Aphids and their predators

Posted: Friday 22 June 2012
by Kate Bradbury

For the last week I have mainly been playing with aphids and their predators. It all started when I did a bit of weeding at the allotment...

Greenfly on a streptocarpus flower

For the last week I have mainly been playing with aphids and their predators. It all started when I did a bit of weeding at the allotment, and found a hoverfly pupa and larva on some leaves I’d removed. I took them home.

Within a couple of days, the hoverfly had hatched out of the pupa. It was so windy outside I let it pump its wings up in the kitchen; my partner brought it a Welsh poppy for sustenance. I popped it outside in the evening.

Meanwhile, the hoverfly larva made no signs of pupating, so I kept it amused with some aphids from a teasel. I love the way hoverfly larvae eat aphids; they sort of worm around like Jabba The Hutt, sucking out aphids’ innards and leaving their skeletal remains behind.

My aphid adventures don’t end there. At work, a colleague brought in some plants used for a photo shoot and on one, a cosmos, was a ladybird larva. I called it Leonard. I found a particularly aphid-infested tomato leaf on the allotment and brought it in. The aphids spilled out over the desk, making a mess, but Leonard was happy. He had free rein of the cosmos, which was suddenly bejeweled with beautiful greenfly.

The next day the aphids were gone and Leonard had shed a skin (ladybird larvae have four stages of growth, or instars, shedding the old skin with each stage, like snakes). I fetched him more aphids, which once again spilled out all over the desk making a mess.

I like aphids. They’re so… unassuming. I simply can’t see them as grisly monsters hell-bent on killing our plants because they just sit there sucking plant sap and having babies, waiting to be eaten. And they can be so beautiful. On my teasel at home there are gorgeous yellow, red and green ones. I watch everything from hoverfly and ladybird larvae, to blue and great tits feasting on them, and I think "that’s your purpose. That’s why you exist." What a magnanimous role in life.

I did some more weeding yesterday and found some ladybird eggs. This aphid fest at my desk is becoming quite a party.

It's National Insect Week next week. How will you be getting to know the insects in your garden?

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Talkback: Aphids and their predators
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oldchippy 23/06/2012 at 19:54

Nice to see someone like Aphids,The birds like them in my garden,I don't seem to have very many.


Milo de Paor 25/06/2012 at 11:06

Brilliant post by our favourite insect lover!

SEED:Ball 25/06/2012 at 11:22

Lovely post! Having a bit of chat in the office about this post and we've come to the conclusion we like aphids too!Not only do they attract more predatory insects (not so lovely for the aphid) we recall cute stories about ants milking them... we found a youtube clip that illustrates... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcdAgvroj5w

JAYJARDIN 05/07/2012 at 13:17

Bees- I cannot find a blog about bees but it is a subject I feel I must talk about. We do not use any pesticides in the garden yet we are finding many many dead bees just laying on the patio and paths. It is very sad.

Gracie5 05/07/2012 at 16:00

I had a similar incident here when my next door neighbour got the exterminator in to poison a bees nest in their garden. They came into our garden to die, lots of them ending up in the pond dead.  My ignorant obese neighbours failed to realise that the food they gorged themslves on came about with the help of those very bees they killed.

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