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Genus Eriosoma

Woolly aphids

On this page: Genus Eriosoma Eriosoma lanigerum Eriosoma lanuginosum Eriosoma ulmi

Genus Eriosoma [Calaphidini]

Both winged and wingless Eriosoma aphids have rather conspicuous siphuncular pores with partially chitinized rims surrounded by a ring of hairs. Most species are wax-covered. The forewing of winged individuals usually has only one branch in the medial vein.

There are about 35 species most of which host alternate between galls on elm (Ulmaceae) and secondary hosts such as apple (Rosaceae) and currants (Grossulariaceae). They typically have a sexual stage in the life cycle. Eriosoma aphids are not attended by ants.


Eriosoma lanigerum (Woolly apple aphid)

On their secondary host (apple) Eriosoma lanigerum wingless females are purple, red or brown and are covered in thick white flocculent wax. This is produced by distinct wax glands on the head and along the thorax and abdomen. The six segmented antennae are 0.17-0.24 times the length of the body. The body length of Eriosoma lanigerum apterae is 1.2-2.6 mm.

Winged viviparous females (shown in the second picture above) have a brown-black head and thorax and a brown abdomen. Their antennae are about 0.4 times the length of the body. The siphunculi are reduced to a pair of rings on the posterior dorsum of the abdomen. The fourth instar alatiform nymph of Eriosoma lanigerum (shown in the picture below) is reddish brown with very small wax glands and consequently much less wax.

Wingless females of woolly apple aphids live in dense colonies on the roots, trunk or branches of the (secondary) host apple (Malus) where it is a serious pest, often causing deformation and cancer-like swellings of bark. Eriosoma lanigerum is also found on related species, such as hawthorn (Crataegus) and Cotoneaster. In most parts of the world, sexual forms have never been found on apple, and overwintering is in fissures on the lower part of the trunk and on the roots. sexuparae producing oviparae and males on apple have been reported in a few countries, with eggs laid on apple, but no resultant fundatrices have been found. In North America aphids of the Eriosoma lanigerum group (which includes several species closely-related to Eriosoma lanigerum, in USA) induce leaf-rosette galls on American elm (Ulmus americana). Some authorities classify such aphids as Eriosoma lanigerum. Others believe that Eriosoma lanigerum (in the strict sense) has lost its primary host and classify the (elm-feeding) host-alternating species as different species within the Eriosoma lanigerum species group.



Eriosoma lanuginosum (Elm balloon-gall aphid)

In spring the Eriosoma lanuginosum fundatrix and her offspring develop in large, closed, bloated-leaf galls (see first picture below) on various elm (Ulmus) species. This gall is produced by extreme enlargement of the cells of the leaf parenchyma on one side of the mid-rib near its base. The gall tissue is light green at first and covered with fine white hairs, becoming brown as the gall matures. There are often clusters of galls near the ends of branches (see second picture below). The fundatrix which initiates the gall is blackish and wax powdered (not pictured), but the offspring of the fundatrix (known as fundatrigeniae) are wax-powdered, wingless and yellowish when immature.

First image copyright Sarah Gregg under a creative commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 licence
Second image copyright Gyorgy Csoka, Hungary Forest Research Institute, under a creative commons CC BY-SA 3.0 licence

Alates produced in the second and third generations on elm are dark green to black and wax powdered (see first picture below). The body length of the adult Eriosoma lanuginosum alate is 2.1-3.1 mm. Apterae on the secondary hosts are pale yellow to reddish, with an adult body length of 2.0-2.7 mm.

The alates leave the galls on elm in late June-July and migrate to found colonies on fibrous rootlets of pear (Pyrus communis) or quince (Cydonia). The return migration to elm bark occurs in September. Eriosoma lanuginosum occurs throughout Europe, the Mediterranean area, and Asia east to Pakistan.



Eriosoma ulmi (Elm-currant aphid)

In spring Eriosoma ulmi fundatrices develop in yellowish or whitish green galls on elm (see first picture below). The fundatrices and their apterous offspring are dark green and wax-covered. The six segmented antennae are 0.18-0.2 times the length of the body, with a terminal process that is a quarter of the length of the base of the last antennal segment. There are no siphunculi or siphuncular pores. Their alatiform offspring are brownish or dull green (cf. Eriosoma grossulariae which has light green immature alatae).

The adult winged viviparae of Eriosoma ulmi are dark green to bluish grey (see second picture above) with dark cross bands on the abdomen. The antennae are about half the length of the body. There are no secondary rhinaria on the fifth antennal segment (cf. Eriosoma crataegi & Eriosoma lanigerum which have 4-8 secondary rhinaria on the fifth antennal segment). Also the antennal terminal process is short and thick (cf. Eriosoma grossulariae which has the terminal process longer and thinner). The siphuncular pores are large and sited on low dark hairy cones.

The elm-currant aphid host alternates from the primary host elm (Ulmus spp.) to the secondary host, the roots of currant (Ribes). Eriosoma ulmi is found in Europe and much of Asia, eastward to Mongolia and China. It has recently been introduced into Canada.



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).

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