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Genus Mindarus

Fir twig aphids

On this page: Genus Mindarus Mindarus abietinus

Genus Mindarus [Pemphigini]

Wingless Mindarus forms have a fused head and pronotum and well well-developed wax glands which produce a covering of wax wool. Their antennae are short. The siphunculi are pore-like and the cauda is bluntly triangular. Winged forms have forewings with an elongate pterostigma, tapering to a point at the wing apex. Oviparae and males are wingless and reduced in size.

There are 8 or more Mindarus species worldwide, feeding on the growing tips and young cones of spruces or firs. They have a sexual stage in the life cycle, but there is no host alternation and Mindarus aphids are not attended by ants.

 

Mindarus abietinus (balsam twig aphid)

The wingless viviparae of Mindarus abietinus are yellowish green and covered with wax powder and long tendrils of accumulated wax (cf. Prociphilus fraxinii and Prociphilus bumeliae, which are also wax covered, but feed on the roots of Abies). The antennae and legs are distinctly darker. Wax pore plates are almost always absent from the prothorax and abdominal tergites I & II, and only constantly present on abdominal tergites VI & VII (cf. most other Mindarus species feeding on Abies, which have wax pore plates on the prothorax and often also on abdominal tergites II-VII). The body length of apterae is 1.7-2.0 mm.

The winged viviparae of Mindarus abietinus (see second picture above) have dark dorsal abdominal cross-bands. Antennal segment III has 12-27 rhinaria in a single row, mostly extending across the complete segment width. The alate body length is 1.5-2.7 mm.

The balsam twig aphid is found on young shoots of fir (Abies species) especially silver fir (Abies alba) and Nordmann fir (Abies nordmanniana). Eggs hatch in spring and there are then three generations. Small apterous sexual forms are produced in June and the females lay eggs which hatch the following spring. Mindarus abietinus is found throughout Europe, as well as the Middle East, Pakistan and possibly India and parts of the Far East. It may cause serious damage or kill young shoots, or cause deformation and loss of needles. There is also some evidence that infestations affect susceptibility to spruce budworm.

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Acknowledgements

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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