As I was taking my oat grass guttation pictures, I kept an eye out for cute critters on my newly planted grass. And, of course, there were some:
That’s a young family of aphids, just starting out in life. Aphids are phloem-feeding plant parasites, so they’re sittin’ there having lunch. They have a proboscis they insert into the leaf’s phloem vessels, which they then drink like a soda through a straw. Phloem is just about as nutritious as soda, so aphids have serious problems getting enough nutrition and dealing with the sugar overload, but that’s the topic for another post (and probably another blog …).
The larger aphid is almost certainly a parthenogentically reproducing female. She reproduces asexually, creating more daughter offspring from just her own unfertilized eggs. Yes, kids, that does mean that she can have baby aphids without any daddy aphids around.
So, the six smaller aphids (called nymphs until they mature) are almost certainly her offspring. The mother will keep producing more and more offspring asexually, and these offspring themselves will almost certainly be able to parthenogentically reproduce as well1. That grass stalk won’t be happy for long.
It can often be hard to tell from web-sized images how much detail is contained in the original capture. Since I know you’re thinking that these aphids are adorably cute, here’s a crop of the image above focusing on them (see the same crop as a larger image here):
I’m not certain what species these aphids are, but I suspect they may be Diuraphis noxia, the Russian Wheat Aphid.
Oh, and the small drop of water at the tip of the grass stalk is there because the grass is guttating – exuding water from its tip due to root pressure. I write about that more in this post.
To see more of my botany-related pictures, head to my Botany Demonstrations gallery.