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Eriosomatinae : Pemphigini : Mordwilkoja vagabunda


Mordwilkoja vagabunda

Poplar vagabond aphid

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

Identification & Distribution

Galls caused by Mordwilkoja vagabunda are large, irregular, bladder-like growths formed from stipules at the bases of terminal twigs of cottonwood poplars. Young galls are green (see first picture below), but as they mature they develop small, red, blister-like elevations on the peripheral ridges (see second picture below). These later become necrotic and form openings into the gall interior. These holes, whose development coincides closely with the development of alate aphids, allow these migrants to escape the galls. Old galls (see third picture below) turn black, and as such are very conspicuous.

First image above copyright David Kaposi, second image copyright William M. Ciesla, both under a creative common licence;
third image above Séraphin Poudrier, in public domain.

The first-instar fundatrix of Mordwilkoja vagabunda feeds on the ventral surface of a stipule, causing the tip and margins to grow outwards from the stem, thus creating the gall. The fundatrix in the gall has 4-5 segmented antennae, and wax plates on the thorax and abdomen. The offspring of the fundatrix (=fundatrigeniae) are yellow-gray and thickly wax-covered, and develop to emigrant alatae which fly to a secondary host. The fourth instar fundatrigeniae (see first picture below) have wing pads the same color as the thorax, but dark at the base.

The alate emigrant (see second picture below) has the head and thorax brown, and the abdomen green. Their appendages are dusky. The antennae are 6-segmented, with 8-12 elliptical secondary rhinaria on antennal segment III, and 1-3 on segment IV. The terminal process is distinctly longer than the base of antennal segment VI, and bears 2-3 clear spots of unknown function, each with a small dagger-like stipule. The rostrum reaches to between the first and second pairs of coxae. The media vein of the fore wing is simple. The siphunculi are hardly more than mere rings which are often difficult to observe. Wax glands are distributed one pair on each of the prothorax & mesothorax, and two pairs, lateral and dorsal, on each abdominal segment. The cauda and anal plate are rounded. The body length of the alate Mordwilkoja vagabunda emigrant is 1.8-2.4 mm.

Both images above copyright Megachile, in public domain.

Mordwilkoja vagabunda apterae on the secondary host, Lysimachia have 6-segmented antennae. Antennal segment III is as long as, or longer than, segments IV+V together (cf. Thecabius lysimachiae & Thecabius auriculae on Lysimachia which, if antennae are 6-segmented, have segment III distinctly shorter than segments IV+V together). There are wax plates on the abdomen. Siphunculi are absent. Alate sexuparae differ from the emigrant alatae by having the terminal process shorter than the base of antennal segment VI, and by lacking siphunculi.

Mordwilkoja vagabunda host alternates between cottonwood (mainly Populus deltoides) and creeping jenny (Lysimachia spp.). On the primary host they induce large, irregular, multi-lobed galls, formed from the leaf stipules. Emigrant alatae emerge from galls in May-June and found colonies on stems, leaves or roots of creeping jenny (Lysimachia). Mordwilkoja vagabunda is found as a host alternating species in USA and Canada but, what appear to be anholocyclic secondary host generations, have also been found on Lysimachia roots in Germany and Japan.


Other aphids on the same host

Primary hosts

Mordwilkoja vagabunda has been recorded on 3 cottonwood species (Populus acuminata, Populus deltoides deltoides, Populus deltoides occidentalis).

Secondary hosts

Mordwilkoja vagabunda has been recorded on 2 Lysimachia species (Lysimachia nummularia, Lysimachia terrestris).


We are very grateful to Megachile for putting his images in the public domain, and to David Kaposi, William Ciesla, & Seraphin Poudrier for making their images available under creative commons licences.

We have used the keys and species accounts of Jackson (1907), Ignoffo & Granovsky (1961) & Smith (1974), together with those of Roger Blackman & Victor Eastop in Aphids on Worlds Plants. We fully acknowledge these authors (see references below) 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


  • Jackson, C.F. (1907). A synopsis of the genus Pemphigus with notes on their economic importance, life history, and geographical distribution. Proceedings of the Columbus Horticultural Society 22, 160-218 (p. 182).

  • Ignoffo, C.M. & Granovsky, A.A. (1960). Life history and gall development of Mordwilkoja vagabunda (Homoptera: Aphidae) on Populus deltoides. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 54(4), (p. 486). Abstract

  • Smith, C.F. (1974). Keys to and descriptions of the genera of Pemphigini in North America (Homoptera: Aphididae: Pemphiginae). North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station Technical Bulletin 226, 61 pp. (p. 22)