Posts Tagged: aphids
There's a good reason why lady beetles, aka ladybugs, are prevalent this time of year: aphids.
Ladybugs, from the family Coccinellidae, are actually beetles with voracious appetites for those soft-bodied insects that suck plant juices.
Wherever there are aphids, you'll usually see ladybugs. It may take awhile for the ladybugs to find them, but find them they will.
Two ladybugs converging on a plum tree leaf. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Aphids covering a rosebud. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ladybugs are easy to "spot."
As soon as the weather warms and those dratted plant-sucking aphids emerge, here come the polka-dotted ladybugs. The prey and the predator. The pest and the beneficial insect. The bad and the good.
Actually, many folks have already reported ladybug sightings. Facebook friends are photographing them and posting macro images. Ray Lopez of El Rancho Nursery in Vacaville said he's seen scores of them this season. The building that houses Fox 40 in Sacramento is resplendent with them.
In fact, tomorrow morning (Wednesday, Feb. 24) senior museum scientist Steve Heydon of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, will be interviewed by Fox 40 on that very subject: ladybugs! Look for a 7:20 a.m. live interview.
An article in today's Science Daily calls aphids "the mosquitoes" of the plant world. That's because they depend on the "blood" of plants to survive.
David Stern, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University, is quoted as saying "Look at this little insect, sitting on a plant and sucking plant juices. You don't realize that it is involved in a historic battle with plants for access to its life blood. All its genes have evolved to allow it to exploit its feeding relationship."
The article, about how an aphid's genome reflects its reproductive, symbiotic lifestyle, points out that an aphid can reproduce both sexually and asexually."
That's certainly a key factor in the aphids' evolutionary success.
All the more for the hungry ladybugs.
So, whether you call them "ladybugs" or "lady beetles" or by their family (beetle) name, Coccinellidae, they're found worldwide, with more than 5000 described species.
And they're coming to a garden near you...
A light rainstorm strikes the garden, pummeling and shredding some of the blossoms.
As the rain lets up, a honey bee buzzes into a rock purslane blossom for a sweet shot of nectar.
She is not alone.
If you look closely, you'll see three green aphids on an unopened blossom next to her.
There are, entomologists say, about 450 different species of aphids in California.
One specie found the rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora).
Score: Beneficial insect: 1. Destructive pests, 3.
Aphids and Honey Bee
The important work that soldier beetles (family Cantharidae) do is never more exemplified than in the "before" and "after" photos.
When the aphids landed on our rose bushes, a few ladybugs came to dine, but the insects that really stopped the aphid onslaught were the soldier beetles.
Veni, Vidi, Vici! They came, they saw, they conquered.
And now, since their food source is gone, the soldier beetles have flown off to find another tasty smorgasbord.
Yesterday we spotted only one soldier beetle (genus Podabrus) on a rose bush. If you look closely, you'll see why there's only one.
Look ma, no aphids!
Lone soldier beetle
Insects are cold-blooded so their temperature coincides with their environment.
Before the sun rises, they lie ever so still. As the sun warms them, they stir ever so slowly.
At 6 a.m. yesterday, we checked the roses for aphids (yes, they were there) and so were the predators: the soldier beetles and ladybugs.
A soldier beetle crawled to the edge of a leaf. A ladybug cartwheeled over a leaf and then clung to the tip.
Breakfast is ready!
Aphid in early morning sun