Aphid Invaders

This time last year, many towns and cities in Indiana and Illinois experienced incredibly large swarms of soybean aphids. This year (2010), I have seen a few soybean aphids but nothing like the massive clouds that choked joggers and interfered with baseball games. Interestingly, the soybean aphid follows a 2-year cycle. Odd years have the largest populations and even years have lower populations. This may be due to predator-prey cycles, with high summer populations of aphids producing high predation on subsequent overwintering populations.

The soybean aphid is an invasive species that is native to Asia. The soybean aphid arrived late last century and was first discovered in July of 2000. The soybean aphid spends summers on soybean, but overwinters on buckthorn, a non-native invasive species.

When soybean aphid first arrived in the US, my late colleague, Bob O’Neill and I drove all over Tippecanoe County looking for buckthorn trees that might serve as overwintering sites, especially trees that might be located on our research farms. No luck. We were chagrined a few days later when walking back from our motor pool, I discovered that the gravel pit next to campus was covered by large populations of buckthorn. We later found some buckthorn trees on campus less than a block from our Department.

Until the arrival of soybean aphid, it was rare for soybean growers to treat their crops with insecticides. However, soybean aphids can reach thresholds of 250 aphids per plant in scattered fields forcing growers to spend time and money monitoring and treating the pests.

2010 has been relatively quiet. If the pattern holds, we will see large populations of soybean aphids again in 2011.
Soybean Aphid on Buckthorn

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Environment, Invasive Species, Pest Management. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Aphid Invaders

  1. Pingback: Changing the Landscape | Living With Insects Blog

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