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Turkey oak aphidOn this page: Identification & Distribution Biology & Ecology Other aphids on the same host
Identification & Distribution
For most of the year, immature Myzocallis boerneri (see first picture below) are pale yellow with paired dusky spinal and marginal spots and many capitate hairs on the dorsum which are much longer and conspicuous than those of the adult viviparae. Adult viviparous alatae of Myzocallis boerneri (see second picture below) are yellowish, with the head and thorax sometimes partly dusky. The dorsal abdomen has a paired row of dark flat-elliptical spinal spots and variably developed marginal spots (cf. Myzocallis castanicola, which has paired black irregular quadrilateral spinal spots and dark marginal spots). The antennae are pale, but ringed with brown-black. The length of the apical rostral segment (RIV+V) is 0.84-1.25 times the length of the second segment of the hind tarsus (HTII) (cf. Myzocallis schreiberi, in which the length of RIV+V is 1.2-1.5 times the length of HTII). The body length of Myzocallis boerneri alatae is 1.3-2.2 mm.
Myzocallis boerneri seem to be more strongly marked in autumn than in spring/summer. The two pictures below show a fourth instar immature, and a viviparous alate found in late September on senescent Turkey oak leaves. The lack of brown spots at the end of the alate's wing veins, and the flattened elliptical shape of the spinal spots, confirms its identity as Myzocallis boerneri. These individuals are likely to be sexuparae, so the darker markings may be characteristics of that morph. Similar dark forms have been found in autumn in the Netherlands (Simon Haarder 2020, pers. comm.).
The Turkey oak aphid lives on the undersides of leaves of several oak (Quercus) species, especially the Turkey oak (Quercus cerris), but also holm oak (Quercus ilex) and sessile oak (Quercus petraea). Myzocallis boerneri is widely distributed in Europe, the Middle East, and has been introduced to New Zealand, California and Argentina.
Biology & Ecology:
In Britain Myzocallis boerneri is (relatively) host specific on turkey oak (see picture below) and without specialized insect natural enemies.
Its life cycle starts when the first generation hatches from overwintering eggs in late April. Two immatures are shown in the picture below.
There is then a distinct seasonal pattern of abundance usually with two peaks in abundance in early summer and mid-autumn.
The sexuparae are produced in September. The picture below shows a colony of developing sexuparae on the underside of a senescing Turkey oak leaf.
The adult sexupara is shown below.
The sexuparae produce sexuales in October-November. The males are alate (see first picture below). They have secondary rhinaria from antennal segment III to the base of segment VI inclusive, with a density of secondary rhinaria on segment III not less than 70 per mm of length. There are transverse dark bands on the abdominal dorsum.
The oviparae (see second picture above) have, like the immatures, capitate body hairs which are very much longer than those of males and adult viviparae. They have no secondary rhinaria on antennal segment III. The inner anterior angle of segment I is usually rather produced at the insertion of a capitate hair, and dusky pigmented. Antennal segment VI is at least a little longer than III, and segment III has l - 2 capitate hairs and 1-4 normal acute ones.
Their numbers are regulated by density dependent processes which have been investigated in depth by Dixon and his co-workers. The seasonal fluctuation in abundance is known to follow changes in host plant quality (Dixon, 1970). By virtue of short generation time and programmed anticipation of seasonal trends these aphids track changes in habitat quality very closely. Migration is the most important factor determining the summer decline in abundance (Kindlmann & Dixon, 1996). Intraspecific competition for resources in summer results in immediate size related reduction in recruitment and increase in the tendency to migrate (Dixon et al., 1996).
Sequeira & Dixon (1996) investigated the seasonal changes in life history traits under field conditions and the effects of high density on body size and reproductive potential of Myzocallis boerneri. Aphid body size is at its maximum in early spring, soon after bud burst, and declines progressively as the turkey oak foliage matures. The fat content of individuals, as a proportion of total weight, remains constant through the season. By comparison a small linear decline in the size of the soma results in an exponential decline in the size of the gonads. At small body size, embryo size is conserved presumably so that the survival of nymphs born in the summer is maximised.
Sequeira & Dixon (1997) analyzed changes in the weekly abundance in two natural populations (i.e. on 2 trees) of Myzocallis boerneri, from 1975 to 1992, using autoregresssion techniques to determine the nature of dynamic processes. Analysis of time-series of weekly and monthly data indicated statistically-detectable seasonality in density changes. The monthly data, with seasonal effects removed, showed that density fluctuates around a seasonally-changing equilibrium value. A statistical test applied to the seasonally-adjusted monthly data revealed density-dependence. Further analysis indicate time-lagged density-dependent processes operating between seasons, and possibly on a shorter time scale of about a month. There was evidence for the existence of a 'see-saw' relationship between density in spring, autumn, and the following spring. The pattern of changes in abundance between years is most likely the consequence of the see-saw effect operating between seasons. Sequeira & Dixon argued that aphid population density was regulated by means of density-dependent processes (mainly intraspecific competition) acting within years, which was reflected in the year-to-year changes in overall abundance.
Jarosik & Dixon (1999) focused on regulation and density-independent processes for the same data (from 2 trees). On one tree the aphids exhibited a distinct seasonal pattern with a spring increase, summer decrease, early autumn increase, and late autumn decline. Significant under-compensating density-dependence occurred during all periods of the seasonal population development, and their strength varied little during the course of the season. On the other tree the aphids remained at low densities after the decrease in summer. Significant density dependence compensated exactly for spring increase, but appeared only after the decrease in summer when the population remained at very low densities for the rest of the season. Density-independent weather-variables affected the population dynamics very little. Their influence was marginally significant only at very low densities, when the aphids were regulated exactly by compensating density-dependent factors. The results suggest a curvilinear density-dependence, with strong regulation at low densities, and weak at high densities. In other words this aphid was most regulated not at the peak but at the trough densities.
Although many natural enemies, such as coccinellid and syrphid larvae (see pictures below) can be found attacking Myzocallis boerneri, they are not generally thought to play a major role in its population regulation.
There does not appear to be a host-specific parasitoid, at least not in Britain.
Other aphids on same host:
Myzocallis boerneri has been recorded from at least 14 Quercus species.
Blackman & Eastop list about 225 species of aphids as feeding on oaks worldwide, and provides formal identification keys for aphids on Quercus.