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Concept: Aphid


The study of polymorphisms is particularly informative for enhancing our understanding of phenotypic and genetic diversity. The persistence of polymorphism in a population is generally explained by balancing selection. Color polymorphisms that are often found in many insects and arthropods are prime examples of the maintenance of polymorphisms via balancing selection. In some aphids, color morphs are maintained through frequency-dependent predation by two predatory insects. However, the presence of color polymorphism in ant-attended aphids cannot be explained by traditional balancing selection because these aphids are free from predation. We examined the selective advantages of the existence of two color (red and green) morphs in the ant-attended aphid, Macrosiphoniella yomogicola, in fields. We measured the degree of ant attendance on aphid colonies with different proportions of color morphs. The results show that the ants strongly favor aphid colonies with intermediate proportions of the two color morphs. The relationship between the degree of ant attendance and the proportion of color morphs in the field is convex when aphid colony size and ant colony size are controlled. This function has a peak of approximately 65% of green morphs in a colony. This system represents the first case of a balancing polymorphism that is not maintained by opposing factors but by a symbiotic relationship.

Concepts: Natural selection, Evolution, Insect, Symbiosis, Ant, Balancing selection, Aphid, Mutualism


In agricultural ecosystems, arthropod herbivores and fungal pathogens are likely to colonise the same plant and may therefore affect each other directly or indirectly. The fungus that causes powdery mildew (Blumeria graminis tritici) and cereal aphids are important pests of wheat but interactions between them have seldom been investigated. We studied the effects of powdery mildew of wheat on two cereal aphid species, Metopolophium dirhodum and Rhopalosiphum padi. We hypothesized that aphid number and size will be smaller on powdery mildew-infected plants than on non-infected plants. In a first experiment we used six commercially available wheat varieties whereas in the second experiment we used a genetically modified (GM) mildew-resistant wheat line and its non-transgenic sister line. Because the two lines differed only in the presence of the transgene and in powdery mildew resistance, experiment 2 avoided the confounding effect of variety. In both experiments, the number of M. dirhodum but not of R. padi was reduced by powdery mildew infection. Transgenic mildew-resistant lines therefore harboured bigger aphid populations than the non-transgenic lines. For both aphid species individual size was mostly influenced by aphid number. Our results indicate that plants that are protected from a particular pest (powdery mildew) became more favourable for another pest (aphids).

Concepts: Plant, Fungus, Experiment, Hemiptera, Plant pathogens and diseases, Aphid, Blumeria graminis, Powdery mildew


Electrical penetration graphs (DC EPG) were used to monitor the feeding behavior of the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum Harris (Hemiptera: Aphididae) exposed to the flavonoids luteolin and genistein in artificial diets. The EPG patterns generated by aphids feeding on plants were used to interpret the patterns generated on the artificial diets. Addition of flavonoids to the diets generally prolonged the period of stylet probing (as indicated by EPG pattern d-C), reduced salivation (as indicated by pattern d-E1) and passive ingestion (as indicated by pattern d-E2), and also delayed the onset of salivation and passive ingestion. At higher concentrations (≥100 μg cm(-3) for luteolin, ≥1,000 μg cm(-3) for genistein), the flavonoids completely stopped salivation and passive ingestion. In most events associated with active ingestion (EPG pattern d-G), however, differences in feeding behavior did not statistically differ between the control diet and those with flavonoids; luteolin, and genistein only at 10 μg cm(-3) prolonged the time until the first d-G pattern was observed. The current findings demonstrate detrimental effects of the isoflavone genistein and the flavone luteolin on the feeding behavior of the pea aphid, A. pisum. This can be employed to create plants which are resistant to aphids and other herbivores.

Concepts: Insect, Isoflavones, Flavonoid, Hemiptera, Flavones, Aphid, Sternorrhyncha, Aphididae


