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Identify the most commonly seen British aphidsOn this page: Blackfly, Greenfly, Giant willow aphid Cypress aphid Woolly apple aphid Woolly beech aphid Elm - currant aphid Black bean aphid Elder aphid Willowherb aphid Campion aphids Plum - thistle aphid Potato aphid Rose aphid Common nettle aphid Common periphyllus aphid Common sycamore aphid Glasshouse potato aphid, Foxglove aphid Common lime aphid Spotted green pine needle aphid Mealy plum aphid Hellebore aphid
The species below are those most commonly uploaded to the Open University's iSpot project, grouped by color. They appear on this list partly because of their abundance, but probably more importantly, their high visibility due to large size, colouration and/or effects on their host plant.
Note: Whilst a few aphid species feed on many plant species, many aphid species usually occur on one or two host plant species.
Tuberolachnus salignus (Giant willow aphid)
Tuberolachnus salignus are very large aphids with a body length of 5.0-5.8 mm. Apterae are mid-brown to dark brown with several rows of black sclerotic patches. The body is covered with numerous fine hairs, which give a greyish-golden sheen to the abdomen. There is a large dark brown tubercle in the centre of the back, just in front of the siphunculi which are on large dark cones. The antennae are less than half the body length. Alates have the forewing membrane unpigmented but the pterostigma and costal margin are dark brown.
The giant willow aphid lives on the stems and branches of numerous willows & sallows (Salix spp.) and is also very occasionally recorded from Poplar (Populus). Its distribution is almost cosmopolitan wherever willows are grown.
Other aphids on willow
Cinara cupressi (Cypress aphid)
Cinara cupressi apterae are mainly orange brown to yellowish brown, with a blackish markings diverging back from the thorax. In life the dorsum is dusted with pale grey wax making a pattern of rather interrupted cross-bands. The whole aphid is clothed with fine hairs. There is also a rather indistinct blackish band between the black siphuncular cones. The distal parts of the femora and the bases of the tibiae are dusky or dark. The body length of Cinara cupressi apterae is 1.8-3.9 mm.
Cinara cupressi is found most commonly on cypress (Cupressus spp.) but also occurs on Thuja, Juniperus, Chamaecyparis and Widdringtonia. Oviparae and alate males occur in October in Europe. The cypress aphid is considered to be one of the world's 100 worst invasive alien species. It occurs in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. It causes severe direct feeding damage and is a vector of Cyprus canker.
Other Cinara aphids.
Eriosoma lanigerum (Woolly apple aphid)
Eriosoma lanigerum wingless females on the secondary host 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 apterae is 1.2-2.6 mm.
The wingless females live in dense colonies on the roots, trunk or branches of the (secondary) host apple (Malus) and related species, often causing deformation and cancer-like swellings of bark. Sexual forms appear to have been lost, and overwintering is in fissures on the lower part of the trunk and on the roots. It is a pest of apple throughout the world.
Other aphids on apple
Phyllaphis fagi (Woolly beech aphid)
Phyllaphis fagi wingless viviparae are elongate oval, pale yellowish green, covered with wax wool. The antennae are slightly shorter than the body. The body length of apterae is usually 2.0-3.2 mm, but summer dwarfs may be down to 1.1 mm. Winged viviparae have the abdomen wax-covered, which conceals variably-developed dark dorsal cross-bars.
The woolly beech aphid is found feeding on the undersides of young leaves of beech (Fagus spp.). This causes the leaves to curl downwards on both sides of the mid-rib, and often to wither and die prematurely. It is distributed throughout Europe, and more recently has been reported from China, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and North America.
Other aphids on beech
Eriosoma ulmi (Elm-currant aphid)
Eriosoma ulmi fundatrices in spring develop in yellowish or whitish green galls on elm. These are formed by downward curling, twisting and blistering of one edge of a leaf. 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, There are no siphunculi or siphuncular pores. Their alatiform offspring are brownish or dull green. The adult winged viviparae are dark green to bluish grey with dark cross bands on the abdomen. The antennae are about half the length of the body. 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 currant (Ribes). It is found in Europe and much of Asia, eastward to Mongolia and China. It has recently been introduced into Canada.
