Beautiful Aphids Active on Maples

Painted maple aphid. Photo: A.G. Dale

Painted maple aphid. Photo: A.G. Dale

This post comes to us from Adam Dale who is a graduate student in our lab working on pests of urban maple trees.

Aphids are among the most common insect plant pests.  They are sometimes significant pests of ornamental plants and are known for having persistent, ubiquitous populations.  These insects have great diversity and infest a vast range of host plants.  We have reported on several aphids species already this year in NC Pest News and here on our blog.

One of the most charismatic aphid species is the painted maple aphid

Painted maple aphid. Photo: A.G. Dale

Painted maple aphid. Photo: A.G. Dale

(Drepanaphis acerifoliae).  Adults are brown with white spots along their back and a white stripe across the tip of their abdomen.  They have red eyes and distinct spikes projecting upward along the center of their back.  Long, white antennae with black bands extend backwards well past the tip of the abdomen.  All life stages may be present at any given time and include:  wingless nymphs, wingless adults, and winged adults.  As with other aphid species, the painted maple aphid is parthenogenetic, meaning it can reproduce without mating.  Therefore, one aphid can produce a significant population, and in a relatively short period of time.

The painted maple aphid is one of over a dozen aphid species that feed on maple trees but is among the most common in Raleigh. (For info on other maple pests see our eBook) Individuals can be found on the underside of maple leaves feeding on fluid within the leaf.  The aphids then excrete this fluid as honeydew, which coats surfaces below.  Often times, this includes cars, outdoor furniture, and other plant surfaces.  One of the easiest ways to locate an aphid infestation is by looking above surfaces coated with this shiny, sticky substance.  Honeydew also facilitates the production of sooty mold fungi, which is even more unsightly and can be injurious to plants.  Severe infestations can lead to premature leaf drop and leaf discoloration.  As such, these aphids can be a serious annoyance to a great number of people.

There are several management options available for aphids.  When selecting an appropriate treatment, consider that several natural predators of these insects are typically present and can provide some control.  Such predators include ladybird beetles, green lacewings, and parasitoid wasps.  For more information on aphid biology and management, please visit http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/O&T/flowers/note38/note38.html.

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