NC State Extension Publications

Description and Biology

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Wingless tuliptree aphids, Illinoia liriodendri, are spindle shaped and pale green to yellow, although some may be pinkish to red. The antennae are mostly black and are longer than the body. The legs are pale green merging to black near the feet. The cornicles (tube-like structures on the abdomen that resemble exhaust pipes on a hot rod) are black and long. These aphids grow to almost 1/8 inch long. Winged tuliptree aphids have translucent wings held roof-like over the greenish abdomen. The thorax and head are reddish to pale brown. During the spring and summer, females give birth to tiny, greenish nymphs that grow larger with each molt. Tuliptree aphids feed on undersides of the leaves. Dense populations can build up resulting in large deposits of honeydew on the leaves. Sexual forms occur in autumn and mate. Females lay overwintering eggs primarily in bark crevices near the buds. In spring the eggs hatch at bud break. Populations can build up rapidly on the leaves during the spring and summer.

Tuliptree aphids.  Syrphid fly egg identified by arrow.

Tuliptree aphids feed on the lower surface of tulip tree leaves.

Photo by Robert L. Anderson, USDA Forest Service,

Tuliptree aphids are preyed upon

Tuliptree aphids are preyed upon by lady beetles and several other kinds of predators.

Host Plants

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Tulip tree is the only reported host plant for the tuliptree aphid. They may cause mild distortion of buds and foliage, and they excrete copious amounts of honeydew in which sooty molds grow. Honeydew dripping on pavement and parked cars below is a nuisance as are the flies and wasps attracted to the honeydew.

Residential Recommendations

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Tuliptree aphid populations increase dramatically because they reproduce parthenogenetically and because they fly into new areas from time to time. In warm weather, parasitic wasps, lady beetles, syrphid fly maggots, lace wings and other predaceous insects feed on aphids so that aphid populations often decrease rapidly as well. When the weather is hot and damp, aphid populations are sometimes devastated by Cephalosporium lecanii, a fungus that infects aphids as a sort of fatal athlete's foot disease. In the case where natural controls have failed to keep up with the aphids, and if the tulip tree is small enough to spray, an insecticide should give adequate control. Water the tree thoroughly before spraying if the weather has been dry. Spray early in the morning or in the evening so that the pesticide residue is dry before the plant is exposed to direct sunlight. Insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils give adequate control of aphids although a number of other pesticides are labeled for aphids that should also give adequate control as well. Soaps and oils are less damaging to parasites and predators than are most other types of insecticides.

Other Resources

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

This Factsheet has not been peer reviewed.


Professor Emeritus
Entomology & Plant Pathology

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Publication date: June 7, 2019
Revised: March 25, 2024

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