Help us achieve our goals:
make a donation »
Join the RHS today and
support our charity
Free personalised gardening advice
RHS members get reduced ticket prices
RHS members get free access to RHS Gardens
Reduced prices on RHS Garden courses and workshops
020 3176 5800
Mon – Fri | 9am – 5pm
Make a donation
Join the RHS today and support our charity
I have forgotten my password
Keep me signed in
Register for free to receive our newsletters, add comments to blogs/articles and to save content.
Some black aphid species, particularly the species known as the black bean aphid, are troublesome on some vegetables and flowers during the spring and summer.
Common name Blackfly including the black bean aphidScientific name Aphis fabae species groupPlants affected A very wide range including broad, French and runner beans, nasturtium, dahlia, philadelphus, viburnum and euonymusMain cause A black sap-sucking insectTiming April-August
There are several species of black aphid that infest garden plants but the most common blackfly is a species called Aphis fabae, which is also known as the black bean aphid. This is a sap-sucking insect that forms dense colonies on the soft young growth of many plants.
Cherry trees are prone to a different aphid known as cherry blackfly.
The aphids are up to 2mm long and are mainly black but may have some white flecks on the upper surface of their bodies. Dense aggregations of the aphids can rapidly develop on soft shoot tips, flower stems and on the underside of the younger leaves. The aphids are often attended by ants, which collect the sugary honeydew that aphids excrete. Whitish cast skins of aphids often accumulate on infested plants.
Heavy infestations weaken the host plants and can result in stunted growth. On broad beans, pod formation will be poor if the plants become heavily infested. Flower formation on ornamental plants, such as dahlia, nasturtium and poppies, can be adversely affected when blackfly are feeding on the developing flowers. The winter-spring host plants, such as Philadelphus, Viburnum and common spindle (Euonymus europaeus) often develop curled foliage in response to chemicals secreted into the foliage as the aphids feed.
Aphids have many natural enemies, including ladybirds, hoverfly larvae, lacewing larvae and several parasitic wasps. Some of these are available for biological control of aphids in greenhouses (aphid predators). Unfortunately, damaging aphid infestations often build up on garden plants before natural enemies are active in sufficient numbers to achieve control. Use your finger and thumb to squash infestations on small plants. Picking off the tips of broad beans as soon as the blackfly are seen can reduce and delay infestation, and also improve the yield of beans
Pesticides for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining pesticides available to gardeners)
The blackfly Aphis fabae overwinters as eggs on shrubs such as common spindle (Euonymus europaeus), Viburnum and Philadelphus. Egg hatch occurs in spring as the winter host plant is coming into new leaf. Several generations of wingless aphids, which are all female and produce live young rather than eggs, develop on the spring foliage. By May, the foliage on the winter host plants has become older and tougher, which along with increasing day length induces a change in the aphids. A generation of female winged aphids develops that fly away in search of suitable summer host plants, such as beans, nasturtium, poppies and dahlia. At that time of year male aphids are not required for reproduction, so a single winged aphid arriving on a broad bean can quickly establish a new colony. Blackfly infestations on the winter-spring host plants die out during May-June.
At the end of summer, another winged generation of aphids is produced that migrates back to the winter host plants. At that time there are males and females that will mate before the females deposit eggs around buds and in crevices on the stems.
AphidsAphid predatorsBroad bean seed beetleCherry blackflyCurrant blister aphidCypress aphidGreen spruce aphidHellebore aphidLupin aphidMealy cabbage aphidPlum aphidsRose aphidsRosy apple aphidWoolly aphidWoolly beech aphid
the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9
RHS members can get exclusive individual advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.
Register for the site or sign in to share your experiences on this topic and seek advice from our community of gardeners.
Mrs J Young on 01/06/2014
I have three standard viburnums which have been badly affected for the last few years, but especially badly this year. I am thinking about digging them up. Should I go ahead?
We're a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. We want to enrich everyone's life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.
Join the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9