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Aphidinae : Macrosiphini : Muscaphis cuspidati


Muscaphis cuspidati = Muscaphis cuspidata

Pointed spear-moss aphid

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

Identification & Distribution

Adult apterae of Muscaphis cuspidati (see first picture below) are dark greenish brown, with a shiny black dorsum and siphunculi, and brown antennae and legs (cf. Muscaphis escherichi, which are shiny red-brown, ochreous or olive brown). The body is broad, oval and somewhat flattened. The antennae are usually 5-segmented, about half the body length, with a distinctly tapering terminal process, 1.2-1.5 times the base of antennal segment V (cf. Muscaphis escherichi, which has the terminal process 0.6-1.2 times the base of segment V; and cf. Muscaphis musci, which has the terminal process 2.0-3.3 times the base). Antennal hairs are small and fine. The rostrum is short, reaching about the mid-coxae, with the apical rostral segment about as long as the second hind tarsal segment. The dorsum of the head and body is entirely sclerotic except for the first two thoracic and last abdominal segments. It is coarsely sculptured with blunt papillae, especially on the head and body margins, where they form hydrofuge (=hydrophobic, water-repellent) tracts which retain an air film when the aphid is submerged in water. The siphunculi are large horn-shaped structures, about 2.5 times the caudal length, bluntly pointed with small, inconspicuous, preapical pores on the outer side. The cauda is blunt finger-shaped with two pairs of fine lateral hairs. The body length of adult Muscaphis cuspidati apterae is 0.9-1.3 mm.

Images above copyright Anders Albrecht, under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

The alate Muscaphis cuspidati (not pictured) does not have a papillate dorsal cuticle. The antennae are about 0.75 times the body length, and the terminal process is 1.6-2.2 times the base of the last antennal segment. Secondary rhinaria are distributed 15-24 on antennal segment III, and 4-13 on segment IV (for 6-segmented antennae, there are 5-7 on segment V). The ovipara (see second picture above) is similar to the apterous vivipara, but has much thicker hind tarsi, most likely covered with scent plaques. There is also a special overwintering nymphal form which has the dorsum mostly sclerotic with numerous papillae. Antennae are 5-segmented, about 0.6 times the body, with the terminal process about 2 times the base of the apical segment. Siphunculi are converging, about 0.13 times the body, with apertures on the outer sides close to the apices. Body length is about 0.9 mm.

Muscaphis cuspidati is monoecious on mosses (Calliergonella cuspidata, Drepanocladus aduncus, Brachythecium rivulare). They feed on the moss close to or below water-level. The aphid can live submerged, apparently because the papillate sculpturing of the cuticle is able to trap a layer of air around the body. Muscaphis cuspidati is generally considered to be anholocyclic, and some of the population undoubtedly overwinter as the special overwintering nymphal form. However, Albrecht (2015) pictures an ovipara identified as this species on Brachythecium rivulare. This finding is problematic since many (if not all) Muscaphis species use mosses as secondary hosts, and oviparae should occur on the primary host. So far males have not been described, so it remains uncertain whether holocyclic populations persist, and if so on which host, but it seems very likely that somewhere they do. Muscaphis cuspidati is known from several northern European countries, including Finland, the Czech Republic, England and Germany.


Other aphids on the same host

Muscaphis cuspidati has been recorded on 3 species of mosses (Calliergonella cuspidata, Drepanocladus aduncus, Brachythecium rivulare).

  • Blackman & Eastop list at least 16 species of aphid as feeding on mosses worldwide, and provide formal identification keys. (Show World list). Of those aphid species, Baker (2015) lists 9 as occurring in Britain (Show British list).

  • Blackman & Eastop list 4 species of aphid as feeding on pointed spear-moss (Calliergonella cuspidata) worldwide, and provide formal identification keys (Show World list). Of those aphid species, Baker (2015) lists 15 as occurring in Britain (Show British list).

  • Blackman & Eastop list only Muscaphis cuspidati for Knieff's hook-moss (Drepanocladus aduncus).

  • Blackman & Eastop in the text gives river feather-moss (Brachythecium rivulare) as a host, quoting Albrecht (2015), but it is not included in their listing of aphids on Brachythecium. Myzodium mimulicola is the only aphid given for Brachythecium rivulare.


We are grateful to Anders Albrecht for making his images of Muscaphis cuspidati available for use under a creative commons licence.

We have used the species accounts given by Stroyan (1955) & Heie (1992), together with information from Albrecht (2015) and 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 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


  • Albrecht, A.C. (2015). Identification guide to Nordic aphids associated with mosses, horsetails and ferns (Bryophyta, Equisetophyta, Polypodiophyta) (Insecta, Hemiptera, Aphidoidea). European Journal of Taxonomy 145 1-55. Full text

  • Heie, Ole E. (1992). The Aphidoidea (Hemiptera) of Fennoscandia and Denmark. IV. Family Aphididae: Part I of tribe Macrosiphini and subfamily Aphidinae. Fauna Entomologica Scandinavica 25, 1-189. (p. 173).

  • Stroyan, H.L.G. (1955). Recent additions to the British aphid fauna. Part II. Transactions of the Royal Entomological Society of London 106(7), 283-340. (p. 304) Abstract