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.
About the aphid
Next up is Sitobion avenae, also known as English Grain Aphid. The lead picture of a single alate (winged aphid) is one of my favorites I have taken so far and made an appearance in my introductory post. S. avenae is a widely distributed aphid that primarily feeds on grasses. It is notable for being a pest on wheat and other cereals around the world. We raise this species and a number of other grain aphids on barley. While all the individuals in our colonies and pictured here are yellowish green, they can also be found in a reddish brown color. S. avenae is a medium-large sized aphid and fairly easy to spot on leaves and stems.
About the photos
A number of these photos have a dark or black background. This is simply due to the flash coming from overhead, illuminating the aphids much more than the background behind them. There is no special backdrop behind them. If the flash was pointing straight at the aphids from the same direction that the camera sees them, you would see rows of large growth chambers in the basement room where these were taken. The lights were on in the room, but are just much lower intensity than the flash. Since barley leaves and stems are so narrow, it is easier to get a lower angled “eye-level” with these aphids than others on broader leaves.
I tried holding a piece of white paper behind the aphids but was not satisfied with how it turned out grey like this photo of an alate about to take flight.
It is still an interesting action shot, but I think the grey color takes away from it. To get a true white background I think I would have to have more light pointed straight at the paper, or have the paper much closer to the subject. Also a green or blue background could be interesting. Maybe something to try in the future.
Shorter post this time, but more photos. I also took some pretty nice photos of a couple green lacewings (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae) yesterday, so may have to take a detour for the next post before getting back to more aphids.
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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