THE SECRET LIVES OF APHIDS

     Today, while watering my trees, I noticed that the newer growth on my dwarf crepe myrtles (I think the Chickasaw variety) was looking yellow and sickly.  A few causes flashed in my mind; first was the heat, it has been incredibly hot these past few weeks. Then there was chlorosis, lack of iron, as  it had been a while since I had given everything a dose of Ironite.  Curious, I flipped a younger branch over, and there they were - aphids.  They were sucking the life right out of the leaves.
These aren’t the type that I have typically seen on my trees, those are usually greenish and shaped differently. These aphids are white, great, a new creature that likes to eat my trees. Having access to a good microscope at work that can take photos, I thought that it might be interesting to see what they look like up close. Here they are, happily sucking on the leaves that I plucked.There were winged ones, too, enjoying a plant juice cocktail. It was interesting that the camera provided me the opportunity to observe them in action, in real time.

     As I was moving the branch around looking at the leaves, I spotted this guy.  At first, I thought that it was a spider mite, but as I was zooming in, it was apparent that this was a caterpillar, maggot, or larvae of some kind.  And, it was eating the aphids.  If you look closely at the pictures, you can see the dried-up carcasses of the ones that he has dined on.  If you look even closer, you will see that he is actually eating one in the picture using some type of proboscis.  A quick internet search of aphid predators turned up two possibilities, Cecidomyiidae and Fetiella Acarisuga, both are types of gall midges.  And, according to the google-ator, the adults are not predatory, the live on water and nectar, only the larvae are predatory and like to feast on mites and aphids.

     I only counted three of the midge fly larvae on the dozen or so leaves that I inspected and too many aphids to count. I don’t know whether I will nuke them all with malathion or just let nature take its course. Still mulling it over, but will probably go with the nuclear option. I know that there are those who prefer to use natural remedies for infestations, and the do work; but you have to consider that they do take time, sometimes a lot of time. I value the work I put into my trees and being small, a large infestation can really set one back.

Just remember, when you are outside working on your trees in the piece and quiet, there could be a war going on right under your nose.

Check Your Trees

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