NC State Extension Publications

Description and Biology

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Tulip aphids, Dysaphis tulipae, are small, typical, pale to dark green aphids with moderately long, dark cornicles. They are sometimes called tulip bulb aphids because they feed on tulip bulbs and other ornamental plant bulbs in storage as well as in the field. It is also called the iris root aphid. When infested bulbs are planted, the new growth may be distorted and stunted. Tulip aphids also infest the leaves, shoots, buds and flowers of these plants after they are growing. This aphid can transmit tulip breaking virus to tulips and narcissus yellows streak virus to narcissus in the landscape (the latter by non-persistent transmission so there must be an infested plant nearby for the virus to be spread successfully). It has been shown to transmit other plant viruses as well. Not much has been published on the life history of the tulip aphid. For much of the year, they give birth to live nymphs that gradually mature into wingless or winged adults.

Tulip aphids infest tulip bulbs

Tulip aphids infest tulip bulbs and other bulbs and corms during storage.

Tulip aphids give birth to live young that may develop wings as

Tulip aphids give birth to live young that may develop wings as they mature.

Host Plants

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Tulip aphids attack Chionodoxa (glory of the snow), crocus, gladiolus corms, iris bulbs, lily, narcissus, scilla, snowdrop, and tulip during storage. Later they are found at the bases of growing plants, and under the leaf sheaths of all kinds of garden irises. It also occurs on the roots of carrot, parsley, and celery.

Residential Recommendations

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Immersing infested bulbs in a solution of insecticidal soap should give adequate control. On growing ornamentals use insecticidal soap, one of the pyrethroids labeled for landscape use, or a systemic insecticide such as imidacloprid. When used as directed, pyrethroids are very toxic to insects but are not particularly hazardous to humans and pets (other than fish-avoid using pyrethroids around pools, ponds, and streams).


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

This Factsheet has not been peer reviewed.


Professor Emeritus
Entomology and Plant Pathology

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Publication date: Jan. 9, 2017
Revised: Oct. 17, 2019

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