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Macrosiphum euphorbiae

What do they look like?

Potato aphids are considered a medium-sized aphid. Some members of this species have wings, while others do not. Wingless aphids are 1.7 to 3.6 mm long, while winged forms are 1.7 to 3.4 mm long. Potato aphids are spindle or pear-shaped. They have soft bodies, long, dark antennae, and a pair of cornicles, or tubes at the end of their abdomen. They can be green, pink, or magenta, with reddish eyes. Nymphs are covered in a grayish-white wax, but look like small adults. Wingless adults are usually shinier than nymphs. (Boquel, et al., 2011; Kaplan and Thaler, 2012; Petrovic-Obradovic, 2010; Stoetzel, 1994; van Emden and Harrington, 2007)

  • Range length
    1.7 to 3.6 mm
    0.07 to 0.14 in

Where do they live?

Potato aphids (Macrosiphum euphorbiae) are native to North America; they are widespread across the United States and Canada. They have spread from the Nearctic region to the Palearctic, Ethiopian, and Neotropical regions. They are now found almost worldwide, including Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and Australia. Potato aphids are a major crop pest. (Finlayson, et al., 2009; Le Guigo, et al., 2012; Raboudi, et al., 2011; Stary, et al., 1993; Valenzuela, et al., 2009)

What kind of habitat do they need?

Potato aphids colonize over 200 different species of host plants throughout mild and tropical areas. Their host plants, such as potatoes and many other crop species are found mostly in agricultural fields, as well as grasslands and suburban areas such as greenhouses, gardens, and parks. (Le Guigo, et al., 2012; Petrovic-Obradovic, 2010; van Emden and Harrington, 2007)

How do they grow?

Potato aphids go through four developmental stages, known as nymphal instars. Each nymphal instar lasts 1.5 to 3 days, although the amount of time they take to develop varies with temperature. Potato aphids take about 6 to 12 days to completely mature. (Alyokhin, et al., 2011; Boquel, et al., 2011; De Conti, et al., 2011; Macgillivray and Anderson, 1964)

How do they reproduce?

Sexually reproducing potato aphids are only found in North America. In the rest of their range, potato aphids only reproduce by parthenogenesis, which means that they reproduce by creating identical clones without mating. Egg-laying females produce a pheromone to attract male mates. The pheromone is released by a gland on their hind legs; females lift their legs to release the pheromone. (Alyokhin, et al., 2011; Boquel, et al., 2011; Goldansaz and McNeil, 2006)

Populations in North America reproduce by both parthenogenesis (reproducing without mating) and sexual reproduction. In these populations, eggs spend the winter on their primary hosts, usually on rose plants (Rosa), and hatch in May. In the spring, potato aphids produce several wingless, parthenogenetic offspring while colonizing their primary host. Later, winged females are produced; the winged offspring colonize secondary host plants in June and July. Potato aphids colonize over 200 secondary host plant species, though they typically prefer nightshade plants (Solanaceae). Parthenogenesis continues on the secondary host until the fall, at which time males and breeding females are produced. Males and breeding females return to the primary host plant species, mate, and lay eggs that overwinter. Most potato aphids reproduce only by parthenogenesis; these populations never have a sexual reproductive stage. Wingless females likely spend the winter on primary host plants in warmer regions and produce winged females that colonize secondary hosts later in the season. One female can give birth to anywhere from a few to 50 offspring in a single day. Nymphs reach reproductive maturity after about 6 to 12 days. (De Conti, et al., 2011; Lamb, et al., 2009; Raboudi, et al., 2011)

  • Breeding season
    Sexually reproducing populations breed between the end of summer and early fall.
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    6 to 12 days

In populations that breed sexually, eggs are laid on a primary host plant to overwinter, which gives the offspring a food source when they hatch in the spring. Females also provide nutrients in the eggs. Females invest a large amount of energy to give live birth by parthenogenesis. Offspring produced by parthenogenesis join the colony at birth, so they may actually interact with their parents, although they do not receive any parental care. (Macgillivray and Anderson, 1964; van Emden and Harrington, 2007)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female

How long do they live?

