Alate aphids respond to short (UV) and long (green—yellow) wavelength stimuli during host-plant searching behaviour. Although many aphids are attracted to yellow, the bird cherry-oat aphid, Rhopalosiphum padi, is attracted to green. As part of identifying suitable plant species for crop border plants for seed potatoes, the attraction of R. padi to different shades of green in relation to differences in spectral reflectance of three cultivars of a non-host, potato, and two host-plant species, maize and wheat, were determined. Choice experiments were carried out under laboratory conditions to evaluate aphid landing preference for stimuli of different colours. Rhopalosiphum padi alates preferred to land on the colour targets with the highest reflectance. Significantly more alates landed on yellow and lime colour targets with a maximum wavelength reflectance of 46 % from 600–610 nm and 26 % from 525–531 nm, respectively. The peak light reflectance of the crop plants ranged between 12 % (potato; 532–555 nm) and 20 % (wheat; 537–553 nm). The results on aphid landing preference for different colour targets suggest that R. padi will land in higher numbers on the wheat plants, compared to potato, due to their higher peak percentage reflectance. In addition, the study indicates that the wavelength reflectance curves of plants can be used as a characteristic to select possible crop border plants when making choices between seemingly equally suitable plant species/cultivars.
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Vol. 22 • No. 2