How to Manage Pests

UC Pest Management Guidelines

Asparagus

European Asparagus Aphid

Scientific name: Brachycorynella asparagi

(Reviewed 6/09, updated 2/12)

In this Guideline:


DESCRIPTION OF THE PEST

The European asparagus aphid is a small blue-green to gray-green aphid about 0.06 inch (1.5 mm) in length. The aphid is often covered with a powdery wax. Unlike most aphids, the cornicles of European asparagus aphid are reduced to practically invisible openings on the abdomen. The cauda, a projection at the very rear tip of the abdomen, is relatively long compared with other aphid species and has sides that are nearly parallel. The antennae are short.

The wingless forms of the aphids like to feed where the needles of the fern attach to the petioles. Their small size and coloration make them difficult to spot even upon close examination. Winged forms often occur in very large numbers that may appear as a large cloud. The aphid overwinters as eggs deposited on the old fern or in cracks in the soil.

DAMAGE

Damage from European asparagus aphid is primarily from a toxin that the aphids inject into the plant when feeding. The toxin causes shortened internodes on subsequent growth, resulting in a tufted appearance that is called bonsai growth. While other factors can cause a limited amount of this type of distorted growth, heavy European asparagus aphid infestations produce this distortion in great profusion. Heavy populations also produce massive amounts of honeydew that may lead to considerable ant activity.

Because asparagus is a perennial plant, the important damage is the impact of the European asparagus aphid feeding on the subsequent year's growth. The distorted growth is unable to adequately nourish the plant's crown and it will desiccate after 1 or 2 years feeding by this pest. The toxin may also cause a delay in bud break in spring followed by a profusion of small spears produced simultaneously. The impact is especially pronounced on newly established or weak plantings, and in seedling beds.

MANAGEMENT

Cleaning fields of crop debris and encouraging natural enemies are important in managing this pest. Monitor field edges regularly to detect the appearance of populations.

Biological Control
Natural enemies, especially parasitic wasps and lady beetles, help control European asparagus aphid populations. Most of the parasites, such as Diaeretiella rapae, have their greatest impact on heavy populations after the damage is done. A species of Trioxys imported and released to control European asparagus aphid has had little success to date. General predators, such as the convergent lady beetle, may feed on some European asparagus aphids, but the European asparagus aphid's rate of reproduction can overwhelm the predators' impact. Encourage natural populations of parasites by delaying pesticide applications where possible.

Cultural Control

Mowing, chopping up, and then incorporating ferns during the dormant season may substantially reduce eggs in the area. Burning is also effective where permitted.

Organically Acceptable Methods

Cultural and biological control, and sprays of insecticidal oils and PyGanic are acceptable to use in an organically certified crop.

Monitoring and Treatment Decisions

European asparagus aphid populations start very slowly and in widely dispersed patches, then seem to nearly explode. Populations often begin near field edges, so monitor the edges of fields regularly whenever fern is present. It is best to collect plant samples and shake or beat them on a hard, light-colored surface (the side of a white 5-gallon bucket or hood of a pick-up, for example) to dislodge both the aphids and their natural enemies. Visual inspection of the ferns is not reliable, even for experienced scouts.

No definite threshold has been established and any threshold will vary with the condition of the field and time of the season. A high percentage of plants infested is more important than a high number of aphids on a few plants. The earlier in the season, the more likely a small infestation will become a problem. Waiting for appearance of distorted plants or large amounts of white cast skins under plants may allow populations to reach dangerous levels before the infestation is detected. Treat when numbers of aphids begin to increase faster than beneficials.

Common name Amount per Acre** R.E.I.‡ P.H.I.‡
(example trade name)   (hours) (days)

  Calculate impact of pesticide on air quality
The following materials are listed in order of usefulness in an IPM program, taking into account efficacy, information related to natural enemies and honey bees and environmental impact. Not all registered pesticides are listed. Always read label of product being used.
 
A. CHLORPYRIFOS*
  (Lorsban Advanced) 2 pt 24 see comments
  MODE OF ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 1B
  COMMENTS: Apply to the fern stage. Limited to ground application. Avoid drift and tailwater runoff into surface waters. Use allowed under a Supplemental Label.
 
B. PYROMEZINE
  (Fulfill) 2.75 oz 12 170
  MODE OF ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 9B
  COMMENTS: Apply to asparagus ferns after harvest has been completed.
 
C. PYRETHRIN#
  (PyGanic) 1.4EC 1–4 pt 12 0
  MODE OF ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 3
  COMMENTS: Apply in sufficient water for thorough coverage, and begin treatments when insects first appear. Air blast applications are more effective than concentrate applications. The restricted reentry interval is 12 hours. Although OMRI approved for organically certified crops, check with certifier for any restrictions that apply.
 
D. NARROW RANGE OIL# 1–2 gal/100 gal water See label 0
  MODE OF ACTION: Contact including smothering and barrier effect.
  COMMENTS: Less effective than first two materials listed above but an option for organic growers.
 
** See label for dilution rates.
+ Restricted entry interval (R.E.I.) is the number of hours (unless otherwise noted) from treatment until the treated area can be safely entered without protective clothing. Preharvest interval (P.H.I.) is the number of days from treatment to harvest. In some cases the REI exceeds the PHI. The longer of two intervals is the minimum time that must elapse before harvest.
* Permit required from county agricultural commissioner for purchase or use.
1 Rotate chemicals with a different mode-of-action Group number, and do not use products with the same mode-of-action Group number more than twice per season to help prevent the development of resistance. For example, the organophosphates have a Group number of 1B; chemicals with a 1B Group number should be alternated with chemicals that have a Group number other than 1B. Mode of action Group numbers are assigned by IRAC (Insecticide Resistance Action Committee). For additional information, see their Web site at http://www.irac-online.org/.
# Acceptable for organically grown produce.

[Precautions]

PUBLICATION

[UC Peer Reviewed]

UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines: Asparagus
UC ANR Publication 3435

Insects

  • E. T. Natwick, UC Cooperative Extension, Imperial County
Acknowledgment for contributions to Insects:
  • R. J. Mullen, UC Cooperative Extension, San Joaquin County
  • W. E. Chaney, UC Cooperative Extension, Monterey County
  • C. B. Fouche, UC Cooperative Extension, San Joaquin County

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