Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Day 123 - Absolutely Amazing Aphids

Hey everyone,

Day 123 today and thought I would return to a mini-beast today as I was surprised to find this especially as it has been snowing recently. I came across these little beasts when getting some parsley from the greenhouse for our dinner. Before Mum washed the parsley she saw some movement so we shook it over a dish and I used my new microscope to investigate. What I found were aphids! (glad mum noticed and we didn't just add them to our tea lol) Now I didn't know much about these little guys other than Dad tries to keep them off his plants and he likes ladybirds and lacewings as they keep their numbers down, so he doesn't need to use sprays. Well I found out a whole lot more, here's some facts:

  • Males aren't always needed for reproduction by a process called Parthenogenesis, females can produce clones.
    • They are able to reproduce very rapidly. At just one week old they can reproduce and they can have as many as 12 babies a day in warm weather. 
    • There are no larval or egg stages, aphids give birth to live young.

    • It's a good job then that they have a lot of creatures which feed on them (ladybirds, lacewings, hoverfly larvae etc.). A man from a UK research centre (Richard Harrington of Rothamsted Research Station) in 1984 stated  'in a year aphids could form a layer 149km deep over the earth. Thank God for limited resources and natural enemies'
    • Aphids do defend themselves though from predators and will kick with their hind legs. If they can't deter them though they will simply roll over and drop off their plant in an effort to get away.
    • Aphids are a problem as they eat the sap of the plants they live on. They need to eat a lot as sap doesn't have much protein in it. This weakens the plant.
    • A lot of the sugar in the sap passes through them. This can cause plants to become very sticky and sometimes attracts ants that will herd them. The ants like to eat the aphid excretions and sometimes carry them from plant to plant to be sure they have a good food supply.
    Mother and baby aphid
    • Aphids need to get through the winter and they do this by changing their breeding habits and females mate with males then lay eggs in the crevices of plants. Ants sometimes harvest these eggs and store them in their nests over winter and carry the aphids when they hatch to suitable plants.
    • I'm not going to try to identify the species in my photo as there are over 4,400 species of aphids!
    • Aphids don't always have wings but if a plant they are living on gets too crowded or the sap starts to dry up winged aphids are produced which can use gusts of wind to reach new plants.

    So a pretty remarkable little beastie! If you want to find out more try these links:

    Hope you enjoyed,


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