NC State Extension Publications

Description and Biology

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The potato aphid, Macrosiphum euphorbiae, is a fairly large, long-bodied, grayish-green or pink aphid with long legs, antennae and cornicles (slender "tailpipes" that stick out to the rear). Adult females are almost 1/8 inch long. Nymphs are smaller than adults but similar in color and shape. All stages have slender mouthparts and feed by sucking sap from leaves and stems. Rose is the only plant on which potato aphids lay their overwintering eggs. In North Carolina, female potato aphids feed and reproduce year round. No eggs or males are produced. Wingless females give birth to about 50 live nymphs. During warm weather, each of these nymphs matures in two or three weeks. The life cycle continues in this manner until overcrowding occurs or food becomes scarce. At these times nymphs develop into winged adults that migrate to new host plants. Once settled down, these aphids begin reproducing and the life cycle continues as before. During cold weather, however, feeding and reproduction occur at a much slower rate. Many generations are produced each year. When potato aphids settle even for a brief time on ornamental plants, they can transmit viruses including freesia mosaic virus, iris mild virus, iris mosaic virus, iris severe virus, lily symptomless virus, narcissus degeneration (virus), narcissus late season yellows, narcissus white streak virus, narcissus yellow strips virus, Soleil d'Or virus, and tulip breaking virus.

Potato aphids

Potato aphids are often quite pink.

Potato aphids may be green

Potato aphids may be green or may have mixed populations of green and pink.

potato aphid nymphs may become winged adults.

When populations are crowded, potato aphid nymphs may become winged adults.

Host Plants

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Potato aphids infest rose, lilies, narcissus, freesia, iris, and tulip. It infests the foliage and flowers of tulips, and it causes yellow marks on leaves and stunts the growth of freesia, gladiolus and iris foliage. These aphids also infest vegetable crops and weeds including ragweed, lambsquarter, jimsonweed, pigweed, shepherdspurse, and wild lettuce.

Residential Recommendations

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Lady beetles and their larvae, lacewing larvae, and syrphid fly larvae prey upon potato aphids. Most pyrethroid insecticides available for aphid control are highly disruptive of natural enemy populations. Insecticidal soaps, neem seed extracts, or horticultural oils can be considered for aphid management on flowering crops as the impact of these insecticides on biological control agents is much less severe.

Cecidomyiid maggot

Cecidomyiid maggots and other predators often prey upon potato aphids.

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: Sept. 1, 2017
Revised: June 10, 2022

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