Other aphids on elm
Aphis fabae (Black bean aphid)
Aphis fabae is a black or very dark brown species with a variable abdominal sclerotic pattern. The siphunculi and cauda are dark. The antennae have joints of segments III-IV and base of segment V usually quite pale. Apterae often, and immatures very often, have discrete white wax spots. The body length of apterae is 1.2-2.9 mm.
The black bean aphid host alternates between spindle (Euonymus europaeus) as the primary host and many herbaceous plant species as secondary hosts. Sexual forms occur in autumn. It is found throughout the northern continents, and has been introduced to many tropical and subtropical countries. In Europe there is a complex of subspecies which can only be distinguished by their choice of secondary host coupled with transfer experiments. These include Aphis fabae fabae which migrates to broad beans (Vicia faba), poppies (Papaver spp.) and beet (Beta vulgaris), and Aphis fabae cirsiiacanthoidis which migrates to thistle (Cirsium arvense).
Other Aphis aphids.
Aphis sambuci (Elder aphid)
Aphis sambuci apterae on elder are very variable in colour from dark green through to yellowish brown; on the secondary host they are usually dark green. Adults and immatures often have white waxy stripes across the sides of the abdominal segments. Antennae, siphunculi and legs blackish on the primary host and brownish in root colonies. The cauda is dark and bluntly tapering. The body length of apterae is 2.0-3.5 mm.
The elder aphid normally host alternates between elder (Sambucus nigra) in spring where it forms dense colonies, and the roots and root collars of various herbs such as docks (Rumex) and campions (Silene). Sexual forms of Aphis sambuci occur in autumn. It is strongly ant attended on the primary host and sheltered by ants on the secondary host roots. It occurs throughout the northern continents.
Aphis epilobii (Willowherb aphid)
Aphis epilobii is a blackish-green to reddish-brown aphid which appears dark-grey to pinkish-brown because of the rather uniform powdering of wax. The siphunculi and basal parts of the antennae are pale but the cauda is dusky or dark. The body length of apterae is 1.3-2.1 mm. The abdominal dorsum of Aphis epilobii is membranous with only a dusky narrow band across tergites 8 and sometimes 7. The siphunculi are 1-1.6 times the length of the cauda. The lack of marginal tubercles on tergites 2-6 distinguish it from the similar Aphis grossulariae.
The willowherb aphid does not host alternate. Sexual forms occur in autumn. It feeds on broad-leaved willowherb (Epilobium montanum spp.) or more rarely other Epilobium species. It is not usually ant attended. It is widely distributed throughout Europe.
Other Aphis aphids.
Brachycaudus lychnidis sp group (Campion aphids)
The dorsal abdomen of Brachycaudus lychnidis apterae has an extensive solid shiny black shield with the underside red-brown. The median frontal tubercle is about as high as the antennal tubercles. The antennae are 0.6-0.8 of the body length. The legs have the fore femora pale with dorsally dark apex; the hind femora are dusky with a pale base. The tibiae are pale with the apex and base dark. The siphunculi are dark truncated conical, and the cauda is rounded or semi-oval.
The campion aphids include Brachycaudus klugkisti and Brachycaudus lychnidis both of which live all year on red campion (Silene dioica) and related species. These two Brachycaudus species cannot (as yet) be separated in photos. Brachycaudus lychnicola also has the same host but lives at the base of the plant - all those we have found live on the upper parts of the plant.
Other Brachycaudus aphids.
Brachycaudus cardui (Plum - thistle aphid)
Brachycaudus cardui apterae are brownish-yellow, pale green or brown, with a large black spot situated dorsally on the abdomen and 2 or 3 black stripes at the tip. The siphunculi are black, thick and cylindrical and 1.7-3.4× the length of the cauda. The rostrum is long and reaches the hind coxae. The body length of apterae is 1.8-2.4 mm. Immatures often have reddish patches on a greenish background.
