The Aphids Who Stole Christmas

Aphids Feeding

In my travels (admittedly not very far-ranging to this point) across the universe of bug knowledge, I have come upon people who love bugs. Often I find people who love a certain kind of bug. Butterflies are easy and popular everywhere; jumping spiders have a special cult in the macrophotography realm; there are the cricket lovers and ant mavens, the honeybee keepers (figurative and literal), damselfly paparazzi, scientists up to here (i.e. way up!) in fruit flies, dung beetle dreamers smelling all roses, and so forth and so on and so forth. There seems to be a bug for everyone, or at least a person for every bug. Well, except for the aphids.***

Aphids are primitive true bugs; they congregate in large numbers (in at least some species) sucking on a plant for nourishment (which if you could imagine being sucked by hundreds of little ugly critters, you could see how that might be detrimental to the plant and earn said-suckers the wrath of gardeners everywhere); they are tended by ant farmers who feed on their honeydew excretions (and straight from the…um…point of departure, no less); they are lunchmeat for ladybeetle larvae and adults, as well as lacewing larvae. And that is the paltry extent of my offhand knowledge of these critters. I hate to say it, amidst all my musings of bug beauty and wonder, but I think aphids are a weird mix of creepy, ugly and gross. So you’ve caught me (or I’ve thrown myself at your bug-fearing and -loathing feet — you know who you are). But…but, but…I am open to coming around on aphids! I encourage the aphid-lovers to come out of the stalkwork, so to speak, and expound on the aphidious excellence (or at least point me to an expounding of said excellence) that I am missing.

I photographed these particular bugs in a Manhattan park. As you can see they come in different sizes. I believe the white forms are nymphs (an immature form).

Aphids Feeding

***I am omitting the mosquitoes (though I have a hunch there are skeeter lovers out there) and ticks (not so sure about those guys).

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