Sidewalk Nature: Aphid Alarms


On the very day I learn about an aphid’s “twin tailpipes (cornicles) at the rear of the insect,” an aphid appears in my kitchen and shows me twin tailpipes. See here on my arm? 6 legs, 2 antennae, and then the 2 dealies poking out the back? Cornicles.

Aphid honeydew doesn’t come out here, but aphid alarms do: when attacked by a predator, aphids secrete pheromones as a warning to nearby aphids (“Run away! Run away!). AND, an aphid can smear the stuff directly on a predator and stink it up so bad, it can’t ambush another aphid anytime soon. 

Obviously, the next step is to walk to the garden and freak out an aphid. I need to see the apparatus in action (with a very strong magnifying lens). This one on my arm was totally chill, and had no need to warn anyone of danger. I puffed it to the yard, where it will no doubt poop more honeydew onto my car very soon.

Why was there an aphid in my kitchen?

Whenever I walk to our sugar maple, I walk away wearing something: a seed, a leaf, a stink-bug molt, honeydew, or in this case, an aphid. I felt it crawling up my arm during morning email, so I took a picture, noticed the cornicles, and felt an urgent need to tell someone, anyone…

My new word is courtesy of the amazing Bug-of-the-Week blog of Kate Redmond (aka the BugLady) at the Riveredge Nature Center. The BugLady  is one of my favorite nature writers by far.