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Insects and Diseases

Winged and wingless soybean aphids on a soybean leaflet.

Go to the following pages to study:

Symptoms and signs of soybean aphid activity

Agronomic impact of soybean aphids

Scouting soybean aphids

Management of soybean aphids

June 28, 2006
Read an update on soybean aphid research from Dr. David Ragsdale, University of Minnesota entomologist.


Soybean Aphid

The soybean aphid (Aphis glycines Matsamura) is a relatively new pest of soybean in the United States. It was first discovered in southeast Wisconsin in July 2000. Today, it is found all over the upper Midwest and Ontario, Canada. Here are a few things that you need to take into consideration when managing this new pest.

Description and identification

Soybean aphids are small soft-bodied insects, and may be winged or wingless, depending on the season and the plant’s condition. Winged aphids are commonly seen in late summer or early spring as aphids migrate between soybean and buckthorns. Once on a soybean plant, overcrowding may force the soybean aphid to produce winged forms, perhaps to enable it to colonize other less-infested soybean plants in the field. During the growing season they are concentrated on leaves, petioles, and stems at the top of the plant.

There are no other aphid species living on soybean that have the same combination of size and color. Other species of aphids on legumes that might be confused with it are Aphis gossypii  (cotton aphid) which has a shorter, dark cauda and Aphis craccivora (cowpea aphid), which has a black patch on the back of the wingless adults.

Aphid lifecycle

Buckthorn (Rhamnus spp.) is the overwintering host for soybean aphids.

Soybean aphids have a very cold-hardy egg stage that allows them to overwinter in the upper Midwest. The aphids lay their eggs on buckthorn (Rhamnus spp.), the only known overwintering host in the United States. Buckthorn is a very common shrub in the Iowa landscape. They tend to grow underneath trees in shelterbelts as shrubs or as small trees along fence lines or open fields margins. Some homeowners grow buckthorn as ornamental or shelter plants around the house and buildings.

The life cycle of soybean aphid is heteroecious holocyclic (host-alternating with sexual reproduction during part of its life cycle). In the spring, the eggs will hatch and the soybean aphid will have 2-3 generations with sexual reproduction on buckthorn before winged females (fundatrices) move into soybean in early June. The winged females are parthenogenetic (being fertile without mating) and bear living young. Several generations (up to 18) of wingless females can be produced in a short time frame because of parthenogenesis. The stem apices and young leaves of growing soybeans are colonized first. Later, the aphids appear on the underside of leaves of mature plants. Aphid development is favored in late June to early July with temperatures of 72-77ºF and relative humidity below 78%.

If the aphid population on crops becomes excessive or if plant quality deteriorates, the next generation will have winged females. The winged females will leave the field and migrate to new fields with better quality and lower aphid population. There will be no males until late summer, after the winged females have migrated back to the overwintering sites. Mating will occur there, and eggs will be laid for next year’s generation. Both winged and wingless aphids can be found in soybean at one time; both are yellow-green in color. However, the winged forms will be slightly darker, primarily a result of wings.

Soybean aphids have a very high reproductive potential
Soybean aphids pose a significant risk to soybean production because of their tremendous reproduction potential. In the summer, the population in soybean is comprised of females that essentially clone themselves. All offspring are female, born pregnant, and give live birth. Their birth rate is 3-8 aphids per day for 30 days. The generation time is 7-10 days. The result is an exponential growth rate, where populations can double in 2-3 days under favorable conditions.

The factors that influence this population dynamic in soybean are numerous: the size of colonizing population from buckthorn, soybean variety, mortality from predators, parasitic wasps, fungal outbreaks, effects of environmental conditions on reproductive rate and survival, local redistribution by winged aphids among fields, and dispersal of alates from fields.

More resources

For more information about soybean aphids in Iowa, read the Iowa State University Extension publication Soybean Aphids in Iowa - 2007 and visit Soybean Aphids, a website devoted exclusively to the soybean aphid in Iowa.

Other recommended sites are the University of Wisconsin Soybean Plant Health website, and the web pages on soybean aphids at the Plant Health Initiative website - a regional soybean extension resource.


Last Update: 10/17/07

Copyright 2003-. Palle Pedersen, Iowa State University Extension.
Please contact us with questions and comments.