Finding the fun in the bad

A couple of days ago, I looked at a young aspen tree growing in my front yard and realized that it was COVERED in aphids.

Branch of popular tree covered in aphids

Branch of popular tree covered in aphids

Probably way beyond saving… so, obviously, I brought out the camera. Good thing I did! There was a ton of stuff going on.

Lady beetle eating aphids

Lady beetle eating aphids

The natural enemies that help control pests are attracted to heavily infested plants. And this one was no different. The adult lady beetle (Hippodamia convergens) was immediately visible chomping on aphids.

Syrphid larva eating aphids

Syrphid larva eating aphids

Then I found this syrphid larva also munching away on aphids. There were at least 5 of these guys on the plant when I looked. If you aren’t familiar with syrphids, just wait a week and I’ll be doing a post on them!

Once I got through looking at the natural enemies, I moved to on to examining the aphids themselves. And there was lots to see there as well! First of all, I stumbled onto an aphid shedding it’s exoskeleton.

Aphid shedding its old exoskeleton

Aphid shedding its old exoskeleton

Insects to this in order to grow. Here is a video of the aphid pulling itself out of the it’s old exoskeleton. You can see that it looks soft and delicate. It takes a little while for the new exoskeleton to harden. This is a very vulnerable stage for insects, but this one made it away just fine.

Then I started looking closing at the winged aphids, the part of the life cycle when aphids can travel more freely. This particular aphid has fairly pretty wings full of dark veins. Definitely needed a close up!

Winged aphid

Winged aphid

I am going to just cut the little sapling down as it’s only a foot tall and probably pretty unhealthy to have developed this type of aphid population. But I did thoroughly enjoy these little ecosystem.

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About keviclaire

I recently graduated from the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. My research interests are focused on biological control and how to increase it's use in agriculture and home gardens. I am also an avid gardener and insect photographer. I'm using this blog as a place to share those interests!

2 responses to “Finding the fun in the bad”

  1. Helen says :

    What are the little tiny pale creatures running around the leaves, esp visible in the photo of the winged aphid? Are they baby aphids?

    Like

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