We’ve had several recent reports of the common aphids we expect to see in grain crops, including Russian wheat aphid and green peach aphids. However, we have also received some unexpected reports of a lesser known species, the rusty plum aphid.
In this article we will cover aphid identification, explore the appearance of rusty plum aphid in NSW and explain what to do if something ‘a bit different’ pops up.
Step by step aphid identification
We know that the identification of aphids can feel like a daunting task because they’re small, they vary in colour, and have features that change at different stages in their lifecycle. And there are so many species!
But, we can give you some basic information to make the job easier for you.
The first step is to be able to recognise a few important identification features: the tail (cauda), siphunculi, antennae and antennal tubercules.
Aphids by crop type
The second step, is to consider the crop of interest. While aphids can be polyphagous (feeding on many crop types), they do have preferred host types.
We’ve put together a summary of the common aphid pests present in major winter crops to help you narrow down the species you’re likely to encounter.
From left of field
The aphids listed above are the most common species observed in south-eastern Australian crops, but there’s always the possibility of a different species popping up.
For example, we had two recent reports from NSW of the rusty plum aphid, one on wheat in Narromine and one on digit grass in Parkes.
The rusty plum aphid (Hysteroneura setariae) is a brown coloured aphid with light bands on the legs and antennae, and white cauda. This aphid was formally described in Australia in 1976 but since then has not been a prominent pest. It has been reported infesting buffel grass at multiple sites in the Northern Territory.
There is very little information on how rusty plum aphid might affect crops in Australia, but it is possible that this aphid could transmit Barley yellow dwarf virus which can infect wheat, barley, oats and grasses.
The rusty plum aphid is not presently a concern to growers but it goes to show how important it is to look out for, and report, any new or noteworthy pests.
Where to go for identification help
If, like the report above, you find aphids that don’t fit the description of any of the species usually found in that crop, then it’s time to start looking for other sources of information.
Luckily, there are some online resources for aphid identification including our pestnotes and the GRDC crop aphids back pocket guide. If you would like a hard copy of the back pocket guide, get in touch and we can send you one.
Of course, you can always send us a photo via text (0484 310 697), twitter or email, and if we can’t provide a positive identification, we can follow up and determine if there is an opportunity to obtain a sample.
Thank you to Mick Harris and Brenden Fliedner for aphid reports, and to Alex Gill, Peter Ridlan and Leo McGrane for assistance with aphid identification. Additional thanks to Sam Ward and Paul Umina for contributions to this article.