Russian wheat aphid
The Russian wheat aphid eats all types of grasses but is a major pest species for wheat and barley. This tiny insect could be a big problem if it established in New Zealand.
About the Russian wheat aphid
This wheat aphid was first found in the Ukraine, then parts of Russia. It has spread to most parts of the world now. This includes areas in Europe, North America, Africa, the Middle East, Argentina, and Chile. Since 2016, the aphid spread to South Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania.
Global distribution of the Russian wheat aphid
Why this is a problem for New Zealand
The aphid's toxic saliva causes the wheat leaf to curl and wrap around the flowering head of the plant. This stops the wheat fruiting and reduces a crop's yield.
If the Russian wheat aphid spread to New Zealand, experts say it could cost us around $110 million over 10 years.
How it could get here
The adults are very small (about 2mm long). They fly or are carried by the wind over great distances. So it's possible they could reach New Zealand on the wind.
They may also hitchhike on machinery, clothes, or plant material. Over summer, they could move around on hay or any plant moved between fields.
Eggs may also be on grains or fodder imported to New Zealand.
Biosecurity New Zealand has strict measures in place to help prevent the aphid getting here through imports to New Zealand.
Where it might be found
The Russian wheat aphid likes the same kind of climates as wheat. It prefers drier conditions, it doesn't thrive in wetter winters.
Climate models show the aphid could establish in Canterbury, Hawkes Bay, or the Wairarapa.
How to identify the Russian wheat aphid
The aphid is:
- about 2mm long
- pale green
- slightly elongated
They live in colonies on the growing tips of grasses. The most obvious sign of Russian wheat aphids is a curled leaf with white stripes.
If you think you've found Russian wheat aphid
- Photograph it.
- Capture it (if you can).
- Call 0800 80 99 66.
Pest profiles for the Russian wheat aphid
- Western Australian Government's Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
- Plant Health Australia
- Australian Government's Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources
Note: This information is a summary of this pest's global distribution and potential impacts on New Zealand.