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Aphididae : Aphidinae : Macrosiphini : Nasonovia


Genus Nasonovia

Currant - daisy aphids

On this page: Nasonovia compositellae cynosbati pilosellae ribisnigri

Genus Nasonovia [Macrosiphini]

Nasonovia are medium-sized green or reddish, rather shiny aphids with a well-marked dorsal sclerotic pattern of pigmented paired intersegmental muscle plates. Adult viviparae may be winged or wingless. There are distinct antennal and median tubercles and the antennae are rather long. The siphunculi are cylindrical and rather long, with little or no apical reticulation The cauda is elongate and rather blunt finger-shaped.

There are about 30-45 Nasonovia species worldwide, which host alternate between currants (Grossulariaceae) and various daisies (Asteraceae), among which the most important are lettuce (Lactuca), Crepis and various species of Hieracium. They are not attended by ants. One species, Nasonovia ribisnigri, is an important and cosmopolitan pest of lettuce.


Nasonovia compositellae (Black-backed daisy aphid) Europe

The adult aptera of Nasonovia compositellae has a black head, and black cross bars across the pronotum and mesonotum. There is an extensive shining black dorsal abdominal shield covering the metanotum and abdominal tergites 1-VI , and tergites VII and VIII with black cross bars (see pictures below) (cf. Nasonovia ribisnigri and Nasonovia pilosellae which have no black dorsal abdominal shield, but only dark intersegmental sclerites between each abdominal segment). The body is dark green, often (as here) strongly tinged with orange-red. The antennae are 0.8-0.9 times the body length. The siphunculi are thick at the base and 1.3-1.6 times the length of the cauda. The cauda is finger-shaped with 7 hairs. The body length of the Nasonovia compositellae adult aptera is 1.8-2.5 mm.

There are two subspecies of Nasonovia compositellae:

  • Nasonovia compositellae subspecies compositellae has the antennal terminal process of the aptera from 3.3 to 6.7 (usually less than 5.7) times longer than the base of antennal segment VI (our pictures are all of this subspecies).
  • Nasonovia compositellae subspecies nigra has the antennal terminal process of the aptera from 5.3 to 7.8 (usually more than 5.7) times longer than the base of antennal segment VI.

Nasonovia compositellae feeds on hawkweeds (Hieracium species). In spring it feeds on the upper sides of the leaves which fold upwards to enclose the colonies, and later colonizing stems and flowers. Nasonovia compositellae subspecies compositellae produces sexuales in autumn and overwinters as eggs. It is found in the north and west of England and in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Outside Britain it is only known from Norway and Iceland, so it is a true northern subspecies. Nasonovia compositellae ssp. nigra mainly overwinters as parthenogenetic viviparae. It is found in southern England and Wales, and is widely distributed in Europe.



Nasonovia cynosbati (Dogberry aphid) North America

Adult apterae of Nasonovia cynosbati are pale green, sometimes suffused with red (see largest aphid in first picture below, and the two largest aphids in background of second picture below). Their antennae have dark tips to segments III to VI. The antennal tubercles are well developed. The dorsal abdomen is pale, rarely with rather pale indistinct sclerites. Dorsal body hairs are pointed or blunt - never capitate (cf.Cryptomyzus spp., which have numerous capitate hairs). The abdominal spiracles are partially covered by cowl-like opercula so they appear crescent shaped (cf. Nasonovia ribisnigri, whose spiracles are open oval pores). The siphunculi are pale with dark or dusky tips and taper from the base to the apex (cf. Hyperomyzus spp., which have swollen siphunculi). The siphunculi are 1.2-2.3 times as long as the cauda, and usually have some imbrication, but only on the distal half (cf. Nasonovia houghtonensis, which has spicules over the whole length of its siphunculi). The cauda is triangular, pale or dusky, and usually has 5 hairs (cf. Nasonovia ribisnigri, which has 7 hairs on its cauda). The body length of adult Nasonovia cynosbati apterae is 1.8-3.0 mm.

