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.
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
What is lupin aphid?
Aphids are sap-sucking true bugs. They range in size from 1 to 7mm (¼in or less) long. Some aphids are known as greenfly or blackfly, but there are species that are yellow, pink, white or mottled. There are more than 500 aphid species in Britain. Some feed on only one or two plant species, but others can be found on a wide range of plant hosts. Many have lifecycles that involve more than one host plant. Almost any plant can be a host to aphids, including ornamentals, vegetables, fruits, greenhouse plants and houseplants. More information on aphids.
Lupin aphid feeds on lupins (Lupinus). Native to North American it has become widespread in Britain since its arrival in the early 1980s.
- 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 affected plants often wilt
Aphids form the basis of many food chains in the garden and it is not unusual to have some of these animals in a healthy balanced garden ecosystem. Check lupins frequently from spring onwards so action can be taken before a damaging population has developed. Unfortunately lupin aphid is unusual for an aphid as it often causes host plants to wilt.When choosing management options you can minimise harm to non-target animals by starting with the methods in the non-pesticide control section and avoiding pesticides. Within pesticides the shorter persistence products (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. Pesticide treatments are likely to kill natural enemies and are only likely to be successful if the entire plant can be reached.
- 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 controlThe RHS believes that avoiding pests, diseases and weeds by good practice in cultivation methods, cultivar selection, garden hygiene and encouraging or introducing natural enemies, should be the first line of control. If chemical controls are used, they should be used only in a minimal and highly targeted manner.
- Organic sprays, such as natural pyrethrum (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra 2, Neudorff Bug Free Bug and Larvae Killer) or plant oils (e.g. Vitax Plant Guard Pest & Disease Control, Bug Clear Fruit & Veg, Vitax Rose Guard) 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, Growing Success Bug Stop, Rose Clear 3 in 1 Action 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)
- A systemic containing the active ingredient Flupyradifurone (Provanto Smart Bug Killer) is available
- The systemic neonicotinoid insecticide acetamiprid (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra) is also available
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
Pesticides for gardeners (pdf document)
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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