Adult potato aphids typically live for about 10 days to a month. (Kaloshian, et al., 1997)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    10 to 35 days
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    10 to 35 days

How do they behave?

Like all aphids, potato aphids live in large colonies. These colonies can grow to large sizes quickly because they give live birth by parthenogenesis, which cuts out the time needed to find a mate, and their offspring mature quickly. Colonies can be established when winged aphids fly from primary to secondary host plants. However, aphids are weak fliers, so they often move on air currents and have little control over the direction they travel. Wingless aphids can also travel by walking from one plant to another. Potato aphids are active during the day. (Boquel, et al., 2011; Narayandas and Alyokhin, 2006; Pompon, et al., 2010a)

Home Range

Their home range has not been reported, but it is limited by their poor flight ability. Winged forms are mostly carried by air currents, so where they end up can be fairly random. Unwinged potato aphids travel by walking, although they probably do not walk further than other nearby plants. (Boquel, et al., 2011; Narayandas and Alyokhin, 2006; Pompon, et al., 2010a)

How do they communicate with each other?

Antennae are the main sensory organs used by aphids. Antennae are used for chemical detection and touching. To determine if a plant is a good host, potato aphids use their antennae to feel along the leaves and detect odors and other chemical cues. Potato aphids also use their mouthparts to dig into plants. They may also pick host plants based on their color. Potato aphids are also able to detect UV light. Other insects use UV light for flying; however, aphids are very weak flyers, so they probably use the UV light differently, possibly to help orient themselves, or to choose where to colonize. Aphids that are captured or harassed produce an alarm pheromone that alerts other aphids of danger. The alarm pheromone usually causes aphids to try to escape by dropping off the host plant or walking away. Alarm pheromones also increase parthenogenetic production of winged aphids. Sexually reproductive females produce a pheromone that attracts mates. (Goldansaz and McNeil, 2006; Kaplan and Thaler, 2012; Legarrea, et al., 2012; Pompon, et al., 2010a)

What do they eat?

Potato aphids feed on a plant tissue known as phloem. They use their mouthparts to pierce the plant and access the phloem. This aphid species can feed on over 200 different plants species, many of which are crops. Their most notable host plants include those from family Solanaceae, particularly potatoes and tomatoes and plants from family Brassicaceae, including cabbage and lettuce. Potato aphids also consume sap when they are dehydrated. (Atamian, et al., 2013; Le Guigo, et al., 2012; Legarrea, et al., 2012; Pompon, et al., 2010b)

  • Primary Diet
  • herbivore
    • eats sap or other plant foods
  • Plant Foods
  • sap or other plant fluids

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Potato aphids are often hunted by lady beetles, including multicolored Asian lady beetles (Harmonia axyridis), seven-spotted ladybugs (Coccinella septempunctata), convergent lady beetles (Hippodamia convergens), spotted lady beetles (Coleomegilla maculata lengi), three-banded lady beetles (Coccinella trifasciata perplexa), and 14-spotted ladybird beetles (Propylea quatuordecimpunctata). Other predators include carabid beetles (Pterostichus melanarius), which occur in potato ecosystems, as well as other predators, such as spiders, syrphid flies, green lacewings, and midge larvae. To defend themselves, potato aphids release an alarm pheromone. The alarm pheromone alerts other colony members of a threat and causes them to try and escape by dropping off the host plant or walking away. European red ants (Myrmica rubra) tend some potato aphid colonies. Ants protect aphids from predators and parasitoids in exchange for honeydew produced by the aphids. (Alvarez, et al., 2013; Alyokhin, et al., 2011; Finlayson, et al., 2009; Kaplan and Thaler, 2012; van Emden and Harrington, 2007)