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

Alatae (not pictured) are pale green or, especially in more northerly populations, with variably developed dark cross-bands or a mid-dorsal patch. Immature Nasonovia cynosbati vary between green, yellow and red, and have pale siphunculi.

Nasonovia cynosbati is found on wild and cultivated currant (Ribes) species. It has also been reported from some genera of Saxifragaceae (Heucheria, Tellima, Borykinia). The images shown here are of a population on Pennsylvania smartweed (Persicaria pennsylvanica). Dogberry aphid may be partially anholocyclic in California. It is not thought to host alternate, and overwinters as eggs laid on Ribes stems. Oviparae and alate males develop in September-October. Nasonovia cynosbati is widely distributed in North America except in the southern USA.



Nasonovia pilosellae (Hawkweed aphid) Europe

Adult apterae of Nasonovia pilosellae (see first picture below) are medium-sized yellowish-green or pinkish to blackish, rather shiny aphids. There are dark intersegmental sclerites between each abdominal segment, as well as either an ill-defined patch, or broad transverse bands of dark dorsal pigmentation on the abdomen. The ratio of the length of the terminal process of the last antennal segment to its base ranges from 5.7-8.0 (cf. Nasonovia ribisnigri, in which the ratio of the length of the terminal process of the last antennal segment to its base is 7.0-11.4). The secondary rhinaria on the third antennal segment spread out along one side of the segment (cf.Nasonovia ribisnigri, where the secondary rhinaria on the third antennal segment tend to be concentrated on the basal part of the segment). The first segment of their hind tarsus has two hairs. Their siphunculi are cylindrical and rather long, with little or no apical reticulation The cauda of Nasonovia pilosellae is elongate and rather blunt finger-shaped. The body length of the Nasonovia pilosellae adult aptera is 1.2-2.5 mm.

The Nasonovia pilosellae alate (see second picture above) has a green or pinkish green abdomen with black marginal sclerites. The dark green spino-pleural markings are variably developed.

The hawkweed aphid lives all year round on a few related species of hawkweed, namely the orange hawkweed (Pilosella aurantiaca), common hawkweed (Hieracium lachenalii) and the mouse-ear hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella).



Nasonovia ribisnigri (Currant-lettuce aphid) Europe, West & Central Asia, North & South America

Nasonovia ribisnigri apterae on the primary host (gooseberry and blackcurrant, see first picture below) are shiny green with no dark markings. On their secondary host (various members of the daisy family) Nasonovia ribisnigri apterae are more variable in colour, ranging from green to yellow or pink, and have dark intersegmental sclerites between each abdominal segment (see second picture below). The length of the terminal process is 7.0-11.4 times the length of the base of the antennal segment VI (cf. Nasonovia pilosellae which has the length of the terminal process 3.4-8.3 times longer than the base). The first segment of the hind tarsus has three hairs. Nasonovia ribisnigri siphunculi are pale with dark tips. They are at least as long or longer than the cauda and taper slightly. The cauda is finger shaped, not constricted and the same colour as the basal part of the siphunculi. The body length of Nasonovia ribisnigri apterae is 1.3-2.7 mm.

Alate Nasonovia ribisnigri (see third picture above) have a conspicuous pattern of black abdominal markings. They have 23-66 secondary rhinaria on the third antennal segment, 2-14 on the fourth segment and none on the fifth segment.

The currant-lettuce aphid host alternates from currants (Ribes spp.), especially gooseberry and blackcurrant, to various Asteraceae, including lettuce, as well as Brassicaceae, Scrophulariaceae and Solanaceae. Nasonovia ribisnigri is found throughout Britain and continental Europe east to Ukraine, and has been introduced to North and South America.



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).

Useful weblinks


  • Blackman, R.L. & Eastop, V.F. (2006). Aphids on the world's herbaceous plants and shrubs. Vols 1 and 2. John Wiley & Sons.