Colonies of Pentalonia nigronervosa, the banana aphid
  • The banana aphid is the insect vector of Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV), the viral cause of banana bunchy top disease (BBTD)
  • Control of the banana aphid is essential for long-term management of banana bunchy top disease
  • The insects live in colonies that are usually tended by ants, especially the long-legged ant (Anoplolepis longipes)
  • The colonies often feed on young banana leaves and under leaf petioles
  • Read online at the UH-CTAHR Crop Knowledge Master about the banana aphid
The banana aphid (Pentalonia nigroverosa) colonies

This insect transmits banana bunchy top virus and must be controlled to manage BBTD effectively

Banana aphids feeding on banana pseudostem. Here, the banana leaf sheath was pulled away from a young pseudostem to reveal a band of brownish colored banana aphids. Sprays of insecticidal soap must contact the aphid bodies to eliminate them.

A colony of banana aphids feeding on young banana tissue. You may have to strip away the outer leaves to find most of the tiny black colored aphids. Young, tender tissue is preferred by aphids for their feeding.

The unfurled banana "cigar leaf" is a preferred feeding area for the colonies of the banana aphid.
The tiny aphid insects also are found inside, between the rolled-up leaf. The primary host for this insect is Musa spp., and it is the only known insect vector of BBTV.

Tiny black banana aphids can feed underneath the banana leaf sheath all the way down to the ground level. This makes aphid eradication or control a difficult task. Above, a leaf sheath was stripped away to ground level to reveal the aphid colony.

Other hosts reported for the banana aphid (but not hosts for BBTV) include but are not limited to: Red ginger, Kahili ginger, torch ginger, ape and taro, ferns, Heliconia, tomato, Zingiber, noni. Above, a large colony of banana aphids on a young stem of noni (Morinda citrifolia) being tended by a number of long-legged ants. The ants protect the aphids from natural enemies and feed upon the sweet honeydew which is secreted from the aphid bodies.

A large colony of banana aphids feeding on the apical leaves of a young banana plant. The larger the colony is, the greater is the chance that winged adults are present to spread BBTV by flying to neighboring plants and feeding on them.

Photographs are courtesy of the University of Hawaii and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture

Maintained by Scot Nelson:
Last Revised on September 12, 2006