Overview

Brief Summary

Typically found in groups, members of the Family Aphididae (aphids) are soft-bodied, range in color from light yellow to dark grey, and may occasionally be winged. While most aphids measure around 2mm in length, the largest known species, Tuberolachnus salignus (the willow aphid), can grow to just under 6mm long. Aphids feed by extracting the sugary liquids from the phloem tissues of suitable plants through a hardened stylet; excess sugars are then excreted in the form of honeydew, a favored treat of ants, wasps, and other insects. Both the feeding process and the excretion of honeydew (by encouraging mold growth) can be destructive to plants, earning Aphididae a rather poor reputation among gardeners.

Aphid sexuality is quite complex, including both asexual reproduction concluding with live birth and sexual reproduction concluding with egg laying. In spring, when hatching occurs, all emerging aphids are female and reproduce asexually, essentially giving birth to three or more clones of themselves every day. As the end of summer approaches, the reproductive strategy of aphids in climates with cold winters shifts and both males and females are produced. After mating, the sexually reproductive females deposit eggs in the protective crevices of plants; safe from harsh winter weather, these eggs hatch the following spring and the cycle begins anew.

Aphids have a number of natural predators, including green lacewings, parasitic wasps, and the ever popular lady beetle. Aphid defenses range from waxy, thread-like shells to the storage and release of harsh chemicals derived from plants on which the aphids feed.

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Distribution

Geographic Range

There are many thousands of species of aphids around the world, and there are probably around 250 species in Michigan. Adult aphids with wings are so small they can float on the wind, and be carried long distances.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Native ); neotropical (Native ); australian (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Aphids are very small (only a few millimeters long), soft-bodied insects. They have two little tubes at the end of the abdomen called cornicles. They have small eyes, and sucking mouthparts. They are often green, but may be red, black or brown. They move slowly, and don't jump or hop. They usually have fairly long antennae.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

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Ecology

Habitat

Aphids are almost always found on or near their food plants. If they can they sometimes hide in the curls of leaves. Anywhere there are plants there are aphids.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: tundra ; taiga ; desert or dune ; chaparral ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest ; mountains

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp ; bog

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Aphids are herbivores. They suck plant juices out of the leaves, stems, or roots of plants. The juices they drink often have much more sugar than protein. Aphids have to drink so much sugary juice to get enough protein that they excrete a lot of the sugar. They don't need it. The sugary fluid they excrete is called "honeydew", and many other insects feed on it.

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Aphids are important enemies of plants, and are food for many small insects and other invertebrates.

Mutualist Species:

  • Some ants feed on the sugar excreted by the aphids. They protect the aphids, and sometimes even keep them in their nests for the winter and put them on new plants in the spring.

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Predation

Aphids hide, and if they detect a predator, they produce a chemical that warns other aphids who smell it. They try to walk or fly away. Some aphids produce chemicals that taste bad, or grow waxy threads that make them hard to eat.

Known Predators:

  • Coccinellidae
  • Diptera
  • parasitic Hymenoptera 
  • small Araneae 
  • Formicidae
  • Thysanoptera
  • Acari

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Animal / predator
Aphidius colemani is predator of Aphididae

Animal / predator
Aphidoletes aphidimyza is predator of Aphididae

Animal / predator
Aves is predator of Aphididae

Animal / predator
larva of Coccinellidae is predator of Aphididae

Animal / predator
Dermaptera is predator of Aphididae

Animal / predator
larva of Heringia is predator of Aphididae

Animal / predator
larva of Neocnemodon is predator of Aphididae

Animal / predator
larva of Neuroptera is predator of Aphididae

Animal / predator
Parus caeruleus is predator of Aphididae
Other: major host/prey

Animal / predator
Pilophorus perplexus is predator of Aphididae

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Known predators

Aphididae (aphids (unspecified)) is prey of:
Hymenoptera
Sitta pygmaea
Dendroica coronata
Olla v-nigrum
Chrysopis
Oecanthus niveus

Based on studies in:
USA: Arizona (Forest, Montane)
USA: Texas (Plant substrate)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • D. I. Rasmussen, Biotic communities of Kaibab Plateau, Arizona, Ecol. Monogr. 11(3):228-275, from p. 261 (1941).
  • P. L. Whittaker, 1984. The insect fauna of mistletoe (Phoradendron tomentosum, Loranthaceae) in southern Texas. Southw. Nat. 29:435-444, from p. 443.
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Known prey organisms

