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Aphidinae : Macrosiphini : Dysaphis lappae


Dysaphis lappae

Subspecies lappae (Burdock mealy root aphid)

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

Identification & Distribution:

Colonies of Dysaphis lappae are attended by ants which tent the colony on the basal parts of Arctium spp. (burdock), in this case completely covering it with sand and plant fragments (see first picture below). Adult apterae of Dysaphis lappae are dirty olive greenish to brownish, sometimes with a purple tinge (see second picture below). Older adults may have yellowish margins to the abdomen. The rostrum reaches behind the hind coxae. There are rather large marginal tubercles on the prothorax and abdominal segments I-V. The siphunculi are about 1.5-2.0 times the length of the cauda. The body length of female adult apterous Dysaphis lappae is 1.7-2.5 mm.

The alate is pinkish grey, slightly wax powdered with a rather extensive dark dorsal patch (see third picture above). The alate has 37-55 secondary rhinaria on the third antennal segment, 9-19 on the fourth segment and 0-1 on the fifth segment. Dysaphis lappae nymphs are pinkish grey.

The clarified slide mounts below are of adult viviparous female Dysaphis lappae : wingless, and winged.

Micrographs of clarified mounts by permission of Roger Blackman, copyright AWP all rights reserved.

There are three subspecies with different hosts:

  • Dysaphis lappae lappae feeding on Arctium species.
  • Dysaphis lappae cirsii feeding on Cirsium arvense.
  • Dysaphis lappae cynarae feeding on Cynara.

The burdock mealy root aphid lives on the basal parts of stems, root collar and roots of burdock species (Arctium minus, Arctium lappa and Arctium tomentosum). Sexual forms are found in autumn. It is usually attended by ants. Dysaphis lappae is found in Britain, most of Europe, Transcaucasia, Central Asia, Western Siberia, parts of North Africa and introduced to Brazil.


Biology & Ecology:

There is very little information available on the ecology of Dysaphis lappae lappae. Up to 2015, the only British records were those of Theobald (1927) (reported in Blackman (2010)), from Berkshire and Surrey in May. It has also been recorded in Ireland (Carter et al., 1987). Most of the records from other parts of Europe have been of the subspecies on Cirsium and Cynodon, although there have been several records of Dysaphis lappae lappae from Russia.

We found large colonies of this species on the root collar of burdock (Arctium sp.) (see picture above of burdock flowers) at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve in East Sussex on July 30th 2015, and again on August 4th 2015. Removal of soil particles around the root collar revealed the large colony shown below:

Note especially the orange-red suffusion around and between the siphunculi. This is especially prominent on the nymphs, but is also present on the adults (see centre of picture below) as a purplish suffusion in the same area.

The only mention of this localized colour patch in published descriptions of the species is reference to a 'purple tinge'. The colour is lost in alcohol preserved specimens.


Both colonies were ant-attended, which may explain the rather sparse mealy wax covering on these aphids. Colonies were tented over with sand particles and vegetable matter. Once colonies were exposed, the ants departed making no attempt to protect the aphids.


Other aphids on same host:

Dysaphis lappae lappae has been recorded from 3 Arctium species (Arctium minus, Arctium lappa, Arctium tomentosum).

Blackman & Eastop list 27 species of aphid as feeding on burdocks (Arctium species) worldwide, and provide formal identification keys (Show World list). Of those aphid species, Baker (2015) lists 16 as occurring in Britain (Show British list).


Our particular thanks to Roger Blackman for images of his clarified slide mounts.

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


  •  Carter et al. (1987). Species, host plants and distribution of aphids occurring in Ireland. The Irish Naturalists' Journal 22(7), 266-284. Full text