The primary hosts are various Prunus species, mainly cherry, plum and apricot. Aphids migrate to various wild and cultivated daisies (Asteraceae) especially thistle (Carduus and Cirsium spp.). Infested leaves undergo severe curling. Dense colonies occur at the base of flower heads and on the leaves. A return migration to primary hosts occurs in autumn. The plum-thistle aphid is found throughout Britain and Europe as well as in Asia, north Africa and North America.
Other aphids on plum and cherry, aphids on thistles
Macrosiphum euphorbiae (Potato aphid)
Macrosiphum euphorbiae apterae are either green with a darker green longitudinal stripe or red, and are often rather shiny. The eyes are reddish and the antennae are darker towards their tips. The femora are brownish and rather pale with the apices not dark or only slightly so. The siphunculi are pale sometimes with the tips darker, but not as dark as the tips of the tibiae. They are 1.7-2.2 times the length of the cauda. The cauda is rather pointed and not constricted. The body length of apterae is 2.0-4.0 mm.
The potato aphid is a common and highly polyphagous species. It does not usually host alternate but overwinters as viviparae. It can be a pest on various crops as well as on numerous garden ornamentals and is an especial problem in unheated greenhouses. It was originally a North American species but is now cosmopolitan, and is a vector of about one hundred plant viruses.
Other polyphagous aphids.
Macrosiphum rosae (Rose aphid)
Macrosiphum rosae apterae are green or red. The antennae and sometimes the head are dark, as are the ends of the tibiae and femora. The siphunculi are black and bent outwards. They are about 0.27-0.41 times the body length, 1.9-2.4 times the length of the cauda and are reticulated on the apical 10-17%.
The rose aphid sometimes host alternates from the primary host rose (Rosa) to the secondary hosts, teasels (Dipsaceae) and valerians (Valerianaceae). However, colonies can be found all summer on rose and the species is an important horticultural pest.
Other Macrosiphum aphids.
Microlophium carnosum (Common nettle aphid)
Microlophium carnosum is a large spindle-shaped aphid. The wingless adults are various shades of green, pink or reddish purple. The antennae are much longer than the full body length. The siphunculi are long - 2.3 to 3.1 times the length of the cauda; they are tapering with flared apices. The body length of apterae is 3.1-4.3 mm. The winged adult has dark marginal sclerites, but only faint spino-pleural markings.
There is a sexual stage in the life cycle, but there is no host alternation. Common nettle aphids live on stems and leaves of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). They are generally common and often abundant throughout Europe and Asia east to Mongolia, Africa & North America. They are not ant-attended.
Other aphids on nettles
Periphyllus testudinaceus (Common periphyllus aphid)
Periphyllus testudinaceus apterae are dirty dark green to dark brown or blackish and have a clear pattern of dark abdominal sclerites. The siphunculi are brown and short. The tibiae have a very pale middle section which contrasts with their dark base and tip. The cauda is twice as broad as long. The body length is 2.0-3.7 mm. Alates have dark dorsal abdominal cross-bands and marginal sclerites, which are darker than the light brown pterostigma of the wing.
The common periphyllus aphid is found on the young growth, leaves and leaf petioles of many maple species including field maple (Acer campestre) and sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus). It is often attended by ants. It is found throughout Europe and has been introduced to other parts of the world including New Zealand and North America. It is the most abundant Periphyllus in Britain, in some years exceeding numbers of Drepanosiphum platanoidis.
Other aphids on maple and sycamore in Britain
Drepanosiphum platanoidis (= platanoides) (Common sycamore aphid)
All adult viviparae of Drepanosiphum platanoidis are winged. They have a yellow-brown head and thorax with darker brown markings, and a pale green abdomen. Those that develop early or late in the year have cross-bars present, but these are never restricted to abdominal tergites 4-5. Alates that develop in mid-summer are much paler and have no cross bars. The antennae are brown and the siphunculi are pale with a brown tip. The forewing has no black spots on it. The body length is 3.2-4.3mm.