Aphididae (aphids (unspecified)) preys on:
Pinus

angiosperms
Phoradendron tomentosum

Based on studies in:
USA: Arizona (Forest, Montane)
Tibet (Montane)
USA: Texas (Plant substrate)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • D. I. Rasmussen, Biotic communities of Kaibab Plateau, Arizona, Ecol. Monogr. 11(3):228-275, from p. 261 (1941).
  • L. W. Swan, The ecology of the high Himalayas, Sci. Am. 205:68-78, from pp. 76-77 (October 1961).
  • P. L. Whittaker, 1984. The insect fauna of mistletoe (Phoradendron tomentosum, Loranthaceae) in southern Texas. Southw. Nat. 29:435-444, from p. 443.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Aphids communicate mainly with chemicals, though they may use touch and sight as well.

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Life Cycle

Development

Aphids have incomplete metamorphosis: young aphids look a lot like adults, but don't have wings. Aphids often have complicated life cycles: an adult female can produce daughters without mating, and each of her daughters can do the same thing, so their populations grow fast. But as the season progresses, some produce sons and daughters that have wings, and these mya fly to new or different food plants. They mate and produce eggs that survive the winter and hatch the next spring. The hatchlings may reproduce without mating, and then their offspring move back to the original host plant species.

Development - Life Cycle: neotenic/paedomorphic

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Aphids live a few weeks to a few months.

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Reproduction

Aphids often have two different kinds of reproduction. At certain times of year, females give birth to live females (not eggs), without mating. After a few generations of this, they produce offspring who grow up to be winged, and must mate to reproduce. They often fly to new host plant species, mate there and lay eggs.

Breeding interval: Aphids can reproduce amazingly fast. If the temperature is right and the there is plenty of food, they can produce several offspring every days for several weeks, and these offspring can mature and start reproducing in a week.

Breeding season: Aphids breed in the spring and summer.

Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; seasonal breeding ; parthenogenic ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous ; oviparous

Parental Investment: no parental involvement

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
                                        
Specimen Records:21,517Public Records:5,527
Specimens with Sequences:20,088Public Species:865
Specimens with Barcodes:18,583Public BINs:696
Species:1,143         
Species With Barcodes:1,062         
          
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Barcode data

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Locations of barcode samples

Collection Sites: world map showing specimen collection locations for Aphididae

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Conservation

Conservation Status

No aphids are known to be in danger of extinction.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Aphids are one of the worst groups of pests on plants. They damage plants directly by feeding on them, and they also carry plant diseases from plant to plant. There can be millions and millions of aphids in a farmer's fields.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Wikipedia

Aphididae

Aphididae is a very large insect family in the aphid superfamily (Aphidoidea), of the order Hemiptera. There are several thousand species in this family, many of which are well known for being serious plant pests. They are also the family of insects containing most plant virus vectors (around 200 known) with the green peach aphid (Myzus persicae) being one of the most prevalent and indiscriminate carriers.

Evolution[edit]

Aphids originated in the late Cretaceous about 100 million years ago, but the Aphidinae which comprises about half of the 4700 described species and genera of aphids alive today come from their most recent radiation which occurred in the late Tertiary less than 10 million years ago.[1][2]

Characteristics[edit]

Members of the Aphididae are soft-bodied, pear-shaped insects called aphids, as are other members of the super-family Aphidoidea. Most of them have a pair of little tubes, called cornicles, projecting from the posterior of the abdomen. Wings are not always present; winged morphs are called "alates", while wingless morphs are known as "apterous". The forewings of Aphididae alates are dotted with 4 to 6 veins below the darkened spiracles. They all have very small eyes, sucking mouthparts and fairly long antennae.

These insects are very small (a few millimeters in length), so small that they can be transported by wind through fairly long distances. They are often green, but might be red or brown as well. They move quite slowly and cannot jump or hop..Aphids excrete a sugary liquid called honeydew, because the plant sap from which they feed contains excess carbohydrates relative to its low protein content. To satisfy their protein needs, they absorb large amounts of sap and excrete the excess carbohydrates. Honeydew is used as food by ants, honeybees and many other insects. A common misconception is that honeydew is secreted through the cornicles.

Genera[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Von Dohlen CD, Moran NA (2000) Molecular data support a rapid radiation of aphids in the Cretaceous and multiple origins of host alternation. Biol J Linnean Soc 71: 689–717
  2. ^ Von Dohlen CD, Rowe CA, Heie OE (2006) A test of morphological hypotheses for tribal and subtribal relationships of Aphidinae (Insecta: Hemiptera: Aphididae) using DNA sequences. Mol Phylo Evol 38: 316–329
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