Stylet sheath formation is a common feature among phytophagous hemipterans. These sheaths are considered essential to promote a successful feeding event. Stylet sheath compositions are largely unknown and their mode of solidification remains to be elucidated. This report demonstrates the formation and solidification of in āere (in air) produced stylet sheaths by six hemipteran families: Diaphorina citri (Psyllidae, Asian citrus psyllid), Aphis nerii (Aphididae, oleander/milkweed aphid), Toxoptera citricida (Aphididae, brown citrus aphid), Aphis gossypii (Aphididae, cotton melon aphid), Bemisia tabaci biotype B (Aleyrodidae, whitefly), Homalodisca vitripennis (Cicadellidae, glassy-winged sharpshooter), Ferrisia virgata (Pseudococcidae, striped mealybug), and Protopulvinaria pyriformis (Coccidae, pyriform scale). Examination of in āere produced stylet sheaths by confocal and scanning electron microscopy shows a common morphology of an initial flange laid down on the surface of the membrane followed by continuous hollow core structures with sequentially stacked hardened bulbous droplets. Single and multi-branched sheaths were common, whereas mealybug and scale insects typically produced multi-branched sheaths. Micrographs of the in āere formed flanges indicate flange sealing upon stylet bundle extraction in D. citri and the aphids, while the B. tabaci whitefly and H. vitripennis glassy-winged sharpshooter flanges remain unsealed. Structural similarity of in āere sheaths are apparent in stylet sheaths formed in planta, in artificial diets, or in water. The use of ‘Solvy’, a dissolvable membrane, for intact stylet sheath isolation is reported. These observations illustrate for the first time this mode of stylet sheath synthesis adding to the understanding of stylet sheath formation in phytophagous hemipterans and providing tools for future use in structural and compositional analysis.

Concepts: Hemiptera, Pest insects, Aphid, Sternorrhyncha, Aphididae, Whitefly, Insect vectors of plant pathogens, Scale insect


The cowpea aphid Aphis craccivora that infests the black locust Robinia pseudoacacia shows toxicity to its predator, the multicolored Asian ladybird beetle, Harmonia axyridis. In contrast, the same aphid species that infests the common vetch, Vicia angustifolia, is suitable prey for H. axyridis larvae. Previously, it was reported that the toxicity of A. craccivora infesting R. pseudoacacia was due to canavanine and 2-aminoethanol, but there was some doubt about the toxicity of these compounds and their concentrations in the aphids. In the present study, we determined the concentrations of cyanamide, canavanine, and 2-aminoethanol in A. craccivora infesting the two host plants. In the extracts of A. craccivora that infested either of the host plants, canavanine was undetectable, and 2-aminoethanol was detected at the concentration of 3.0-4.0 μg/g fresh weight. Cyanamide was detected in the extract of A. craccivora that infested R. pseudoacacia (7.7 μg/g fresh weight) but not in that infesting V. angustifolia. The toxicity of canavanine, 2-aminoethanol, and cyanamide was evaluated against H. axyridis larvae in a bioassay by using an artificial diet containing these compounds at various concentrations. Cyanamide exhibited 10-100 times stronger toxicity than canavanine and 2-aminoethanol. These results indicate that the toxicity is at least partly due to cyanamide, which is present in the toxic A. craccivora that infests R. pseudoacacia but absent from the non-toxic A. craccivora that infests V. angustifolia.

Concepts: Insect, Toxicity, Fabaceae, Vicia, Aphid, Coccinellidae, Harmonia axyridis, Robinia pseudoacacia


BACKGROUND: The harlequin ladybird, Harmonia axyridis Pallas (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) is native to central and eastern Asia and was purposely introduced into Europe to control aphids. While it proved to be a good biological control agent, its rapid spread and buildup of large populations made it a nuisance, since it overwinters in homes, emits unpleasant odors, stains fabrics, occasionally bites humans and feeds on apples, pears and grapes. Aside from the above, the ravenous appetite of H. axyridis results in their consumption of harmless native insects, including even other ladybird beetles. A study of the natural enemies of H. axyridis in Denmark revealed the presence of nematodes. The present study describes this nematode parasite and discusses aspects of its development and ecology. METHODS: Adult harlequin ladybird beetles were collected from March to November from four localities in Copenhagen on different plant species. In addition, groups of last-instar larvae and pupae (n = 50) were examined for the presence of nematodes. Living and recently dead nematodes were removed from adult H. axyridis in 0.5% saline solution, the nematodes were then heat killed (at 75 C), fixed in 5% formalin and transferred to glycerin on slides for further examination and measurements. RESULTS: A new species of Allantonematidae (Tylenchida), Parasitylenchus bifurcatus n. sp., is described from adults of the harlequin ladybird, Harmonia axyridis in Denmark. The new species is characterized by a straight stylet lacking basal thickenings, a bursa and a forked tail tip in the vermiform (infective) females and juvenile males. The new species is compared with P. coccinellinae previously described from ladybird beetles in France. Parasitism resulted in depletion of the fat body and partial or complete atrophy of the reproductive organs of the beetles. Infections occurred throughout the year with rates of parasitism reaching up to 35%. The rate increased to 60% when field-collected ladybirds were incubated for 30 days in the laboratory. CONCLUSIONS: The production of subsequent generations within the host with only the fertilized females (not the males) leaving the hosts and the absence of parasitism of the larvae and pupae is an impressive developmental modification of P. bifurcatus. It is proposed that the vermiform (infective) females pass from one adult host to another when the beetles are hibernating or in assemblage groups. Rates of parasitism show that P. bifurcatus could be a significant biological control agent of H. axyridis.

