Currant aphids

Three aphid (blackfly/greenfly) species can cause distortion to leaves of currants, the currant-sowthistle aphid, currant blister aphid and permanent currant aphid.

Permanent currant aphid ( Aphis schneideri ) damage

Permanent currant aphid (Aphis schneideri) damage

Quick facts

Common names: Currant-sowthistle aphid, currant blister aphid and permanent currant aphid
Scientific names: Hypermyzus lactucae, Cryptomyzus ribis and Aphis schneideri
Plants affected: Currants
Main symptoms: Distorted and discoloured leaves
Most active: Spring and summer

What are currant aphids?

Three aphid (greenfly/blackfly) species commonly cause damage on currants.  All three species overwinter on the stems as eggs that hatch in the spring.

  • The most serious is the currant-sowthistle aphid (Hypermyzus lactucae), which in late spring, causes distorted leaves with yellowish mottling
  • Currant blister aphid (Cryptomyzus ribis) damages the young foliage, causing puckered, reddish or yellowish leaves at the shoot tips
  • Permanent currant aphid (Aphis schneideri) is black and remains on currants throughout the summer. It causes pronounced stunting of the shoot tips with the leaves compressed together

Control

Non-pesticide control

  • Some damage from these aphids can be tolerated with no effects on quality or quantity of yield
  • Aphids have many natural enemies, including ladybirds, hoverfly larvae, lacewing larvae and several parasitoid wasps. In spring aphid infestations often build before natural enemies are active in sufficient numbers to give good control

Pesticide control

  • Plants can be treated with a plant oil winter wash (e.g. Growing Success Winter Tree Wash) in December to reduce the number of overwintering eggs
  • There is no point in spraying after the foliage has become distorted
  • Best results are likely to be achieved by spraying against newly-hatched aphids shortly after bud burst
  • Organic sprays, such as natural pyrethrum (e.g. Bug Clear Gun for Fruit & Veg, Ecofective Bug Killer), fatty acids (e.g. Solabiol Bug Free, Doff Greenfly & Blackfly Killer) or plant oils (e.g. Vitax Organic Pest & Disease Control, Bug Clear for Fruit and Veg) can give good control of aphids. These pesticides have a very short persistence and so may require reapplication to keep aphid numbers in check. Plant oil and fatty acid products are less likely to affect larger insects such as ladybird adults. 
  • More persistent insecticides which can be used on currents include the synthetic pyrethroids lambda-cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Pest Killer), deltamethrin (e.g. Provanto Ultimate Fruit & Vegetable Bug Killer) and cypermethrin (e.g. Py Bug Killer)
  • Follow label instructions when using pesticides. For edible plants make sure the food plant is listed on the label and follow instructions on maximum number applications, spray interval and harvest interval
  • Do not spray plants in flower due to the danger to bees and other pollinating insects
  • Inclusion of a pesticide product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by the RHS. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener

Download

Pesticides for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining pesticides available to gardeners)

Biology

Currant-sowthistle aphid (Hypermyzus lactucae) is up to 2.7mm long and green, with pale legs. The eggs hatch in March or April. By May large colonies of aphids can develop on currants. Currant-sowthistle aphid colonies die out on currants during May and June and winged forms migrate to the summer host sowthistle (Sonchus spp.) where they form colonies during the summer months. In the autumn there is a return migration to currants where mating occurs and overwintering eggs are laid in the bud axils.

Currant blister aphid (Cryptomyzus ribis) are pale yellow and live on the underside of the leaves where they feed by sucking sap. Where they feed a puckering, distortion and redish discolouration often develops. Wingless forms of the blister aphid are active on currants from bud burst until July. In midsummer, winged aphids develop and migrate to the wild flower known as hedge woundwort (Stachys sylvatica). Infestations on currants come to an end at that time, although damaged foliage remains visible until leaf fall. The aphids return to currants in the autumn when overwintering eggs are laid.

Permanent currant aphid (Aphis schneideri) reaches 2.2mm in length and is black. Eggs hatch in spring and colonies soon develop on shot tips. As the common name suggests this aphid can be present on currants all year although winged forms are produced in the summer these migrate to other currants.


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