Wednesday 8 June 2011

An aphid wolf tale

A few sprigs of a Feverfew plant in the garden are infested with thick clusters of black aphids. Garden ants are their shepherds: they milk their sweet honeydew and defend them in return from predators and parasites. In the same plant, a couple of 14 spot ladybirds lurk around, coveting the aphids, which they feed upon. They better not get too close as the ants will fiercely defend their herd of aphids. I found this 14 spot ladybird, Propylaea quatuordecimpunctata, on the Feverfew. As soon as I returned it to the plant after the photo shoot, the ladybird tried to get to the aphids, but an ant immediately attacked it and the ladybird first climbed onto a flowerhead and, after further attack, dropped onto the ground. The 14 spot is one of the commonest garden ladybirds, it is one out of three yellow ladybirds, and the only one with rectangular, as opposed to rounded, spots. The adult feeds on aphids, supplemented with nectar and pollen.
An early 14 spot on Euphorbia, a source of nectar used by ladybirds (9 April 2011) 
Mating 14 spot ladybirds (14 May 2007)

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