Sunday, May 20, 2018

HumBug: Aphid Cows and Ladybugs

Posted By and on Sun, May 20, 2018 at 11:22 AM

click to enlarge Empty husk, or exuviae, of a froghopper's last molt before adulthood. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Empty husk, or exuviae, of a froghopper's last molt before adulthood.

I recently wrote about spittlebugs and how their larval form covers themselves with a bubblebath of processed plant sap for protection. At the end of their last larval stage (instar) they climb out of the slimy soup, shed their skin one last time and emerge as a stout looking version of their leafhopper cousins. As adults they no longer hide in a gob of suds but hop and fly. Their hopping prowess can even exceed that of the flea.
click to enlarge Aphid on a dandelion. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Aphid on a dandelion.
I have started to see aphids on some of the local thimbleberry plants. Like the froghoppers, they are members of the order hemiptera and suck plant juices, sometimes acting as vectors for plant diseases. They can secrete a sticky, sugary substance called “honeydew” which some ants like. The ants will actually protect their aphid cows and harvest the sugary secretion as humans harvest milk from cows.
click to enlarge Ladybug pupa (cocoon phase). - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Ladybug pupa (cocoon phase).
Now that their favorite prey is out and about, the well-known gardener's friend, ladybugs, are starting to show up eating small garden pests like aphids both as larvae and adults. The black and orange larvae remind me of alligators for some reason. One of my favorite things to do with the adults is to allow it to crawl on my hand with my fingers pointing upward. They almost always crawl upward to the tip of a finger, then take flight. It seems to be a genetically programmed instinctual behavior.
click to enlarge Adult ladybug taking off from fingertip. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Adult ladybug taking off from fingertip.
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About The Authors

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

Bio:
Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the arts and features editor of the North Coast Journal.

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