Insect of the Week – Natural enemies of pea aphids

Populations of pea aphids, Acyrthosiphon pisum Harris (Hemiptera: Aphididae), can be kept below the economic threshold by their natural enemies if these are present early and in sufficient numbers. Natural enemies include parasitoids, predators, and diseases that reduce pest populations.

Predators of pea aphids include ladybird beetles (adults and larvae), syrphid fly larvae, and damsel bugs. These predators catch and eat pea aphids of all ages and sizes. They are classified as generalists because they also prey on other insect species.

The many faces of the adult harlequin ladybeetle 
 (aka multicoloured Asian ladybeetle) (Photo: ©Entomart)
Harlequin ladybeetle larva (Photo: cc by-sa Quartl)

Pea aphids are attacked by several species of parasitoid, including Aphidius ervi Haliday (Hymenoptera: Aphidiidae: Aphidiinae). Female parasitoids lay individual eggs inside aphid nymphs. After hatching, the parasitoid larva consumes its host, eventually killing it. The parasitoid pupates inside the dead or mummified aphid before a new adult parasitoid emerges.

Aphid mummies look bloated and discoloured compared to healthy adult aphids. Parasitism rates can be estimated by counting the number of aphid mummies on five host plants at five locations within a field.

Aphidius ervi parasitoid (Photo: cc by Penny Greeves)

For more information about the predators and parasitoids of pea aphids, visit the Insect of the Week page or consult Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management Field Guide.

To learn more about some of the natural enemies fighting pests in background for free, go to or follow @FieldHeroes on Twitter.

Blog post submitted by Dr. Meghan Vankosky.
Follow her at @Vanbugsky.

Insect of the Week – Pea aphid (Hemiptera: Aphididae)

This week’s insect of the week is the pea aphid (Acyrthosiphon pisum). This long-legged, pear-shaped aphid is 3-4 mm long, light to dark green and each antennal segment is tipped by a black band. It feeds on field peas, alfalfa, broad beans, chickpeas, clover and lentils. Feeding damage can reduce yields due to lower seed formation and seed size. Leaves may turn yellow and overall plant growth can be delayed.

Pea aphids overwinter as eggs on the leaves and stems of perennial legumes (eg. clover or alfalfa crowns). They produce 2-3 generations asexually before winged females migrate to summer host crops where several more generations are produced. Winged sexual forms develop in late summer that mate and females return to winter host crops to lay eggs.

For more information about pea aphids, see our Insect of the Week page!

Pea aphid adult (L) and nymph (R)
©Mike Dolinski,