Kind of organism : Insects, mites and myriapods

Detection method : Visual

All diseases & pests

Causal agent(s) and transmission

Aphids comprise a large number of species. Some of them multiply on the potato and can form colonies, whilst itinerant aphids only visit the crop occasionally during flights.

Six aphid species are frequent on potato leaves and may be found worldwide.

If conditions are favourable, they can form large colonies on potato plants:

–  Myzus persicae (the green peach and potato aphid – photos 1 and 2) favours the lower leaves. It is one of the most dangerous species for the transmission of potato viruses. Some populations of this species are insecticide-resistant.

– Macrosiphum euphorbiae (the green and pink potato aphid – photos 3 and 4) is a large aphid with both green and pink forms. The colonies are often very prevalent on the flower stalks.

– Aulacorthum solani (the digitalis and greenhouse potato aphid – photo 5) is a medium-sized yellow to green aphid with darker streaks on the winged form. It favours the lower and intermediate leaves of the plants.

– Aphis frangulae (the alder buckthorn-potato aphid – photo 6) is a medium-sized aphid of a greenish colour. It is mainly abundant in Eastern Europe. Another, very similar, species can also be observed on potatoes in hot climates. This is Aphis gossypii (the melon and cotton aphid).

– Aphis nasturtii (the buckthorn aphid – photos 7 and 8) is a temperate climate species, found mainly in Eastern Europe but has also become more common in France over the last ten years. This is a small yellow aphid, also found on the lower leaves.

– Aphis fabae (the black bean aphid – photos 9 and 10), is a polyphagous species; it is very harmful to many vegetable crops. The subspecies A. fabae solanella may be found on potatoes, mainly in hot climates (Mediterranean and tropical).

To this list of species present on potato leaves, should be added Rhopalosiphoninus latysiphon (the bulb and potato aphid), which multiplies on potato sprouts in storage facilities and may cause losses of germinative vigour.

The winged forms of other itinerant aphid species, which do not form colonies on potato plants, may also briefly visit potato fields.

These include the cereal aphids, Rhopalosiphum padi (the cherry-oat aphid – Photo 11), Rhopalosiphum maidis (the green corn aphid), Schizaphis graminum (the small grain aphid), Sitobion avenæ (the grain or brown wheat ear aphid) and aphids colonising other crops, e.g. Brachycaudus helichrysi (the leaf-curling plum aphid – Photo 12), Phorodon humuli (the hops aphid – Photo 13), Cavariella aegopodii (the carrot aphid – Photo 14), Lipaphis erysimi (the turnip aphid) and Myzus certus which are among the most common species in Western Europe.

In the USA, new species have similarly been identified over the last ten years: Acyrthosiphon pisum (the green pea aphid – Photo 15), Aphis helianthi (the sunflower aphid) and Capitophorus eleagni.

The itinerant aphid species, which can visit potato fields with high alate populations, can have a significant effect in the dissemination of non-persistent viruses such as PVY or PVA. However they are not involved in the transmission (persistent mode) of PLRV, because aphids need to remain for quite a long time in the crop before they become viruliferous.


Aphids cause direct damage as a result of their feeding activities and indirect damage as a result of their major role in the dissemination of numerous potato viruses.

The direct damage of aphids is caused by plant sap sucking and subsequently by the presence of sooty black mould, which develops on the honey dew rejected by the insects. Significative losses are related to large infestations of aphids in the crop over a long period. In this case, losses of 5 to 16 tonnes per hectare have been observed in long-cycle cultivars.

The indirect damage is caused by the dissemination of potato viruses, whose transmission to other plants can be done either in a non-persistent mode (the complete transmission process from one plant to another takes a very short time) as for the viruses PVY, PVA, PVS or PVM or in a persistent mode (the process takes a few hours or days) as it is the case for PLRV.

Virus transmitted by aphids

M. persicae++++++++
M. euphorbiae++++
A. solani++++
A. frangulae+++
A. nasturtii+++
R. padi++

*PLRV : Potato leaf roll virus

PVY : Potato virus Y

PVA : Potato virus A

PVS : Potato virus S

PVM : Potato virus M

M. persicæ is the main and most efficient vector of the Potato virus Y (PVY) and the Potato leaf roll virus (PLRV). It is also often responsible for the dissemination of PVA, PVM and PVS.

However, less efficient vector species can be responsible for significant virus transmission when present in large numbers.


Insecticides can be effective in preventing the development of aphid populations within the potato crop. For the production of ware or processed potatoes, the use of aphicides is only required in the case of high infestation. Insecticides are also used on seed potato crops to prevent or to reduce the transmission of persistent viruses, such as the Potato leaf roll virus, because the delay is long enough to kill aphids before they can transmit such viruses. Some species, such as M. persicæ and A. gossypii, have developed resistance to a number of organophosphates and/or carbamates.

However, insecticides give little protection against the transmission of non-persistent viruses, (PVY, PVA, PVM or PVS). Control methods for non-persistent viruses include monitoring aphid populations by means of traps (field yellow traps or suction traps of regional impact, e.g. the EXAMINE network), repeated applications of mineral oils to reduce virus transmission and appropriate cultivation methods (seed quality, planting time, roguing, haulm destruction, etc.).