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Potato aphids are found around most of the world and are important crop pests. They colonize over 200 different host plant species. Their primary hosts are usually members of genus Rosa. Their preferred secondary hosts are potatoes, though potato aphids feed on other plant species from family Solanaceae as well. Other significant host plants include tomatoes, lettuce, and plants from family Brassicaceae, such as cabbage. Potato aphids have bacteria that live inside their bodies and make the amino acids they cannot get from their food. European red ants tend colonies of potato aphids. Ants eat the honeydew aphids produce; in return, ants protect, clean, and transport the aphids. Potato aphids are prey to lady beetles and many other insect species, such as syrphid flies and green lacewings. Many species of wasp parasitoids lay eggs inside aphids, which causes aphids to die when the wasp hatches. These wasp species can be used to control aphid populations. Fungi from genus Entomophthora can cause disease and death in potato aphids. (Alyokhin, et al., 2011; Atamian, et al., 2013; Boquel, et al., 2011; Finlayson, et al., 2009; Francis, et al., 2010; Le Guigo, et al., 2012; Legarrea, et al., 2012; Lins, et al., 2013; Petrovic-Obradovic, 2010; Thi, et al., 2013)

Species (or larger taxonomic groups) used as hosts by this species
  • roses (Rosa)
  • nightshades (Solanaceae)
  • potatoes (Solanum tuberosum)
  • tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)
  • lettuce (Lactuca)
  • cabbage (Brassica oleracea)
Species (or larger taxonomic groups) that are mutualists with this species
  • bacteria (Buchnera aphidicola)
  • European red ants (Myrmica rubra)
Commensal or parasitic species (or larger taxonomic groups) that use this species as a host

Do they cause problems?

Potato aphids are one of the most harmful aphid species in the world. They feed on many plant species and cause significant crop damage in potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, and cabbage. These aphids also spread plant diseases, including viruses such as yellow net virus, pea leaf roll virus, and potato leaf roll virus. (Legarrea, et al., 2012; Raboudi, et al., 2011; van Emden and Harrington, 2007)

  • Ways that these animals might be a problem for humans
  • crop pest

How do they interact with us?

There are no known positive effects of potato aphids on humans.

Are they endangered?

Potato aphids have no special conservation status.


Angela Miner (author), Animal Diversity Web Staff, Elizabeth Wason (author, editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff, Leila Siciliano Martina (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.


Alvarez, J., R. Srinivasan, F. Cervantes. 2013. Occurrence of the Carabid Beetle, Pterostichus melanarius (Illiger), in Potato Ecosystems of Idaho and its Predatory Potential on the Colorado Potato Beetle and Aphids. American Journal of Potato Research, 90/1: 83-92.

Alyokhin, A., F. Drummond, G. Sewell, R. Storch. 2011. Differential Effects of Weather and Natural Enemies on Coexisting Aphid Populations. Environmental Entomology, 40/3: 570-580.

Atamian, H., R. Chaudhary, V. Dal Cin, E. Bao, T. Girke, I. Kaloshian. 2013. In Planta Expression or Delivery of Potato Aphid Macrosiphum euphorbiae Effectors Me10 and Me23 Enhances Aphid Fecundity. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions, 26/1: 67-74.

Boquel, S., P. Giodanengo, A. Ameline. 2011. Probing Behavior of Apterous and Alate Morphs of two Potato—Colonizing Aphids. Journal of Insect Science, 11/164: 1-10.

De Conti, B., V. Bueno, M. Sampaio, J. Lenteren. 2011. Development and survival of Aulacorthum solani, Macrosiphum euphorbiae and Uroleucon ambrosiae at six temperatures. Bulletin of Insectology, 64/1: 63-68.

Finlayson, C., A. Alyokhin, E. Porter. 2009. Interactions of Native and Non-Native Lady Beetle Species (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) With Aphid-Tending Ants in Laboratory Arenas. Environmental Entomology, 38/3: 846-855.

Francis, F., F. Guillonneau, P. Leprince, E. De Pauw, E. Haubruge, L. Jia, F. Goggin. 2010. Tritrophic interactions among Macrosiphum euphorbiae aphids, their host plants and endosymbionts: Investigation by a proteomic approach. Journal of Insect Physiology, 56/6: 575-585.

Goldansaz, S., J. McNeil. 2006. Effect of wind speed on the pheromone-mediated behavior of sexual morphs of the potato aphid, Macrosiphum euphorbiae (Thomas) under laboratory and field conditions. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 32/8: 1719-1729.

