Possible Aphid Proposal

So, here is my proposal for looking at aphid proportion and density in the different prairie remnants this summer, as well as the presence of spittlebugs. Please criticize and let me know what you think.


For the preliminary observations done to get an idea of the number of plants with aphids, I spent yesterday morning scanning the common garden for Aphids. I looked at rows 2, 3, 14, and 40, and wen through them up to the 20 meter mark. I found 3 plants with aphids and 5 with spittlebugs. For the younger plants, I scanned rows 51, 54, 55, and 56, and found 5 plants with spittlebugs and 3 with aphids. Given that I missed some, I would say that of the 270 plants looked at, roughly 2% had aphids.

Yesterday afternoon was also spent pressing plants, where I learned some of the finer points, such as ensuring that the flowers and leaves were well separated, how to fold some plants over, and to ensure that some leaves were turned over so that both sides of a leaf were captured. It is also very important to label clearly, and BEFORE you put the plant in the paper.

The little miss Runestone parade is today, and it is very likely that pictures of this event will be referenced or posted in later posts. (Depending on the varying levels of cuteness).

Also, here is the really cool paper on Spittlebugs, aphids and ants that I found:

Daniel R.


No comments yet to Possible Aphid Proposal

  • Daniel, That is a really cool paper on spittlebugs, ants & aphids. The paper suggests that ants make aphid-tents by placing dry thatch/soil on spittle or by placing wet thatch/soil directly on leaves. It might be worthwhile to go look at those plants with aphids that you noted on Saturday and see if ants are making aphids-tents with the wet soil. (finally we have some rain!)

    Gretel and I went out to Staffanson Prairie today (before the rain) and noticed spittle on many plants, including about half of the Echinacea plants that we flagged. I think you can make a lot of progress figuring out the relationship between Echincea, spittlebugs, ants, aphids, and aphid-tents. Let talk tomorrow about how to design a study that will answer your questions. You can make paper datasheets or we could make a form for the visors.

    I liked your proposal. I think it would be a really great contribution to figure out the distribution of aphids among Echinacea plants and remnants. It is a challenge to estimate the number or density of aphids on a plant. I look forward to you developing a protocol for assessing aphids in the remnants that you can teach to us. It won’t be easy.

    Kudos to you for doing the preliminary survey of aphids in the CG. It was interesting you found only 2% with aphids. I wonder what it will be like in a month. I did a quick peek at a dataset from part of the CG last year. 1536 of 5364 plants measured in late July or August, had at least one aphid (that’s ~28%).

  • Nice idea Dan. A couple of questions:

    1. I would think that a lower density of plants would mean increased chance of outbreeding (plants further apart mean a dilution of the pollen) while a higher density would mean an increased chance of inbreeding (higher chance of being pollinated from a plant nearby). What am I missing?

    2. What is the life cycle (and timing) of the aphids, ants and spittlebugs?

    Can’t wait to see photos.

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