The aphid lives on the undersides of leaves of sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus). It is also recorded from many other Acer spp., as well as a wide variety of other trees which are apparently only visited on a casual basis. Sexual forms occur in September-November. It is a cosmopolitan species which is common on sycamores wherever they are grown. In Britain it is abundant in some years, less so in others.
Other Drepanosiphum aphids.
Aulacorthum solani (Glasshouse potato aphid, Foxglove aphid)
Aulacorthum solani apterae are pear shaped and shiny greenish yellow, usually with a bright green or rust coloured patch at the base of each siphunculus. The antennae have darkened joints and are slightly longer than the body. The siphunculi are pale with dark tips, long, slender, tapered and distinctly flanged. The body length of apterae is 1.5-3.0 mm. The winged forms have darker antennae, legs and siphunculi and a pattern of tranverse dark bars on the dorsal abdomen.
In temperate climates most of the population overwinters as nymphs or apterae, especially on potato sprouts and on many glasshouse plants and wild species such as foxglove (Digitalis). The high toxicity of its saliva results in direct feeding damage to potatoes and peppers. It is an important virus vector in glasshouses. Its distribution is virtually cosmopolitan.
Another foxglove aphid
Eucallipterus tiliae (Common lime aphid)
Eucallipterus tiliae winged forms are pale yellow with black markings, including lateral stripes on head and prothorax and two rows of black dorsal abdominal spots. These markings may be less well developed on the fourth instar nymphs. The forewing has a dark front edge and dark spots at the tips of the oblique veins. The antennae are black with the middle part of segment 3, the bases of segments 4 and 5, and all of 6 paler. The short truncate siphunculi are dark or dusky. The body length of winged females is 1.88-3.0 mm.
The common lime aphid is found on the undersides of leaves of lime (Tilia spp.) in Europe, south-west and central Asia and north Africa. It has been introduced to North America and New Zealand.
Other Eucallipterus aphids.
Eulachnus agilis (Spotted green pine needle aphid)
Eulachnus agilis apterae are spindle-shaped, bright green with numerous dark spots and no wax. They are small with a body length of only 1.6-2.3 mm. The hind legs often have mottled pigmentation.
The spotted green pine needle aphid is found feeding on old needles on many Pines (Pinus spp.), but especially common on Scots pine (P. sylvestris). Occurs throughout Europe, and parts of Asia and introduced to North America. It does not host alternate.
Other aphids on pine
Hyalopterus pruni (Mealy plum aphid)
Hyalopterus pruni aptera is a small to medium sized aphid with an elongate shape. It is usually pale green with a fine darker green mottling, covered with wax meal. The antennae are quite short, between 0.5 - 0.75 times the body length. The siphunculi are very short, and are thicker and darker towards the apex. The cauda is 1.5 - 3.0 times longer than the siphunculi. The body length of apterae is 1.5-2.6 mm. The winged form is green with white wax patches on the dorsum of each abdominal segment.
The mealy plum aphid host-alternates between its winter host - Prunus species, mainly plum but also peach, apricot and almond, and its summer host - reeds (Phragmites), giant cane (Arundo donax) and some other wetland grasses. Some aphids remain on plum all the year round.
Other aphids on plum and cherry
Macrosiphum hellebori (Hellebore aphid)
Macrosiphum hellebori apterae are yellowish green with darker marbling, with dark apices to the antennal segments, femora, tibiae and siphunculi. The siphunculi are 1.9-2.6 times the length of the cauda. The terminal process of antennal segment VI is 4.6-7.9 times the length of its base.
Macrosiphum hellebori lives in sometimes large colonies on the undersides of leaves of Helleborus spp. On mainland Europe it overwinters in the egg stage and oviparae and alate males are found in autumn. In Britain it overwinters mainly as viviparae. It is found in Europe and has been introduced to New Zealand and Australia.
Other Macrosiphum aphids.
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Note, we have practical tips on identifying live aphids from photos, and a guide to aphid genera.
Blackman & Eastop provide formal identification keys for non-beginners to identify aphids found worldwide.