Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae

Geographic Range

Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae, the chokecherry aphid, is native to the Nearctic region. Its range extends across the United States and the southern half of Canada. (Foottit, et al., 2008; Hidalgo, et al., 2012; Webb, et al., 1994)


Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae is found in temperate regions, wherever its host plants grow. Its primary host, chokecherry, can be found in grasslands, along riversides, and in forests. Its secondary hosts, including several species of bulrush of the genus Scirpus, grow in marshes and along rivers and lake shores. (Cranshaw, 1996; Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990)

Physical Description

Like all aphids, Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae has a round, soft body, with a pair of cornicles that secrete fluid at the end of the abdomen. Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae averages 2.25 mm in length. The apterous (wingless) female forms are pale green in color, with a dark green mid-dorsal line on the thorax. Alate (winged) females have a black head and body, while the prothorax is green. Nymphs resemble smaller versions of adults. (Mondor, et al., 2007; Patch, 1914; Quaintance and Challen, 1917; Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990)

  • Average length
    2.25 mm
    0.09 in


Eggs of Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae hatch in the spring after overwintering on dormant host plants. First-generation nymphs are plentiful in the middle of April and may grow through as many as four instars within two weeks. Apterous (wingless) females first appear in the beginning of May, while second-generation nymphs appear shortly thereafter by parthenogenesis. Adults are most abundant on their primary host, chokecherry, from May to June. Alate (winged females) appear in mid-May, and these aphids migrate to secondary hosts. Within 24 hours, they produce apterous females. By early June, all colonies disappear from chokecherry and remain exclusively on secondary hosts for the rest of the summer and into the fall. Males and gynoparae (parthenogenetic females that produce sexually reproductive females) are produced on secondary hosts and migrate to chokecherry in the fall. On chokecherry, the gynoparae produce oviparae (egg-laying females that mate with males). Eggs are laid continually on primary host plants from mid-October to November, at which time the plants become dormant and the eggs overwinter. (Quaintance and Challen, 1917; Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990)


Little information is available regarding the mating systems of Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae. Mating and parthenogenesis occur on the primary host, chokecherry. Only parthenogenesis occurs on the secondary host plants. Oviparae (egg-laying females that mate with males) likely produce pheromones to attract mates. (Symmes, et al., 2012; Taber, 1994)

Female aphids give birth to genetically identical live young via parthenogenesis throughout the spring and summer. The number of live young produced by one female is unknown for this species; however, in other aphid species, one female can produce hundreds or even thousands of offspring. Eggs are laid continually from mid-October to November on the host plant, chokecherry, around buds and in the crooks of twigs. Females produce one or more eggs; the maximum number of eggs has not been documented. The host plant becomes dormant during the winter, during which time the eggs overwinter. (Mondor, et al., 2007; Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990; van Emden and Harrington, 2007)

  • Breeding interval
    Oviparae (egg laying females that mate with males) continually breed once they migrate to host plants.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs at the end of summer and during the fall, when aphids migrate to chokecherry trees and produce oviparae.
  • Range eggs per season
    1 (low)

Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae females likely provision their eggs. Additionally, by laying eggs on host plants, females provide a safe overwintering environment and a suitable host plant for when the eggs hatch in the spring. Live young produced by parthenogenesis join the colony at birth and may interact with the female parent; however, the parents likely provide little care, and the offspring develop independently. (Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female


Although little information specific to Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae exists regarding lifespan and longevity, most aphid species live a few weeks to a month. The entire R. cerasifoliae colony dies out before the winter, and the eggs that overwinter repopulate the colony in the spring. (Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990; van Emden and Harrington, 2007)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    15 to 30 days


Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae lives in large colonies. Colonies can grow to great numbers in a short amount of time, due to parthenogenesis. Groups of these aphids often colonize leaves, with the leaves curling up as the aphids feed. Some forms of R. cerasifoliae are winged, typically the ones that migrate to and from secondary host plants. Aphids are generally known to be poor fliers, but can travel longer distances on air currents. (Quaintance and Challen, 1917; Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990; van Emden and Harrington, 2007)

Home Range

Unwinged forms of Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae remain on their host plants. Winged forms migrate from primary hosts to areas containing secondary host plants, though the distance of this migration has not been documented. It is likely that the secondary hosts are close to the primary host plants, as aphids are poor fliers and some forms of R. cerasifoliae migrate back to the primary host plants to lay eggs in the fall. (Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990; van Emden and Harrington, 2007)

Communication and Perception

While little information specific to Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae exists regarding communication and perception, most aphid species use pheromones to attract mates. During the reproductive stage of the aphid life cycle, egg-laying females (oviparae) produce a pheromone to attract males. Aphids perceive their environment visually, typically with a preference for yellow surfaces. As a host-specific aphid species, R. cerasifoliae likely finds host plants by detecting host-specific chemicals and odors. The main olfactory organs in aphids are located in the antennae. Most aphid species also produce an alarm pheromone that alerts other aphids of a predator attack. These chemicals are released in a droplet from the cornicles. (Joachim, et al., 2013; Symmes, et al., 2012; van Emden and Harrington, 2007)

