Banana aphid

  • Banana plant infected with bunchy top virus
    Banana plant suffering from the bunchy top virus spread in infected planting material and by the banana aphid.
  • Banana fruit infected with sooty mould fungi
    Sooty mould fungi that develop on the honeydew secretions of the banana aphid.

Banana bunchy top virus (BBTV)

BBTV is not present in tropical Australia, and the movement of planting material is controlled by legislation. The disease is spread in infected planting material and by the banana aphid. There is no cure for this disease. All outbreaks must be reported immediately.

Scientific name

Pentalonia nigronervosa

Description of adults

Small reddish-brown to almost black oval shaped aphids. Aphids have two characteristic projections from the rear of the abdomen. Colonies of adult and immature stages are found on the pseudostem (of banana plants) under the leaf bracts and between the bunch bracts and the branch stalk. Colonies can also be found in the unfurled top leaves of young plants and suckers or under leaf bases near ground level. Winged forms have prominent forewings with dark pigmented veins.

Immature stages

Nymphs resemble adults but are slightly smaller and do not have wings.

Life history

Ants often attend colonies of winged (alates) and wingless (apterous) aphids. Ants assist in the spread of aphids and feed on the honeydew. Spread of colonies also results from short or long distance migration of alates during warm days. Mature females produce live young that develop into alate or apterous adults depending on weather, aphid density and host conditions. In Australia reproduction is probably asexual throughout the year. Specific lifecycle details are not available however aphid numbers can build up rapidly under warm conditions and in the absence of parasites and predators.

Distribution

Present throughout Queensland.

Host range

Banana is the main host but other hosts include Manila hemp, Heliconia spp., Caladium, Diffenbachia, ginger and other members of the Musaceae, Araceae and Zingiberaceae families.

Damage

Banana aphid is a minor and frequent pest in northern Queensland where bunchy top does not occur. A more serious pest in south-east Queensland because it is a vector of bunchy top disease.

Direct feeding damage is uncommon. Damage from excessive honeydew and the resultant sooty mould development occurs only rarely and only when populations build up to high levels. The greatest potential damage is due to transmission of bunchy top virus in southern Queensland. Because of this the aphid is regarded as a serious pest in that area. The virus is not present in North Queensland.

Control options

Chemical control of aphids is not effective for bunchy top control and direct damage is seldom severe enough to warrant treatment.

Biological

Natural predators such as ladybird beetles, hoverflies, earwigs and lacewings usually maintain low aphid populations.

Chemical

Spray only if aphid problem is severe. Avoid regular spraying as this will remove beneficial insects and may induce other pest problems.

Chemical registrations and permits

Check the Australian Pesticides & Veterinary Medicines Authority chemical database and permit database for chemicals registered or approved under permit to treat this pest on the target crop in your State/location. Always read the label. Always observe withholding periods.

Last updated 30 July 2012