Kaloshian, I., M. Kinsey, D. Ullman, V. Williamson. 1997. The impact of Meu1-mediated resistance in tomato on longevity, fecundity and behavior of the potato aphid, Macrosiphum euphorbiae. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, 83/2: 181-187.

Kaplan, I., J. Thaler. 2012. Phytohormone-mediated plant resistance and predation risk act independently on the population growth and wing formation of potato aphids, Macrosiphum euphorbiae. Arthropod-Plant Interactions, 6/2: 181-186.

Lamb, R., P. MacKay, S. Migui. 2009. Measuring the performance of aphids: fecundity versus biomass. Canadian Entomologist, 141/4: 401-405.

Le Guigo, P., A. Rolier, J. Le Corff. 2012. Plant neighborhood influences colonization of Brassicaceae by specialist and generalist aphids. Oecologia, 169/3: 753-761.

Legarrea, S., B. Diaz, M. Plaza, L. Barrios, I. Morales, E. Vinuela, A. Fereres. 2012. Diminished UV radiation reduces the spread and population density of Macrosiphum euphorbiae (Thomas) [Hemiptera: Aphididae] in lettuce crops. Horticultural Science, 39/2: 74-80.

Lins, J., V. Bueno, L. Sidney, D. Silva, M. Sampaio, J. Pereira, Q. Nomelini, J. van Lenteren. 2013. Cold storage affects mortality, body mass, lifespan, reproduction and flight capacity of Praon volucre (Hymenoptera: Braconidae). European Journal of Entomology, 110/2: 263-270.

Macgillivray, M., G. Anderson. 1964. Effect of photoperiod + temperature on production of gamic + agamic forms in Macrosiphum euphorbiae (Thomas). Canadian Journal of Zoology, 42/3: 491-510.

Narayandas, G., A. Alyokhin. 2006. Diurnal patterns in host finding by potato aphids, Macrosiphum euphorbiae (Homoptera : Aphididae). Journal of Insect Behavior, 19/3: 347-356.

Petrovic-Obradovic, O. 2010. 14.35 - Macrosiphum euphorbiae (Thomas, 1878) - potato aphid (Hemiptera, Aphididae). BioRisk, 4: 930-931.

Pompon, J., D. Quiring, P. Giordanengo, Y. Pelletier. 2010. Role of host-plant selection in resistance of wild Solanum species to Macrosiphum euphorbiae and Myzus persicae. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, 137/1: 73-85.

Pompon, J., D. Quiring, P. Giordanengo, Y. Pelletier. 2010. Role of xylem consumption on osmoregulation in Macrosiphum euphorbiae (Thomas). Journal of Insect Physiology, 56/6: 610-615.

Raboudi, F., H. Makni, M. Makni. 2011. Genetic Diversity of Potato Aphid, Macrosiphum euphorbiae, Populations in Tunisia Detected by RAPD. African Entomology, 19/1: 133-140.

Stary, P., M. Gerding, H. Norambuena, G. Remaudiere. 1993. Environmental-research on aphid parasitoid biocontrol agents in Chile (Hym, Aphidiidae, Hom, Aphidoidea). Journal of Applied Entomology, 115/3: 292-306.

Stoetzel, M. 1994. Aphids (Homoptera: Aphididae) of potential importance on citrus in the United States with illustrated keys to species. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington, 96/1: 74-90.

Thi, T., I. Magnoli, C. Cloutier, D. Michaud, F. Muratori, T. Hance. 2013. Early presence of an enolase in the oviposition injecta of the aphid parasitoid Aphidius ervi analyzed with chitosan beads as artificial hosts. Journal of Insect Physiology, 59/1: 11-18.

Valenzuela, I., M. Carver, M. Malipatil, P. Ridland. 2009. Occurrence of Macrosiphum hellebori Theobald & Walton (Hemiptera: Aphididae) in Australia. Australian Journal of Entomology, 48: 125-129.

van Emden, H., R. Harrington. 2007. Aphids as Crop Pests. Trowbridge, United Kingdom: CABI.

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Miner, A. and E. Wason 2013. "Macrosiphum euphorbiae" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed July 29, 2014 at

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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