestivation. The picture below shows some immature nymphs we found on sycamore in mid-August.
The picture below shows an alatiform fourth instar nymph.
Wellings (1981) has shown that at high temperatures the growth rate of the sapling sycamore aphid is significantly higher than that of the common sycamore aphid. Dixon & Hopkins (2010) comment that this seems to indicate that it is not poor nutrition but high temperatures that make sycamore a poor host for some other aphid species in mid-summer leading them to aestivate. The picture below shows a Drepanosiphum acerinum adult alate extruding a drop of honeydew.
Oviparae (see pictures below) and males are produced in October.
As with the ovipara of Drepanosiphum aceris, the abdomen behind the siphunculi is produced into an ovipositor-like extension.
After mating, overwintering eggs are laid on the sycamore saplings.
Other aphids on same host:
Drepanosiphum acerinum has been recorded on 7 Acer species (Acer campestre, Acer ibericum, Acer monspessulanum, Acer obtusatum, Acer opalus, Acer pseudoplatanus, Acer pseudoplatanus).
Blackman & Eastop list 12 species of aphid as feeding on sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) worldwide, and provide formal identification keys.
Of those aphid species, Baker (2015) lists 8 as occurring in Britain:
Damage and control
Drepanosiphum acerinum is a relatively rare species so control is not normally an issue. However, there is evidence that it is a vector of Maple Leaf perforation virus (Sutakova, 1984) which could be a problem for ornamental varieties.
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).
- Dixon, A.F.G. & Hopkins, G.W. (2010). Temperature, seasonal development and distribution of insects with particular reference to aphids. pp 129-147 in Kindlemann, P. et al. (eds) Chapter 8: Aphid Biodiversity under Environmental change. Springer. Abstract
- Heie, O.E. (1982). The Aphidoidea of Fennoscandia and Denmark. II. Drepanosiphidae. Fauna entomologica scandinavica 11, 176 pp.
- Stroyan, H.L.G. (1977). Homoptera: Aphidoidea (Part) - Chaitophoridae and Callaphidae. Handbooks for the identification of British insects. 2(4a) Royal Entomological Society of London.
- Sutakova, G. (1984). Distribution of virus-, mycoplasma- and rickettsia-like organisms in tissues of Drepanosiphum acerinum (Homoptera, Aphididae). Acta Entomol. Bohemoslov 81(4), 241-245.
- Wellings, P.W. (1981). The effect of temperature on the growth and reproduction of two closely related aphid species on sycamore. Ecological Entomology 6(2), 209-214. Abstract
Nigel Gilligan, 9 March 2014, starting to attempt to ID aphids
I am just starting to sort out and identify (being optimistic?) my aphid [photos], and have thrown most away.
I am left with about 10 possibles which have half-decent photos, though not of fine features like small hairs on antennae.
Some look quite distinctive, colour-wise. Only one was on a plant. All I can think of doing is check the aphids on the common trees we have here, in the hope that I will get lucky.
By the way, is the feature of branches on the wing veins of use for ID. I have one which appears to have only one branch in all?
To probably start on a bad foot, this one was found on a car roof beneath sycamores. To me it looks like the nymph of Drepanosiphum acerinum, with wing buds evident, and a U-shaped feature on the abdomen (but that may be nothing distinctive, I guess).
Images copyright Nigel Gilligan, all rights reserved.
Bad start? (I think in general the rest I have for ID are adults, and slightly better resolution)
It is definitely a Drepanosiphum nymph, although I'm not sure it has wing buds.
As for species, most of the third/fourth instar nymphs of Drepanosiphum acerinum that I have photographed do have the dark green markings dorsally, but it is not an accepted diagnostic characteristic. Unfortunately it is very rare to find descriptions of immature stages in the aphid literature. The only reason I knew the ones shown on our website were that species was because I reared them through to adults.
So I would say probably Drepanosiphum acerinum.
Wing venation is sometimes (but not often) useful for identification, but only at the generic level.
In case they are of assistance, as promised awhile back, we are gradually producing a series of pages on identifying and finding aphids. You can find the pages in our blog.