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Aphidinae : Macrosiphini : Nasonovia compositellae


Nasonovia compositellae

Black-backed daisy aphid

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

Identification & Distribution:

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.

The first image (below) is a micrograph of the adult aptera in alcohol. The second picture shows the lengths of the terminal process (PT) and base of antennal segment VI for a specimen of Nasonovia compositellae ssp. compositellae from the north of Scotland.

The clarified slide mounts below are of adult viviparous female Nasonovia compositellae : wingless, and winged.

Micrographs of clarified mounts by permission of Roger Blackman, copyright AWP all rights reserved.

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.


Biology & Ecology:

We have only found this species in Britain on one occasion - Nasonovia compositellae subspecies compositellae at Dundreggan in Inverness-shire. There we found several colonies on Hieracium pilosella. Blackman (2010) comments that most British records so far come from another Hieracium species, Hieracium exotericum.

The colonies we found were quite heavily parasitized. The picture below shows several immature aphids which subsequently turned out to be parasitized.

The parasitoid which emerged was identified by Ed Baker as Aphidius hieraciorum.

Croft (2007) identified the parasitoid Aphidius hieraciorum (together with the use of resistant varieties) as components for the integrated control of the currant-lettuce aphid (Nasonovia ribisnigri) under the low temperatures and short day lengths of a winter crop.


Other aphids on same host:

  • Nasonovia compositellae compositellae (= Nasonovia compositellae sensu stricto) has been recorded on just 5 species of the Hieracium genus (Hieracium deganwyense, Hieracium echioides, Hieracium exotericum, Hieracium vulgatum). Nasonovia compositellae niger has been recorded on 19 species of that genus.

    Blackman & Eastop list 4 species of aphid as feeding on Hieracium exotericum worldwide, and provide formal identification keys (Show World list). Of those aphid species, Baker (2015) lists all 4 as occurring in Britain (Show British list).

  • Nasonovia compositellae niger has been recorded on 3 species of the Pilosella genus (Pilosella caespitosa, Pilosella officinarum, Pilosella peleteriana). Nasonovia compositellae compositellae has not been recorded on any species in that genus.

    Blackman & Eastop list 18 species of aphid as feeding on mouse-ear hawkweed (Pilosella officinarum = Hieracium pilosella) worldwide, and provide formal identification keys (Show World list). Of those aphid species, Baker (2015) lists 15 as occurring in Britain (Show British list).



Our particular thanks to Roger Blackman for images of his clarified slide mounts.

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


  • Croft, et al. (2007). The identification of winter aphids in protected lettuce. Report to Horticultural Development Council, East Malling, Kent.. 14 pp. Abstract