Getting Started with Aphid Identification

Having never tried my hand at aphid identification, this Summer proved quite a steep learning curve!

No, I haven’t gone mad. Spending a lot of time looking at both plants and ladybirds, it is inevitable that you’re going to encounter your fair share of aphids too. This year, while rummaging in pine trees, shrubbery and weedy verges, I have certainly seen a good number. Of course, this has meant trying to identify a few of the little green blighters for myself (okay, relatively few are actually green!).

Now, to say I am that I am a beginner with regard to aphids would be a colossal understatement. I haven’t a clue really but am fairly confident about those shown below. Mostly because they appear to be some of the more obvious aphids out there. How many do you recognise?

A really nice one to start with and I believe these delightful little pink and grey aphids are Pink Tansy Aphids (Metopeurum fuscoviride). Found (of course) on Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), they have peachy bodies and blackened rear ends. Having found these first at Walker Riverside, I have since recorded them a few times locally. Not that anyone verifies aphids on iRecord – perhaps I am getting a tad niche!

A slightly daunting one given that there seem to be only three records of this species on NBN. That said, I think these blackish-looking aphids are Ragwort Aphids (Aphis jacobaeae) on account of their dark green colour and pruinose appearance. They were also found on Common Ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris) which helped narrow it down.

Slightly less of a punt with this one. I think the aphids shown above with their dark kneecaps and feet are Rose Aphid (Macrosiphum rosae). As you can see from the picture, the colour of these critters ranged from lime green to rosy pink. These were recorded on Bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.),

Quite an attractive little aphid with a powdered, grey-green body and striking black legs, I think these are Mugwort Aphids (Macrosiphoniella artemisiae). They were found on Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) by a busy roadside close to Gosforth Nature Reserve. As is often the case, having noticed them once, I have now spotted them in several locations – despite there being no verified local records. As far as aphid identification goes, these are fairly nice.

I do like a species which is (almost) identifiable by foodplant. Strolling through Gosforth Nature Reserve this summer, I was pleased to spot the above aphids crowded on Yarrow (Achillea millefolium). A little googling and it looks like they are the aptly named Yarrow Aphid (Macrosiphoniella millefolii). Slightly less ‘powdery’ than the former species, these have brownish as opposed to black legs.

Spotted not by the aphids themselves, but by the damage caused to my local Wild Cherry (Prunus avium) trees, there is little doubt these are Black Cherry Aphid (Myzus cerasi). They are known to cause the crinkled, deformed leaves shown in the picture above. A shiny, brown to plum-coloured aphid, they are tended by ants which offer protection as they remain concealed with the leaf.

I like this one. Apparently a favourite food of our conifer specialist ladybirds, this impressive, gold-looking creature is the Large Pine Aphid (Cinara pinea). A great brute of an insect, at least by aphid standards, it was found on Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris). This species appears brown/gold while young before turning grey later on. They’re also dotted in fine black spots just about visible in the above picture.

If I am not horribly wrong, I am quite excited about this one. Indeed, walking along Scotswood Road a few months past, I was surprised to find a planted Spanish Broom (Spartium junceum) completely covered in frosted-looking aphids. A black aphid covered in a waxy meal, there are currently only three records of Dyer’s Broom Aphid (Aphis genistae) on NBN.

Probably the most recognisable aphid, this (I think) is the one known for covering unfortunately parked cars in excrement at the height of summer. Turning over Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) leaves at Prudhoe in the summer, I was pleased to find lots of what I think are Sycamore Aphids (Drepanosiphum platanoidis). The dark cross-bars associated with this species aren’t yet showing in the individual above but I think it was pretty young.

Probably the one I’m least sure of now but with femora part pale, part dark and given the host plant, I am fairly sure these are Large Knapweed Aphids (Uroleucon jaceae). Not a species recorded frequently at all, it is a reddish/maroon colour with black tubercles and contrasting legs. Interestingly given a surplus of local Knapweed, I have only noted these once.

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