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Of the aphids there are around 3000 species worldwide, about 850 of them live in Europe. Most of these species are hobbyists, as they suck the sap from the leaves and stems of flowers, shrubs and trees and thereby damage the plants.
Aphids reach a size of only a few millimeters even when fully grown, only some species can grow up to seven millimeters in size. Since there are many different types of aphids, they can have a green, black, brown, red or yellow body.
An aphid has six legs and a Stechrüssel, with which it receives their food. From the sap that she sucks with the trunk of the leaves and stalks of plants, however, it only needs the amino acid contained therein. The sugar also contained in the sap is excreted by it in the form of honeydew. This results in a double damage to the plants, because this honeydew attracts more insects, which in turn can cause other problems. At the same time, the sticky deposit also provides optimal conditions for the spread of fungal diseases and also viruses that can trigger various plant diseases are transmitted by aphids.
Reproduction of the aphid
The reproduction of the aphids happens in different ways. Aphids are able to reproduce without fertilization by a male animal, but from time to time they also give birth to a generation that reproduces quite normally sexually. This often happens when the plant on which the aphids have settled, no longer provides enough food for more offspring. These offspring then have wings so they can easily switch to other host plants. Although the total life expectancy of an aphid is only a few weeks, during this time, females can produce a large number of offspring.
- Aphids are eaten by many other insects. These include the ladybugs, which like to lay their eggs on plants that are attacked by aphids, because the larvae that hatch from these eggs feed mainly on lice.
- In contrast, parasitic wasps lay their eggs directly in the aphids, so that their larvae can feed on the aphids immediately after hatching.
- Another important group of insects that benefit from the aphids are lacewings. They feed on the honeydew, which the aphids secrete, but also eat the aphids. For this reason, the larvae of lacewings are also called aphid lions.
The symbiosis with the ants
The aphids have a particularly good relationship with the ants. Ants like to feed on honeydew excreted by the aphids and show their gratitude by protecting the aphids from predators. In winter, the ants overwinter the aphids and their larvae during their construction and sometimes even help them to move by carrying the already laid eggs into the ant frame. For this they may milk the aphids, so to speak, by knocking on their hindquarters, so that the lice drop a little honeydew in fright.