Like all aphids, chokecherry aphids have round, soft bodies, with a pair of cornicles, or tubes, at the end of their abdomen that secretes fluid. Chokecherry aphids average 2.25 mm in length. Apterous, or wingless females, are pale green, with a dark green line running down the middle of their thorax. Alate, or winged females, have a black head and body, while the prothorax (the first segment with legs) is green. Nymphs look like smaller versions of adults. (Mondor, et al., 2007; Patch, 1914; Quaintance and Challen, 1917; Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990)
Chokecherry aphids (Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae) are native to the Nearctic region, across the United States and the southern half of Canada. (Foottit, et al., 2008; Hidalgo, et al., 2012; Webb, et al., 1994)
Chokecherry aphids are found in temperate regions, wherever their host plants grow. Their primary hosts are chokecherry trees, which can be found in grasslands, along riversides and in forests. Their secondary host plants include bulrush grasses, which grow in marshes and along rivers and lake shores. (Cranshaw, 1996; Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990)
Their eggs hatch in spring after spending the winter on dormant host plants. First-generation nymphs are common in the middle of April and may grow through four instars, or development stages, within two weeks. Wingless females are first seen at the beginning of May and second-generation nymphs are produced by parthenogenesis, or non-sexual non-fertilized reproduction, shortly thereafter. Adults are usually found on chokecherry trees, from May to June. Winged females are first seen in mid-May and migrate to secondary host plants within 24 hours to produce wingless females. By early June, they leave the chokecherry trees and are only found on secondary host plants for the rest of the summer and fall. Males and gynoparae (parthenogenetic females that produce sexually reproductive females) are produced on secondary host plants and migrate to chokecherry trees in the fall. They lay eggs constantly from mid-October to November, until the plants go dormant for the winter. (Quaintance and Challen, 1917; Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990)
Little information is available regarding the mating systems of chokecherry aphids. Mating and parthenogenesis, which is non-sexual unfertilized reproduction, occurs on their primary host plants. Only parthenogenesis occurs on their secondary host plants. Egg-laying females that mate with males, also known as oviparae, likely produce pheromones to attract mates. (Symmes, et al., 2012; Taber, 1994)
Female aphids give birth to genetically identical young through parthenogenesis, or unfertilized reproduction, throughout the spring and summer. Individual females of several aphid species produce hundreds or thousands of offspring. Eggs are laid continually from mid-October to November on chokecherry trees, around buds and in the crooks of twigs. The eggs remain on chokecherry trees during the winter while they are dormant. (Mondor, et al., 2007; Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990; van Emden and Harrington, 2007)
Female chokecherry aphids likely provision their eggs. By laying eggs on host plants, females give a safe overwintering environment and a good host plant for when the eggs hatch in the spring. Live young produced by parthenogenesis join the colony at birth and may interact with the female parent, but the parents provide little care. (Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990)
Although there is little information available about the lifespan of chokecherry aphids, most aphid species live a few weeks to a month. The entire colony of chokecherry aphids die out before the winter, the eggs that overwinter repopulate the colony in the spring. (Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990; van Emden and Harrington, 2007)
Chokecherry aphids live in large colonies. Colonies can grow very large very quickly due to parthenogenesis. Groups of these aphids colonize leaves and the leaves curl up as aphids feed. Some forms of chokecherry aphids are winged, typically the ones that migrate to and from host plants. Aphids are generally poor fliers, but they can travel on air currents. (Quaintance and Challen, 1917; Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990; van Emden and Harrington, 2007)
Unwinged forms of chokecherry aphids remain on their host plants. Winged forms migrate from primary host plants to areas with secondary host plants. The secondary host plants are likely close by because aphids are poor fliers. Some chokecherry aphids migrate back to their primary host plants to lay eggs in the fall. (Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990; van Emden and Harrington, 2007)
During their reproductive stage, egg-laying female (oviparae) aphid species produce a pheromone to attract males. Aphids perceive their environment visually, with a preference for yellow surfaces. Chokecherry aphids probably find their host plants by using chemicals and odors. The main aphid scent organ is found on their antennae. Most aphid species also produce an alarm pheromone that alerts other aphids of a predator attack. These chemicals are released in droplets from their cornicles, tubes found on the last portion of their body. (Joachim, et al., 2013; Symmes, et al., 2012; van Emden and Harrington, 2007)
Chokecherry aphids feed solely on plant phloem by piercing plant vessels to retrieve the sap. They feed on their primary host plants, chokecherry trees, from April to June. After June, some members of the colony migrate to secondary host plants including softstem bullrushes (Scirpus validus) in the Midwestern United States and hardstem bulrushes (Scirpus acutus) in Idaho and Washington, as well as bald strike rushes (Eleocharis erythropoda), green bulrushes (Scirpus atrovirens) and pin cherries (Prunus pensylvanica). (Cranshaw, 1996; Mondor, et al., 2007; Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990)
Many species of lady beetles (Coccinellidae) prey on aphids. Chokecherry aphids are preyed on by lady beetles from genus Hippodamia and many other small beetles in family Coccinellidae. Green lacewings and syrphid fly larvae probably also prey on chokecherry aphids. Prairie mound ants (Formica montana) protect chokecherry aphids from predators in return for the honeydew aphids produce. They have few defenses against predators, although gathering in colonies may decrease predation. When threatened, many aphid species release an alarm pheromone that alerts other aphids in the colony of an attack. In response to the alarm pheromone, aphids try to escape by falling off host plants or walking away. (Cranshaw, 1996; Vaundell and Storch, 1972; Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990; van Emden and Harrington, 2007)
The primary host plant of chokecherry aphids are chokecherry trees. Large colonies feed exclusively on the phloem from these plants until June, when the colonies disappear and some migrate to secondary host plants, including several species of bulrushes (Scirpus validus, Scirpus acutus and Scirpus atrovirens), bald spike rushes (Eleocharis erythropoda) and pin cherries Prunus pensylvanica. Chokecherry aphids are prey for a variety of other insects such as lady beetles, lacewings and syrphid flies. Like all aphid species, chokecherry aphids have an obligate symbiotic relationship with a bacterium species, Buchnera aphidicola, which means that both species need each other to survive. This bacteria produces essential amino acids that aphids do not get from their plant diet and the bacteria cannot survive outside the body of an aphid. Prairie mound ants (Formica montana) farm colonies of chokecherry aphids in a mutually beneficial relationship. These ants eat the honeydew that chokecherry aphids produce and the ants provide protection for the aphid colony. Chokecherry aphids may also live in one colony with other aphid species, particularly Asiphonaphis pruni. (Cranshaw, 1996; Silva, et al., 2006; Vaundell and Storch, 1972; Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990)
While many aphid species are agricultural pests to host plants, chokecherry aphids are not considered serious pests. Chokecherry aphids have the potential to damage chokecherry plants and their secondary host plants when present in large numbers. (Taber, 1994)
There are no known positive effects of chokecherry aphids on humans.
Chokecherry aphids have no special conservation status.
Angela Miner (author), Animal Diversity Web Staff, Elizabeth Wason (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff, Leila Siciliano Martina (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.
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