About the aphid
Well, after quite a period of neglect, here are some new aphid photos . . .
Uroleucon sonchi is appropriately called the Large Sowthistle Aphid, as it is both large and found on plants in the genus Sonchus, or sowthistles. The individuals shown here are quite red, especially the juveniles, but they are often darker brown in color as well. Adults are very large, with long antennae and legs with darkened joints. Their size and morphology make their mouthparts quite easily visible compared to some of the other aphids. No winged morphs are pictured here as there were none in the colony at the time, but they do occur, especially when crowded. Most aphids in the genus Uroleucon are similarly sized and colored, and colonies are often easy to spot in the field. This species can be found both on stems and the undersides of leaves.
About the photos
The large bodies and long apendanges of U. sonchi actually made them a bit trickier to photograph than some of the smaller aphids for two reasons. First, I had to be careful to ensure that legs or antennae would not be cut out of the frame, and second, my narrow depth of field made it nearly impossible to get a whole aphid in focus and even harder to focus on more than one. For example, the photos below show three different views of the same three aphids. They made a nice little grouping of three different developmental stages, but I could never get more than two in focus unless I shot from directly above which makes for a much less interesting view.
Since these aphids were mostly on Sonchus leaves (and pretty ones at that) instead of stems, I couldn’t get any of the black background shots like for S. avenue before without destroying the plant. One neat thing about a couple of the above photos however is the presence of water droplets due to high humidity inside the cage. I think they make a nice touch and wish there were even more.
About the insect
I am breaking from the aphid theme for one post, because I wanted to share these photos of an important aphid predator, Chrysoperla rufilabris. These green lacewings (Order Neuroptera, Family Chrysopidae) are predators of aphids and many other insects as larvae but feed mostly on pollen and nectar as adults. I have no larvae pictures here unfortunately, though they are fascinating little creatures. The adults are quite pretty and are often found near lights at night. Green lacewings may be purchased as biological control agents for gardens or greenhouses and will feed on aphids, butterfly and moth eggs and larvae, and just about anything else they can pierce with their sickle-shaped jaws. My undergraduate honors thesis focused on how green lacewing larvae can feed on monarch butterfly eggs and larvae, a natural interaction but potentially undesirable consequence of releasing them in gardens. Still, they and other biological control agents are a preferable choice to broad-spectrum insecticides when trying to sustainably control pests.
About the photos
The photos showing the whole insect’s body were taken with a regular macro lens, while the two photos highlighting the eyes were taken with the same setup I use for the aphids. I released them inside a plexiglass cage with white office paper taped to two walls and the ceiling, and waited for them to land before taking any pictures. Several of the photos were actually taken upside down and then rotated, since they rarely stood still in any other position. As with the aphids, I did not cool them down to make them more cooperative, though I was tempted after they kept flying away. These two lacewings (one male, one female) were loaned by a colleague studying their diet breadth visiting the Heimpel Lab from Brazil, Michela Matos.
MC Kaiser Blog
Photographs of aphids by an enthusiastic amateur.
Images free for educational use with attribution.
Please contact me for any other uses, or visit my portfolios at Shutterstock and Dreamstime
First post and introduction here
If you are trying to identify live aphids from pictures, I highly recommend the website InfluentialPoints.com
For ID keys and a quite comprehensive catalog of aphids and their host plants see Aphids on the World's Plants
There is always the chance of one of our colonies getting contaminated and me posting a misidentified aphid. These images therefore should not be used to make formal identifications.
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