random header image

Texas Invasive Species Institute

Texas Invasive Species Institute

Sugarcane Aphid

Melanaphis sacchari

Class: Insecta
Order: Hemiptera
Family: Aphididae
Duration and Habit: Tropical to subtropical areas where sugarcane and sorghum are grown.

Melanaphis sacchari

Photographer:ICAR Affiliation: National Bureau of Agricultural Insect Resources Source:www.nbair.res.in Copyright: ICAR


Adults are very small, soft-bodied, wingless, oblong and light green to pale yellow cornicles (tube like structures on the dorsal side of the abdomen). Some wingless individuals can have black markings on their dorsal side. Nymphs resemble adults but are smaller and can be whitish when very young.

Ecological Threat

Although M. sacchari is a minor pest on several crops, its pest status has increased rapidly since the early 1970s. In the United States it has become a pest of sugarcane and sorghum. The insects alone are about to cause damage to the plants by removing sap from the xylem tissues of leaves and can cause stunted growth, wilting/curling of leaves and also chlorosis (loss of chlorophyll). However, this insect is also a disease vector for Sugarcane Yellow Leaf Disease (SCYL) which is a major problem overseas and can average crop losses of 25% in Brazil. Studies have shown that there is no thermal treatment for removing the virus that causes SCYL from infected sugarcane, making the infected crops unusable. Unfortunately, it has been found in the United States. In Florida, SCYL causes a loss in cane and sugar production of 7 and 4% respectively. In Louisiana, where Melanaphis sacchari is also present, the threat of SYCL is so great that seed programs screen for the disease as a part of certification standards for micropropagated seedcane. Regardless of this, losses have still been reported from Louisiana.

The Texas A&M Research and Extension Center has assessed the impact of this aphid has had on sorghum crops in the 2014-2015 growing years to be over $31 million.


Wingless nymph and adult aphids gather on the underside of the sugarcane leaf. Winged aphids only appear for migration purposes. They have piercing-sucking mouthparts that allows for them to feed on the sap in the xylem of plants, removing necessary nutrients for healthy plants.


Thought to be present in Hawaii since 1896, except it was not documented until 1948. By 1977 it was found in Florida and in 1999 it was found established in Louisiana. It is an encroaching species, and as of late 2013 it was found on grain sorghum in the Beaumont area and other parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Mexico. In 2014 it spread to sorghum crops in the Rio Grande Valley, and out to the Edwards Plateau in 2015.

Native Origin

Widely distributed but thought to originate from Africa and the Middle East

Current Location

FL, HI, LA, MS, OK and TX


Destruction of the overwintering host plant is considered very important to reduce the aphid population in sorghum fields. Studies have shown that to maintain low populations of aphids on sorghum it is suggested to plant early with high plant density (reduces plant vigor and in turn aphid population) and cut forage sorghum before the first week of aphid appearance. Since the sugarcane can overwinter on other sorghums like ratoon sorghum; destruction of those species before planting the sorghum crop is highly recommended. They are several biological controls worldwide and they are able to help with management but not eradication. In Venezuela they have used Yellow traps with water can capture migrating aphids to predict their migratory patterns and prevent severe infestations.



Text References

Blackman, R.L., V.F Eastop (1984) Aphids on the World's Cropsan Identification and Information Guide

Comstock, J. C., Gilbert, R. A., & Odero, D. C. (2005). Sugarcane Yellow Leaf Disease1.

Sanchez M.C, M Cermeli (1987). Epidemiology of maize dwarf mosaic virus (MDMV) in experimental plots of sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench). I. Population fluctuation of aphids in staggered sowing. Agron. Trop., 37:83–94

Schenck, S. (2000), Factors affecting the transmission and spread of   sugarcane yellow leaf virus Plant Dis., 84:1085–1088.

Singh B.U., P.G Padmaja, N Seetharama (2004) Biology and management of the sugarcane aphid, Melanaphis sacchari (Zehntner) (Homoptera: Aphididae), in sorghum: a review Crop Protection, Volume 23(9):739–755.


Internet Sources






< Back to Inventory