Basic biology of the buckthorn–potato aphid

Buckthornpotato aphid is a relatively minor pest of potato because populations rarely grow large enough to cause economic damage through direct feeding. However, very heavy infestations can seriously damage the haulm and reduce yields, and the aphid can transmit nonpersistent viruses. 

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Risk factors in potatoes

  • Warm conditions in late spring/early summer can promote large populations
  • Most direct damage is caused during tuber bulking in late July and August

Aphid identification

Scientific nameAphis nasturtii 

Wingless adults are relatively small (12 mm) and bright yellowgreen. 

Buckthorn–potato aphid life cycle and crop damage

OctMay: Eggs overwinter on buckthorn. 

MayOct: Winged adults move into crops in May/June and reproduce throughout the summer. 

OctNov: Winged adults migrate to buckthorn to lay eggs. 

Potato virus Y (PVY) infections result in leaf drop streak, whereby the lower leaves develop black streaks on their underside veins and eventually collapse  hanging off the stem by a thread. Younger leaves may develop necrotic spotting.  

Potato virus A (PVA) infections usually cause mild mosaic symptoms. 

Non-chemical and chemical control

Non-chemical control 

Natural enemies include parasitic wasps, ladybirds, hoverflies, lacewings, and insect-pathogenic fungi, which may help control aphid numbers. However, they may not be effective in preventing virus transmission, as this can occur even at low aphid densities. 

How to encourage natural enemies of field crop pests

The use of seed potatoes certified by the British Seed Potato Classification Scheme reduces the virus risk and its subsequent spread by aphids. Potato varieties differ in their susceptibility to aphid infestation and virus infection. If the crop is grown in a high-risk area, seek expert advice about which crop variety to choose.  


Buckthornpotato aphids are rarely caught in suction traps, so winged migration data is not available.  


None established. Control measures are usually unwarranted. 

Insecticide resistance 

None known. 

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