Giant Willow Aphid from New Zealand

Subject: Please help identify
Location: Feilding New Zealand
May 15, 2016 9:58 pm
I found quite a few of these crawling around on my outdoor table and occasionally on me. Just want to know what they are and if they are a known pest or harmless.
Signature: Narelle

Giant Willow Aphid
Giant Willow Aphid

Dear Narelle,
We believe we have correctly identified this Aphid as a Giant Willow Aphid,
Tuberolachnus salignus, a species that according to Farm Forestry New Zealand:  ” was first found in New Zealand on 23 Dec 2013 at Western Springs Park, Auckland by entomologist Stephen Thorpe. Surprisingly, subsequent surveys have revealed that it is already well established throughout much of New Zealand.”  The site also states:  “Large dense colonies of the giant willow aphid form over summer. Reproduction occurs asexually with no males having ever been found, thus the aphids in these colonies are typically clones. The aphids are noted to be long lived, with winged individuals in particular displaying lengthy maternal care of their offspring. In Great Britain colonies are apparent from mid-summer into late winter, after which the aphids curiously disappear in spring. We may expect to see a similar trend in New Zealand with T. salignus present between December and July.”  More information on the Giant Willow Aphid can be found on the Study of Northern Virginia Ecology site.

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