A Horde of Pests

oleander aphids on milkweed

The irony of today in Massachusetts is that we are holding a “special” election for the recently vacated Senate seat of John Kerry. Given the expectations of turnout, nobody thinks it’s special in anything but the sense of an oddity. I had been meaning to pull out this shot of aphids, one of every plant caretaker or gardener’s least favorite insects for a while, and today seemed as good a day as any. These bright yellow Hemiptera are known as Oleander Aphids, but also Milkweed Aphids, and in this case, horded on milkweed leaves, they are doing their thing: sucking the life out of plant quite literally. (The little white pieces of lint pitching in to the cause are the nymphs.) Like other insects that feed on milkweed (e.g. the monarch butterfly) the toxins in the plant are stored in the body and make them noxious and possibly fatal potential meals for predators. BugGuide.net’s Aphis nerii page states: “Larvae of lacewings and lady beetles that feed on Aphis nerii may have developmental problems during pupation, and either emerge with deformities (especially of the wings), or fail to emerge at all.” Like most congressional candidates we seem to have to choose from, aphids suck, are toxic and almost universally despised. (Ants seem to like them as a symbiotic partner, but I’d hate to compare ants to lobbyists!) Oh boy, time to vote, I guess.

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