NC State Extension Publications

Description and Biology

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The melon aphid, Aphis gossypii, has two definite color forms: a yellowish green form and a very dark green form that appears to be black until examined in strong light. The wingless adults are soft bodied,yellow to dark green, and about 1.0 to 1.5 mm long. The adults that are lighter in color tend to be smaller and have fewer antenna! segments than the darker adults. The winged adult is also soft bodied and yellow to dark green. It has a black head and thorax with the wings held rooflike over the abdomen. The antennae and cornicles are longer than those of the wingless adult. The winged form is about 1.25 mm long. The nymph is smaller than but similar in shape and color to wingless female adults. In the Southeast, melon aphids may spend part of the winter as wingless adults in soil or field debris. During warm periods, they travel to weedy hosts and continue feeding until cold weather forces them back into hibernation. In spring, winged females fly to suitable host plants and give birth to living young. Each female produces an average of 84 nymphs. Under favorable conditions, a nymph matures in about 5 days and begins producing its own progeny. Most nymphs develop into wingless adults. However, when crowding occurs or food becomes scarce, winged adults develop and fly to new host plants. Reproduction continues through the winter as in the summer but at a much slower rate. Many overlapping generations are produced each year.

The melon aphid may be pale green or very dark green.

The melon aphid may be pale green or very dark green.

melon aphids

An infestation of melon aphids showing droplets of honeydew.

Host Plants

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Melons and other cucurbits, cotton, okra, hops, strawberries, beans, spinach, tomatoes, clover, asparagus, citrus, catalpa, violet, hydrangea, begonia, ground ivy, gardenia, and weeds are some of the hosts of melon aphids. They have been discovered feeding on plants in 25 plant families. The melon aphid feeds by piercing the plant surface with the threadlike mouthparts to suck out plant juices. This feeding causes distorted growth, decreased yield, reduced quality of yield, and prematurely ripened fruit. The fruit may be covered by the feeding aphids, honeydew, and cast skins. Melon aphids transmit several important plant viruses, including cucumber mosaic, onion yellow dwarf, citrus quick decline, lily symptomless diseases, and lily rosette.

Residential Recommendation

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Syrphid maggots and ladybird beetles and their larvae feed upon melon aphids. Braconid wasps parasitize the aphids, and ants feed upon the honeydew excreted by feeding aphids. Because melon aphids have become resistant to many insecticides, insecticidal soap or horticultural oil may be most effective for control. Adequate coverage is quite important for aphid management as thick foliage may shelter the aphids from the pesticide residue.

References

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For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local Cooperative Extension Center.

This Factsheet has not been peer reviewed.

Author

Professor Emeritus
Entomology and Plant Pathology

Publication date: May 17, 2013
Revised: Oct. 3, 2019

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