What the Aphids Are Eating

Many aphid species provide ants with honeydew and ants in turn provide aphids with protection: a mutualistic interaction. A gall aphid, Paracletus cimiciformis follows this paradigm but also has interctions not beneficial to ants. The primary host of the aphid is the tree Pistacia terebinthus. The aphid makes leaf galls. Winged aphids emerge from the galls and colonize grasses. Paracletus cimiciformis has two morphs that feed on the roots and produce honeydew, a round and a flat morph. Both may be visited by ants in the genus Tetramorium. The round morphs produce honeydew rewards and remain on the plants. The flat morphs are chemical mimics of ant larvae. The ants mistake the flat morphs for ant larvae and carry them back to the brood chamber with the developing ant immatures. Once in the brood chamber, the flat morph aphids feed parasitically on the hemolymph of the ants.

I am surprised to learn that some aphids can be predators. However, insects are opportunistic and given the availability of a resource, some insect is likely to find a way to exploit it.


Pictures representative of the interactions between T. semilaeve ants and the two P. cimiciformis root-dwelling wingless morphs.

Adrián Salazara, Benjamin Fürstenaub, Carmen Queroc, Nicolás Pérez-Hidalgod, Pau Carazoa,e, Enrique Fonta, and David Martínez-Torres. 2015. Aggressive mimicry coexists with mutualism in an aphid. PNAS. 112: 1101–1106.
doi: 10.1073/pnas.1414061112

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 behavior, by jjneal, Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What the Aphids Are Eating

  1. Pingback: What the Aphids Are Eating | Entomo Planet

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