The spotted alfalfa aphid (SAA), Therioaphis trifolii maculata (Buckton), causes a characteristic veinal chlorosis and necrosis in the growing tips of susceptible cultivars of alfalfa. The pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum (Harris), causes general degenerative changes in alfalfa but no specific, local symptoms. Biochemical and electrophoretic analyses detected similar enzymes in the ejected saliva of either species: pectin methylesterase, endopolygalacturonase and at least three isozymes of a copper dependent oxido-reductase that showed both catechol oxidase and peroxidase activity. Pectinase and catechol oxidase activities per unit of soluble protein were much greater in the saliva of pea aphid compared with that of SAA. The isozymes of the oxidase from SAA were roughly half the molecular weights of the corresponding isozymes from pea aphid, however, and radiotracer studies showed that soluble secretions injected into alfalfa by SAA travelled to growing tips considerably faster than the secretions of pea aphid. It is suggested that differences in the lesions caused by these aphids may be due to reaction kinetics rather than specific salivary toxins; that the rate of arrival of salivary components, possibly the oxidases, at phloem unloading sites may determine whether the plant's local defensive system is able to repress the immediate challenge or undergoes a run-away reaction leading to necrosis.