Population Ecology

, Volume 52, Issue 2, pp 317–327 | Cite as

Interannual dynamics of aerial and arboreal green spruce aphid populations

  • Keith Richard DayEmail author
  • Matthew P. Ayres
  • Richard Harrington
  • Neil A. C. Kidd
Original Article


Partial defoliation of spruce by the green spruce aphid Elatobium abietinum (Walker) is a recurrent event in European and, increasingly, North American forests. The patterns of insect abundance on trees have never been satisfactorily described by a numerical model despite considerable knowledge of endogenous and exogenous factors in the population dynamics of the species. Long-term field population estimates of the aphid on foliage provided the opportunity to evaluate such a model. Unlike comparable models for tree-dwelling aphids, this was also applicable to almost completely independent aphid field data derived from the Rothamsted Insect Survey’s nationwide network of suction traps. Although based on relatively few parameters, the model was robust in its predictions of alate aphids geographically remote from the forest in which the original population was estimated. The population maximum, which causes the greatest forest damage, is reached in early summer and can be predicted from knowledge of winter temperature (chill bouts), spring temperature (thermal sum), and interannual negative feedback (density dependence). The model provides confirmation that alate populations of spruce aphids, upon which a number of other extensive studies have been based, are ultimately influenced by similar endogenous and climatic factors and that they are a reasonable proxy for aphids on trees.


Climate Defoliator Elatobium abietinum Picea sitchensis Population time series 



The authors are grateful to the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency for permission to use data from the Edinburgh (East Craigs) suction trap, and to all of the suction-trap operators and aphid identifiers. Rothamsted Research receives grant-aided support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council of the United Kingdom. The authors are also grateful for constructive comments on earlier versions of the manuscript made by David Griffiths, Nigel Straw, and Ian Woiwod. The fieldwork associated with this research complied with the current laws of the United Kingdom.


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Copyright information

© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keith Richard Day
    • 1
    Email author
  • Matthew P. Ayres
    • 2
  • Richard Harrington
    • 3
  • Neil A. C. Kidd
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of UlsterColeraineNorthern Ireland, UK
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesDartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA
  3. 3.Rothamsted Research, HarpendenHertfordshireUK
  4. 4.School of BiosciencesCardiff UniversityCardiffUK

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