Raspberry and blackberry aphids

Several species of sap sucking aphids can suck sap from the leaves, shoot tips and flower stalks of raspberry, blackberry and other related hybrid berries.

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Raspberry with virus transmitted by aphids

Quick facts

Common names: Large European raspberry aphid, large blackberry aphid, small European raspberry aphid and scarce blackberry aphid
Scientific names: Amphorophora idaei, A. rubi, Aphis idaei and Macrosiphum funestum
Plants affected: Raspberry, blackberry and hybrid berries
Main symptoms: Leaf curling and lack of vigour, some virus transmission
Most active: Spring and early summer

What are raspberry and blackberry aphids?

Aphids are sap-sucking true bugs and are an important part of many food chains, supporting many predators. 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. Almost any plant can be affected, including ornamentals, vegetables, fruits, greenhouse plants and houseplants.

Several species can feed on raspberries, blackberries and other hybrid berries including the large European raspberry aphid, large blackberry aphid, small European raspberry aphid and scarce blackberry aphid. They do not always affect cropping. 

Symptoms

There are several species of aphid which can be found on raspberry, blackberries, hybrid berries and brambles. They do not always affect cropping but in some cases they can cause various degrees of leaf distortion and a lack of vigour. They can also transmit plant viruses (see main image for virus-infected raspberries). Frequently encountered species include:

Large European Raspberry aphid, Amphorophora idaei. A pale yellowish green aphid that reaches 4mm long. The aphid affects raspberries but does not cause damage directly it is however a raspberry virus vector and can transmit raspberry necrosis virus, raspberry leaf mottle virus, raspberry leaf spot virus and rubus yellow net virus. The aphid overwinters as eggs at the base of raspberry stems, these hatch in March the aphids feeding on the shoot tips. Later the aphids live on the undersides of leaves. Winged adults are produced in summer and distribute to other raspberry plants.

Large blackberry aphid, Amphorophora rubi. This species is very similar in appearance and lifecycle to the large European raspberry aphid but feeds on blackberry and not raspberry.

Small European raspberry, Aphis idaei. This small (2mm long) light green or yellowish aphid feeds on raspberries and loganberries. Spring populations can cause leaf curl but it is more important a vectors of raspberry vein chlorosis virus. This aphid overwinters as eggs in axils and the base of buds towards the top of canes. The eggs hatch in late march and can form dense colonies at the shoot tips. Winged aphids are produced during the summer months which can spread to other bushes.

Scarce blackberry aphid, Macrosiphum funestum. This dull green 4mm long aphid feeds on blackberry but it has limited effects on plant vigour or cropping. The aphid overwinters as eggs on the canes. The eggs hatch in spring and colonies can be most obvious in May and June at the shoot tips.

Control

Whilst the raspberry and blackberry aphids do not often directly damage plants of affect cropping they can however, transmit viruses and so control may be considered necessary.

Check susceptible fruit bushes 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

  • Where possible tolerate populations of aphids, they form an important part of many food chains and can be part of a healthy garden ecosystem
  • 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. Indiscriminate use of pesticides can reduce the numbers of useful predators.

Pesticide control

The 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 Gun for Fruit & Veg, Neudorff Bug Free Bug and Larvae Killer), fatty acids (e.g. 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)
  • A systemic containing the active ingredient Flupyradifurone (Provanto Smart Bug Killer) is available for use on ornamentals and selected edibles
Follow label instructions when using pesticides. On edible plants make sure the food plant is listed on the label and follow instructions on maximum number of applications, spray interval and harvest interval
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

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