Lupin aphid

First detected in Britain in 1981, the lupin aphid has become widespread in Britain. This large grey aphid can be found on annual and perennial lupins often causing plants to wilt.

Lupin aphid

Quick facts

Common name Lupin aphid
Latin name Macrosiphum albifrons
Plants affected Annual and perennial lupins
Main symptoms Greyish white aphids on the foliage and flowers
Caused by A sap-sucking insect
Timing April-September

What is lupin aphid?

Lupin aphid is a sap-sucking insect in the same group of insects as greenfly and blackfly. It feeds on lupins (Lupinus).  Native to North American it has become widespread in Britain since its arrival in the early 1980s.

 

Symptoms

Keep an eye out for the following on your lupins;

  • Large, greyish-white aphids, up to 4mm long, form dense colonies on the underside of leaves and on the flower spikes
  • Sticky foliage covered with honeydew excreted by the aphids
  • Heavily infested plants often wilt

Control

Check lupins frequently from spring onwards so action can be taken before a damaging population has developed.  When choosing control options you can minimise harm to non-target animals by starting with the methods in the non-pesticide control section. If this is not sufficient to reduce damage to acceptable levels then you may choose to use pesticides. Within this group the shorter persistence pesticides (that are usually certified for organic growing) are likely to be less damaging to non-target wildlife than those with longer persistence and/or systemic action.

Non-pesticide control

  • Use finger and thumb to squash aphid colonies where practical
  • Encourage aphid predators in the garden, such as ladybirds, ground beetles, hoverflies, parasitoid wasps and earwigs. Be aware that in spring aphid populations often build up before natural enemies are active in sufficient numbers and then give good control

Pesticide control

  • Organic sprays, such as natural pyrethrum (e.g. Bug Clear Gun for Fruit & Veg, Neudorff Bug Free Bug and Larvae Killer), fatty acids (e.g. Solabiol Bug Free, Doff Greenfly & Blackfly Killer) or plant oils (e.g. Vitax Plant Guard 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
  • Plant invigorators combine nutrients to stimulate plant growth with surfactants or fatty acids that have a physical mode of action against aphids (e.g. Ecofective Bug Control, RHS Bug and Mildew Control, SB Plant Invigorator and Westland Resolva Natural Power Bug & Mildew). These products contain some synthetic ingredients and so are not considered organic.
  • More persistent contact-action insecticides include the synthetic pyrethroids lambda-cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Bug Killer), deltamethrin (e.g. Provanto Ultimate Fruit & Vegetable Bug Killer, Provanto Sprayday Greenfly Killer) and cypermethrin (e.g. Py Bug Killer)
  • The systemic neonicotinoid insecticide acetamiprid (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra) is also available
Follow label instructions when using pesticides
Plants in flower should not be sprayed due to the danger to bees and other pollinating insects
Inclusion of a pesticide product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by RHS Gardening Advice. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener

Download

Pesticides for gardeners (pdf document)

Biology

Lupin aphid is present on its host plants all year round.

Small numbers of aphids overwinter on the basal buds and they begin to reproduce in spring. For most of spring and summer the aphids are in the form of wingless females that give birth to live young. Aphid numbers generally peak when the plants are coming into flower.

When the aphids colonies become overcrowded in mid-summer, winged forms develop that can fly and colonise other lupins.


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