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Aphidinae : Macrosiphini : Microparsus variabilis


Microparsus variabilis

Desmodium aphid

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

Identification & Distribution

Adult apterae of Microparsus variabilis (see first picture below) are predominantly green to yellow-green, with the head, cauda and small areas around the siphunculi yellow to dark orange. Their antennal tubercles are well developed. The antennae are dark except for the basal 0.60-0.67 of segment III which is pale (cf. Microparsus desmodiorum, which has antennal segment III almost wholly dark). Antennal segment III bears 1 or 2 secondary rhinaria. The legs are pale except for the distal ends of the femora, the proximal and distal tips of the tibiae and all of tarsi, which are dusky to black (cf. Microparsus desmodiorum, whose tibiae are wholly dark). There are small light brown antesiphuncular sclerites encircling the anterior of the siphunculi (cf. Microparsus olivei, which has large black presiphuncular and postsiphuncular sclerites, forming rings around the bases of the siphunculi). The siphunculi are black, the base often appearing slightly lighter than the distal half. The cauda and anal plate are pale yellow to orange. The cauda is swollen at the base, and then tapers to a point; it bears 4 to 5 pairs of lateral hairs plus 0-4 dorsal or dorsolateral hairs. The body length of adult Microparsus variabilis apterae is 1.6-2.0 mm. Immatures are yellowish to pale green.

Images above by permission, copyright Claude Pilon, all rights reserved.

The alate Microparsus variabilis vivipara is similar in colour to the apterous vivipara. Antennal segment III bears 2-6 secondary rhinaria. The forewing of the alata has dark cubital veins and the media vein is often 1-branched. Their hind wings lack oblique veins.

Images above by permission, copyright Claude Pilon, all rights reserved.

Microparsus variabilis lives on two genera of the Fabaceae, namely tick trefoils (Desmodium) and hogpeanuts (Amphicarpaea). On tick trefoil it tightly curls the leaves and lives in the leaf crumples. On hogpeanuts it lives on the stems and undersides of the leaves (Hottes & Frison, 1931). Oviparae and alate males have been found in mid-August. The desmodium aphid is found in eastern USA and Canada.


Other aphids on the same host

Microparsus variabilis has been recorded on 3 species of tick trefoil (Desmodium canadense, Desmodium canescens, Desmodium marilandicum).

Microparsus variabilis has been recorded on 1 species of hog peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata).


We are grateful to Claude Pilon for pictures of Microparsus variabilis.

For taxonomic details we have used the accounts of Patch (1909) and Smith (1960) together with information from 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


  • Hottes, F.C. & Frison, T.H. (1931). The Plant Lice, or Aphiidae, of Illinois. Illinois Natural History Survey Bulletin 19(3), 123-447. Full text

  • Patch, E.M. (1909). The Desmodium aphid, Microparsus variabilis n. sp. Ent. News 20(8), 337-41.

  • Smith, C.F. & Tuatay, N. (1960). Genus Microparsus Patch. (Aphidae, Homoptera). Annals of the Entomological Society of America 53(6), 735-742.