Russian wheat aphid

Diuraphis noxia

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

World map showing global distribution of russian wheat aphids

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
  • oval-shaped.

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.

russian wheat aphids width=

Russian wheat aphids feeding on an oat leaf infected with yellow dwarf disease. Source: Public Domain

2 wheat heads side by side, showing the affected wheat head on the left

Wheat awns trapped by flag leaf damaged by Russian wheat aphid feeding. Source: FAO (UN)

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

Note: This information is a summary of this pest's global distribution and potential impacts on New Zealand.

Last reviewed: