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The soybean aphid (Aphis glycines Matsumura) is a significant and costly insect pest, and one of only a few aphid species known to attack soybean (Glycine max (L.) Merr.). Native to and wide-spread in Asia (where soybean was domesticated), the soybean aphid was first found in the United States in 2000, and since then has spread extremely rapidly through the northern Midwestern states and into Canada. Its impact as a major pest is far greater in the United States than in its native Asia. Aphis glycines invaded Australian soybean fields, becoming a pest there at about the same time as it entered the United States. Feeding by soybean aphids causes plant stunting, distorted foliage, premature defoliation, stunted stems and leaves, reduced branch, pod, and seed numbers, lower seed weight, underdevelopment of root tissue. Aphids also produce honeydew excretions which accumulate on leaves, promoting growth of detrimental sooty molds. Furthermore, soybean aphids also can transmit viruses including alfalfa mosaic, soybean mosaic and bean yellow mosaic, diseases which cause additional plant damage and reduced yields. Heavy infestations can lead to significant yield loss (40% or more), which is estimated to cause an annual $2.4 billion decrease in crop yields.

Aphis glycines, like many aphid species, has a complex life cycle involving host switching between two very different type of host plants. Asexual morphs of A. glycines spend the summer feeding on soybeans, using piercing and sucking mouthparts to suck sap from the plants. After about 15 generations on soybean, they produce winged alates which migrate to their primary host plant, Rhamnus (buckthorn), where they form sexual morphs, which mate and lay eggs. In North America they especially prefer Rhamnus cathartica (common buckthorn), which was introduced as an ornamental plant from Europe and Asia, but they also use native species. Soybean aphids overwinter as eggs on Rhamnus and return in the spring to their soybean host.

In contrast to Asia, where A. glycines has much pressure from many species of predatory, parasitic and pathogenetic enemies, in North America its dominant natural enemies are generalist predators, such as the insidious flower bug (Orius insidiosus (Say), lady beetles (Coccinellidae spp.), lacewings (Chrysoperla spp. and Hemerobius spp.), damsel bugs (Nabis spp.), big eyed bugs (Geocoris spp.), spined soldier bugs (Podisus maculiventris (Say)), hover flies (Syrphidae spp.), and the aphid midge (Aphidoletes aphidimyza (Rondani)). Because the soybean aphid is a recent introduction to North America, control methods are still developing. Pesticide application is the most effective means of control, but foliar applications, which are the most successful, may impact beneficial and effective predators. Seed treatments are also available but their efficacy is less consistent.

(Hartman et al 2001; Tilmon et al 2011; Wikipedia 2011)


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