Aphis ilicis Kaltenbach 1843 Holly Aphid, Hemiptera, in Kidderminster
John Bingham & Denise Bingham
Normally aphids are viewed more of a pest species, often not worthy of recording by naturalists, ourselves included. Really this is being unkind to a perfectly good group of insects. On the 15th February 2015 Denise Bingham found some aphids under a Holly leaf Ilex aquifolium in our Kidderminster garden. There was little around insect-wise to divert our interest so we checked which species it was, Holly being a different host to the more normal aphid attacks on our roses.
It was identified as Aphis ilicis, the Holly Aphid as to be expected given the plant it was on. More of a surprise was the fact only two records appeared on NBN Gateway, one being the SO77 10 × 10km sqare. (NBN Gateway webpages). Aphids in general seem to have very few records on NBN Gateway, does no one like them? I guess they are more of a horticultural interest and records do exist on other databases. We could make Worcestershire the holly aphid recording hotspot! Our Holly aphids were damaged by a braconid parasitoid, probably Aphidius as seen by the large hole on the back of every aphid (01) (Influential Points Aphid Webpage).
The aphid is easy to spot, just look for the distinctive young curled leaves. It lives in dense colonies on the undersides and the attacked leaves curl towards their undersides (02). Helpfully Aphis ilicis apparently does not have any alternate host plants. They need new leaf growth otherwise they die out, mature leaves are not used, so cut hedges with fresh growth are ideal (Alford 2012).
Alford, D, V. 2012 Pests of Ornamental Trees, Shrubs and Flowers: A Colour Handbook, Second Edition. Google eBook page 54.
Aphid Webpage. http://influentialpoints.com/Gallery/Aphis_ilicis_holly_aphid.htm#identi
NBN Gateway. https://data.nbn.org.uk/Taxa/NHMSYS0020738165.
01. Aphis ilicis Holly Aphid parasitised by braconid, probably Aphidius. John Bingham.
02. Curled Holly leaves with Aphis ilicis the Holly Aphid. John Bingham