1 Theory suggests that any given rise in temperature resulting from climate change will have its greatest effect on high Arctic ecosystems where growing seasons are short and temperatures low. 2 A small temperature rise, similar to that predicted for the middle of the next century, has profound effects on a population of the high Arctic, Dryas-feeding aphid Acyrthosiphon svalbardicum on Spitsbergen (Strathdee et al. 1993a). 3 Here comparative experiments on a closely related Dryas-feeding species, A. brevicorne, at two contrasting sub-Arctic sites are described. Together with the results from Spitsbergen these sites represent two colder sites (high Arctic and upland sub-Arctic) and one warmer site (lowland sub-Arctic). 4 Differential responses in aphid population density and overwintering egg production to temperature elevation support the hypothesis that the ecological effects are greatest at sites with the most severe climates; however, there is no similar gradient in advancement of host plant phenology with warming.