Monday, November 2, 2009

Woolly Aphids in Lasius claviger Nest

Last week I stumbled across something odd in one of the Lasius claviger colonies out in the yard. This colony nests under a large slab of stone under our Willow Oak, Quercus phellos. Woolly Aphids were in the ant colony. This is interesting for a number of reasons.

1) Lasius claviger is completely subterranean. Colonies are only open now to release queens for their autumn flights.

2) You will note all the aphids are adult reproductives, they all have wings. Normally aphids die off during the winter but their eggs survive. Some aphids though overwinter as adults and lay eggs in the spring. I'm not sure which is the case here.

3) Woolly aphids don't feed on roots! The normal aphids Lasius claviger tend to are all root aphids (seen in white above). Woolly aphids normally feed on the green growth to a wide variety of trees.

4) Though not producing any nectar they're still welcome in the ant nest. They're likely producing eggs, just as all the other aphids in the L. claviger nest are doing, to be overwinter in the ant nest. Or they're simply over wintering along with the other aphids. Honestly though I'm not sure about this. Aphids seem to be even less studied then ants are.