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Chaitophorinae : Siphini : Sipha flava


Sipha flava

Yellow sugarcane aphid

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

Identification & Distribution

Adult apterae of Sipha flava are straw-coloured to bright yellow, or light green at low temperatures, with dusky transverse intersegmental markings (see two pictures below) (cf. Sipha maydis apterae, which have the abdominal dorsum almost completely dark brown to black and sclerotic). Their antennae are 5-segmented, and the terminal process is 1.5-2.2 times as long as the base of antennal segment V (cf. Sipha agropyronensis, Sipha glyceriae and Sipha littoralis, which all have the terminal process less than 1.3 times the base). The longest antennal hair on antennal segment III is 2.0-3.0 times the basal diameter of this segment. The dorsum has numerous bristle-like hairs arranged in paired spinal, pleural and marginal rows (cf. Sipha agropyronensis, which has numerous bristle-like hairs, not arranged in rows). The siphunculi are reduced to slightly elevated dusky-rimmed pores. The cauda has a conical base and a rounded, knobbed apex (cf. Sipha elegans, which has a broadly rounded cauda). The knobbed cauda is just visible at the tip of the abdomen in the first picture below, but is displaced back in the clarified mount. The body length of adult Sipha flava apterae is 1.3-2.0 mm.

Note: The knobbed cauda is characteristic of Sipha species in Sipha sensu stricto. Species in subgenus Rungsia, such as Sipha (Rungsia) elegans, have no knob-forming constriction.

Images above copyright Jesse Rorabaugh under a public domain (CCO) licence.

Sipha flava alatae (not pictured here, but shown in Way et al., 2014) have variably-developed dark dorsal abdominal markings, and dark shading of the wing veins. Immatures (see pictures below) are similarly coloured yellow to green, but with dusky spots around the bases of the siphunculi and of the long bristle-like hairs. There is also a paler mid-spinal stripe.

Images above copyright Jesse Rorabaugh under a public domain (CCO) licence.

Sipha flava is found on the leaf blades of grasses (Poaceae), often in large colonies, in numerous genera including Andropogon, Cynodon, Digitaria, Holcus, Hordeum, Miscanthus, Panicum, Pennisetum, Saccharum, Setaria, Sorghum and Triticum. It is also recorded from sedges (Cyperaceae) such as Carex and Cyperus. Unlike, for example Sipha elegans, it is not usually attended by ants (but see here). In temperate climates Sipha flava is monoecious holocyclic, with oviparae and apterous males developing in autumn. The eggs are elliptical-oval, pale green when first laid and black after that. They are usually laid on the underside of the leaf of the host plant, rarely on its stem (Davis, 1909). In warmer climates it is anholocyclic, reproducing parthenogenetically throughout the year. The yellow sugarcane aphid is native to North America, but has become established in Central and South America and in the Caribbean and Hawaii. It has more recently been found in Morocco, Spain, South Africa and most recently, Kenya (Mutonyi & Babikha (2019).


Other aphids on the same host


Damage and control

Sipha flava is a serious pest, especially in tropical regions. Sugar (Saccharinum officinarum), sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) and Johnson grass (Sorghum halepense) are its economically important hosts, although over 60 species of grasses, including important species of pasture grasses, form a reservoir for this pest. It lives on the uppersides of leaves, at the bottom part of the plant, usually in dense colonies. The feeding activity of such colonies causes visible changes in the host plants. These changes depend on the host plant, the season (photoperiodic conditions of spring or autumn) and temperature. Prolonged periods of the species feeding on the sugarcane can lead to the yellowing and reddening of leaves and, in consequence, the plant dies. On the infested leaves of Sorghum halepense there usually appears a reddish discoloration due to anthocyanin - a natural plant pigment produced during leaf senescence. Changes in chloroplast structure of the infested leaves have also been observed (Gonzales et al., 2002). As well as causing feeding damage, Sipha flava is a vector of sugarcane mosaic potyvirus.

Integrated pest management is the most viable control strategy for this pest. An aphidiid wasp Lysiphlebus ambiguus was introduced in Hawaii for the biological control of Sipha flava (Culliney et al., 2003), and a major natural parasitoid for this species in Argentina is Lysiphlebus testaceipes (Gonzales et al, 2002). The population of Sipha flava is also reduced by predators which include the lined earwig (Doru teniatum), 10 species of Coccinellidae (e.g. Diomus terminatus), predacious ants (e.g. Solenopsis invicata) and young spiders (Nuessly, 2008). If it appears that natural enemies and/or rainfall are failing to keep populations sufficiently low, then various synthetic pyrethroids can be used in conjunction.


We are grateful to Jesse Rorabaugh (glmory) for the pictures of Sipha flava that he has made available to everyone under a 'public domain' (CC0) licence (for more of his excellent pictures see).

Identification was made by Jesse Rorabaugh and by us from the photos of living and preserved specimens. We have used the keys and species accounts of Wieczorek (2010) and Halbert et al. (2013), together with information from 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 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


  • Culliney T.W. et al. (2003). Introductions for biological control in Hawaii 1997—2001. Proc. Hawaii. Entomol. Soc. 36, 145—153. Full text

  • Davis, J.J. (1909). Biological Studies on three species of Aphididae. U.S. Dep. Agr. Bull.Entomol. Tech. Ser. 12(8), 123-168.

  • Gonzales, S W.L. et al. (2002). Host plant changes produced by the aphid Sipha flava : consequences for aphid feeding behaviour and growth. Entomol. Exp. Apl 103, 107-113. Full text

  • Halbert, S. et al. (2013). The genus Sipha Passerini (Hemiptera: Aphididae) in North America. Insecta Mundi 0326, 1-6. Full text

  • Mutonyi, J. & Babikha, S.J. (2019). The occurrence of sugarcane yellow aphid (Sipha flava (Homoptera: Aphididae), in Kakamega North Sub-County, Kenya. IOSR Journal of Agriculture and Veterinary Science (IOSR-JAVS) 12(5), 34-38. Full text

  • Nuessly, G.S. (2008). Yellow sugarcane aphid Sipha flava (Forbes) (Insecta, Hemiptera:Aphididae). Yellow sugarcane aphid UF IFAS Extension.

  • Wieczorek, K. (2010). A monograph of Siphini Mordvilko, 1928 (Hemiptera, Aphidoidea: Chaitophorinae). University of Silesia in Katowice. 40(1), 75-83. Full text