Aphids are Good? Wait….WHAT???

The tale of aphids’ beneficial roll in the life of pollinators originally published by Loret T. Setters on November 14, 2014 at (beautifulwildlifegarden.com/).

syrphid fly (Ocyptamus fuscipennis) approaches Water Cowbane
syrphid fly (Ocyptamus fuscipennis) approaches Water Cowbane

Down at my pond recently, I waited patiently for a flower fly to land for a photo op.  I use a point and shoot camera and have yet to find that the sports setting is effective at getting close-up photos of insects so I don’t use it.  I took a random shot or two while the syrphid fly hovered over the Water Cowbane (Tiedemannia filiformis), which is a native larval host for the Black Swallowtail Butterfly.

Sometimes called flower or hover flies
Sometimes called flower or hover flies

Syrphids are also commonly called flower flies and this gal was zooming in and out from the flower buds and on closer inspection of the photos while on the computer, I discovered that she was actually laying eggs.  What was the attraction?  Well, aphids, of course!

On closer inspection, it seems this gal was laying eggs
On closer inspection, it seems this gal was laying eggs

The larvae of various syrphid fly species are predators of aphids.  This syrphid fly is Ocyptamus fuscipennis.

Ahhh, the little bluish color aphids would explain the attraction!
Ahhh, the little bluish color aphids would explain the attraction!

I never did see eggs as they are smaller than a pinhead and even with a zoomed image on the computer screen I didn’t have any luck focusing on them.  A couple of days later I did get one this one photo of larvae munching an aphid although since at this stage it IS the size of a pinhead, it isn’t all that clear.

Aphids are just walking up and down the plant
Aphids are just walking up and down the plant

A week later or so, I spotted the beginnings of a cocoon.  Unfortunately, on return visits I failed to locate it again so my hopes for capturing an emerging fly have been dashed. And yet I feel I have learned another fabulous way that Mother Nature maintains biodiverse balance when you let her.

Look closely….you’ll see fly larva is munching on an aphid.
Look closely….you’ll see fly larva is munching on an aphid.

Use of pesticides or insecticidal soaps on these aphids would have also eliminated the beginnings of the next generation of valuable pollinators.  If you eliminate the food source, you interrupt a life cycle. In this case, no aphids = less pollinators.  It all goes hand in hand.

So, before you head out to “save your plants” from those “pests”, consider your reasoning for determining that one species has a greater benefit than another does.

Aphids feed the next generation of pollinators and we all know that pollinators are in decline.  Is an unintended consequence of trying to keep plants looking “perfect” tossing a stick in the spokes of the progress of life cycles further up the food chain?

syrphidCowbaneHoverOct2014-500x500Plant a more diverse garden, avoiding monocultures so that chewing damage is less apparent.  Let the aphids live so these pollinators have a food source.   Everyone up the food chain will live a little better.

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