Forest Pest Insects in North America: a Photographic Guide

Spruce aphid

Elatobium abietinum (Walker) (Hemiptera: Aphidae)

Orientation to pest

Spruce aphid, Elatobium abietinum (Walker), (known as "green spruce aphid" in some places) is native to part of Europe, where it feed on Norway spruce (Picea abies [L.] H. Karst). It is seldom a pest on this species in Europe, causing only infrequent, very minor local outbreaks. However, it is a major pest in northwestern Europe in plantations of North American Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis [Bong.] Carr. Outside of Europe, spruce aphid is invasive in many areas with maritime climates and also the montane forests of the southwestern United States. In North America, spruce aphid occurs in natural forests on various spruce species, mostly in coastal areas of the Pacific northwestern United States and British Columbia. It also occurs in Arizona, where spruce aphid outbreaks damage Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii Parry ex Engelm.), killing 10 to 24% of infested trees, depending on the severity of injury. In maritime areas, spruce aphid is parthenogenic (females only), but in its native range and in Arizona the life cycle includes both parthenogenic and sexual forms.

Hosts commonly attacked

Spruce aphid feeds on virtually all spruce, including Norway (P. abies), Sitka (P. sitchensis), Englemann (P. engelmannii), and Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens Englmann).


In addition, to its native range in Europe, this aphid has invaded parts of Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, and North America. It is found in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, California, North Carolina, Oregon, Arizona, Utah, and Washington.

Images of spruce aphid

Spruce aphid Donald Owen, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, 768x512 / 1536x1024
Damage to Sitka spruce from spruce aphid Elizabeth Willhite, USDA Forest Service, 768x512 / 1536x1024
Stand of Sitka spruce in Alaska showing damage of spruce aphid (areas in brown) Andris Eglitis, USDA Forest Service, 768x512 / 1536x1024
Figure 1. Spruce aphid, Elatobium abietinum Figure 2. Damage to Sitka spruce from spruce aphid Figure 3. Stand of Sitka spruce in Alaska showing damage of spruce aphid (areas in brown)

Important biological control agents related to this pest species

Generalist predators of this species have been noted, but parasitoids have not been studied. Pathenogenic fungi, especially species of Entomophthorales, are important natural enemies of spruce aphid.

Web links for information on spruce aphid