Food Habits

Like all aphids, Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae feeds solely on plant phloem. It pierces the plant vessels to retrieve the sap. The primary host of R. cerasifoliae is chokecherry, on which it feeds from April to June. After June, some members of the colony migrate to secondary host plants. These secondary hosts include Scirpus validus in the Midwestern United States, Scirpus acutus in Washington and Idaho, Eleocharis erythropoda, Scirpus atrovirens, and pin cherry. (Cranshaw, 1996; Mondor, et al., 2007; Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990)

  • Primary Diet
  • herbivore
    • eats sap or other plant foods
  • Plant Foods
  • sap or other plant fluids


Many species of lady beetles (Coccinellidae) are avid predators of aphids. To Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae in particular, lady beetles of the genus Hippodamia are predators, though many other Coccinellidae species probably prey on R. cerasifoliae as well. Green lacewings and syrphid fly larvae are generalist predators of aphids and likely prey on R. cerasifoliae. The mutualist ant, Formica montana, protects R. cerasifoliae from predators in return for honeydew produced by the aphids, which the ants farm. Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae has little other defense from predators. Gathering in colonies may decrease predation pressure on individuals. When threatened, many aphid species release an alarm pheromone that alerts other aphids in the colony of an attack. In response to the alarm pheromone, aphids exhibit escape behaviors such as dropping off the host plant or walking away. (Cranshaw, 1996; Vaundell and Storch, 1972; Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990; van Emden and Harrington, 2007)

Ecosystem Roles

The primary host of Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae is chokecherry. Large colonies feed exclusively on the phloem from these plants until June, when the colonies disappear and some individuals migrate to secondary host plants, including several species of bulrush (Scirpus validus, Scirpus acutus, and Scirpus atrovirens), Eleocharis erythropoda, and pin cherry. Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae serves as prey to a variety of other insects, most notably lady beetles, lacewings, and syrphid flies. Like all Aphididae species, R. cerasifoliae hosts an endosymbiotic bacterium species, Buchnera aphidicola. This symbiosis is an obligate relationship for both species. Buchnera aphidicola produces essential amino acids that aphids do not get from their plant phloem diet, while Buchnera aphidicola cannot survive outside the body of an aphid. The ant Formica montana is known to farm colonies of R. cerasifoliae in a mutualistic relationship. Formica montana eats the honeydew that R. cerasifoliae produces, while the ants in turn provide protection for the aphid colony. Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae also has been documented living in one colony with other aphid species, particularly Asiphonaphis pruni. (Cranshaw, 1996; Silva, et al., 2006; Vaundell and Storch, 1972; Voegtlin and Halbert, 1990)

Species Used as Host
  • chokecherries (Prunus virginiana)
  • soft-stemmed bulrushes (Scirpus validus)
  • hard-stemmed bulrushes (Scirpus acutus)
  • green bulrushes (Scirpus atrovirens)
  • bald spike rushes (Eleocharis erythropoda)
  • pin cherries (Prunus pensylvanica)
Mutualist Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There are no known positive effects of Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae on humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

While many aphid species act as agricultural pests on their host plants, Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae is not considered to be a serious pest on chokecherry. Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae has the potential to damage chokecherry plants and its secondary host plants when present in large numbers, though severe occurrences have yet to be recorded. (Taber, 1994)

Conservation Status

Rhopalosiphum cerasifoliae has no special conservation status.


Angela Miner (author), Animal Diversity Web Staff, Elizabeth Wason (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff, Leila Siciliano Martina (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


reproduction that is not sexual; that is, reproduction that does not include recombining the genotypes of two parents

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


development takes place in an unfertilized egg


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


"many forms." A species is polymorphic if its individuals can be divided into two or more easily recognized groups, based on structure, color, or other similar characteristics. The term only applies when the distinct groups can be found in the same area; graded or clinal variation throughout the range of a species (e.g. a north-to-south decrease in size) is not polymorphism. Polymorphic characteristics may be inherited because the differences have a genetic basis, or they may be the result of environmental influences. We do not consider sexual differences (i.e. sexual dimorphism), seasonal changes (e.g. change in fur color), or age-related changes to be polymorphic. Polymorphism in a local population can be an adaptation to prevent density-dependent predation, where predators preferentially prey on the most common morph.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


Cranshaw, W. 1996. Aphids on Shade Trees and Ornamentals. Fort Collins, Colorado: Colorado State University. Accessed August 07, 2013 at http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/insect/05511.html.

Foottit, R., H. Maw, C. Von Dohlen, P. Hebert. 2008. Species identification of aphids (Insecta:Hemiptera:Aphididae) through DNA barcodes. Molecular Ecology Resources, 8/6: 1189-1201. Accessed August 07, 2013 at http://www.canacoll.org/Hemip/Staff/Foottit/PDFs/FoottitetalAphidbarcoding2008.pdf.

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Symmes, E., S. Dewhirst, M. Birkett, C. Campbell, K. Chamberlain, J. Pickett, F. Zalom. 2012. The Sex Pheromones of Mealy Plum (Hyalopterus pruni) and Leaf-Curl Plum (Brachycaudus helichrysi) Aphids: Identification and Field Trapping of Male and Gynoparous Aphids in Prune Orchards. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 38/5: 576-583.

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Webb, S., M. Kok-Yokomi, D. Voegtlin. 1994. Effect of Trap Color on Species Composition of Alate Aphids (Homoptera:Aphididae) Caught over Watermelon Plants. The Florida Entomologist, 77/1: 146-154.

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