Sugarcane aphid (Hemiptera: Aphididae): A new pest on sorghum in North America

Robert D. Bowling, Michael J. Brewer, David L. Kerns, John Gordy, Nick Seiter, Norman E. Elliott, G. David Buntin, M. O. Way, T. A. Royer, Stephen Biles, Erin Maxson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 2013, the sugarcane aphid, Melanaphis sacchari (Zehntner) (Hemiptera: Aphididae), a new invasive pest of sorghum species in North America, was confirmed on sorghum in 4 states and 38 counties in the United States. In 2015, the aphid was reported on sorghum in 17 states and over 400 counties as well as all sorghumproducing regions in Mexico. Ability to overwinter on living annual and perennial hosts in southern sorghumproducing areas and wind-aided movement of alate aphids appear to be the main factors in its impressive geographic spread in North America. Morphological characteristics of the sugarcane aphid include dark tarsi, cornicles, and antennae, allowing easy differentiation from other aphids on the crop. Sugarcane aphid damages sorghum by removing sap and covering plants with honeydew, causing general plant decline and yield loss. Honeydew and sooty mold can disrupt harvesting. The aphid's high reproductive rate on susceptible sorghum hybrids has resulted in reports of yield loss ranging from 10% to greater than 50%. In response, a combination of research-based data and field observations has supported development of state extension identification, scouting, and treatment guides that aid in initiating insecticide applications to prevent yield losses. Highly efficacious insecticides have been identified and when complemented by weekly scouting and use of thresholds, economic loss by sugarcane aphid can be minimized. Some commercial sorghum hybrids are partially resistant to the aphid, and plant breeders have identified other lines with sugarcane aphid resistance. A very diverse community of predators and parasitoids of sugarcane aphid has been identified, and their value to limit sugarcane aphid population growth is under investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12
JournalJournal of Integrated Pest Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Biological control
  • Host plant resistance
  • Identification
  • Insecticide
  • Scouting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science
  • Insect Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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