Protaphis are small to medium sized aphids that are adapted to feeding at the stem base and roots of plants where they are tended by ants. They have short appendages and other morphological features adapted to their mode of life.
There are about 50 Protaphis species, mostly in Europe and Central Asia, with a few in Africa and North America. They mostly feed at the stem bases or roots of the Asteraceae. They have a sexual stage in the life cycle, but do not host alternate. Protaphis are usually attended by ants.
Adult apterae of members of the Protaphis terricola species group are dark green with a powdery wax covering (see first picture below). In life they have a reddish suffusion around and between the siphunculi, that can be seen most clearly on the pale green immatures (see second picture below). Adult apterae have sclerotized patches on the dorsum on the thoracic segments, and on tergites VI and VII (see micrographs below). The length of the fused last two segments of the rostrum (RIV+V) is 1.2 to 1.4 times as long as the second segment of the hind tarsus (HTII) (cf. Protaphis anuraphoides where RIV+V is 1.45 - 1.65 times the length of HTII). The siphunculi have a weak flange and are 0.67 - 0.92 times the length of the cauda (cf. Protaphis anuraphoides which has siphunculi with a distinct flange and are 0.9 - 1.2 times the caudal length). The adult body length of Protaphis terricola sp. grp. is 1.3-2.0 mm.
Protaphis terricola sp. grp. concentrate on the shoot apical meristem of young plants in the ground rosette stage. Later in the year Protaphis terricola sp. grp. have been found feeding on the stem and inflorescences. There is no host alternation. The Protaphis terricola species group has previously been reported from southern, central and eastern Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia, and it has been introduced to South America.
Our observations are the first and only record of Protaphis terricola sp. grp. in UK to date.
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).