Concepts: Insect, Nematode, Beetle, Parasitoid, Beetles, Aphid, Coccinellidae, Harmonia axyridis


BACKGROUND: Phloem-feeding insects are among the most devastating pests worldwide. They not only cause damage by feeding from the phloem, thereby depleting the plant from photo-assimilates, but also by vectoring viruses. Until now, the main way to prevent such problems is the frequent use of insecticides. Applying resistant varieties would be a more environmental friendly and sustainable solution. For this, resistant sources need to be identified first. Up to now there were no methods suitable for high throughput phenotyping of plant germplasm to identify sources of resistance towards phloem-feeding insects. RESULTS: In this paper we present a high throughput screening system to identify plants with an increased resistance against aphids. Its versatility is demonstrated using an Arabidopsis thaliana activation tag mutant line collection. This system consists of the green peach aphid Myzus persicae (Sulzer) and the circulative virus Turnip yellows virus (TuYV). In an initial screening, with one plant representing one mutant line, 13 virus-free mutant lines were identified by ELISA. Using seeds produced from these lines, the putative candidates were re-evaluated and characterized, resulting in nine lines with increased resistance towards the aphid. CONCLUSIONS: This M. persicae-TuYV screening system is an efficient, reliable and quick procedure to identify among thousands of mutated lines those resistant to aphids. In our study, nine mutant lines with increased resistance against the aphid were selected among 5160 mutant lines in just 5 months by one person. The system can be extended to other phloem-feeding insects and circulative viruses to identify insect resistant sources from several collections, including for example genebanks and artificially prepared mutant collections.

Concepts: Evolution, Insect, Hemiptera, Aphid, Aphididae, Myzus persicae


Mutualism is a common and important ecological phenomenon characterized by beneficial interaction between two species. Red imported fire ants, Solenopsis invicta Buren, tend honeydew-producing hemipteran insects and reduce the activity of these insects' enemies. Ant-hemipteran interactions frequently exert positive effects on the densities of hemipterans. We tested the hypothesis that ant tending can increase the densities of the mealybug, Phenacoccus solenopsis Tinsley (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), and reduce the densities of the mealybug’s predatory and parasitic enemies, the lady beetle, Menochilus sexmaculata Fabricius (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), and the parasitoid wasp, Aenasius bambawalei Hayat (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae). We found that more ants foraged on mealybug-infested hibiscus plants than on mealybug-free plants. The number of foraging ants on plants infested with high densities of mealybugs (62.5 ants per plant) was nearly six times that on mealybug-free plants (10.2 ants per plant). Experiment results showed that ant tending significantly increased the survival of mealybugs: if predatory and parasitic enemies were present, the survival of mealybugs tended by fire ants was higher than that in the absence of tending ants. Furthermore, this tending by fire ants significantly decreased the survival of lady beetle larvae. However, no apparent effect was observed on the survival of parasitoid.

Concepts: Insect, Symbiosis, Beetle, Ant, Hymenoptera, Parasitoid, Aphid, Mutualism


The benefits of mutualistic interactions are often highly context dependent. We studied the interaction between the milkweed aphid Aphis asclepiadis and a tending ant, Formica podzolica. While this interaction is generally considered beneficial, variation in plant genotype may alter it from mutualistic to antagonistic. Here we link the shift in strength and relative benefit of the ant-aphid interaction to plant genotypic variation in the production of cardenolides, a class of toxic defensive chemicals. In a field experiment with highly variable genotypes of the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), we show that plant cardenolides, especially polar forms, are ingested and excreted by the aphid proportionally to plant concentrations without directly affecting aphid performance. Ants consume honeydew, and aphids that excreted high amounts of cardenolides received fewer ant visits, in turn reducing aphid survival. On at least some plant genotypes, aphid numbers per plant were reduced in the presence of ants to levels lower than in corresponding ant-exclusion treatments, suggesting antagonistic ant behavior. While cardenolides thus appear ineffective as direct plant defenses against aphids, the multi-trophic context reveals an ant-mediated negative indirect effect on aphid performance and population dynamics. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Genetics, Evolution, Insect, Asclepias, Cretaceous, Ant, Aphid, Asclepias syriaca


Aphids are important agricultural pests worldwide. Their control is largely based on chemical insecticides. One species that shows important invasive abilities and host-plant-related differences is Therioaphis trifolii (Monell) (Hemiptera: Aphididae). T. trifolii maculata, also known as spotted alfalfa aphid (SAA), can be very injurious to alfalfa crops in certain regions, such as in Saudi Arabia for effective control it is essential to diagnose and monitor the resistance mechanisms in the SAA populations. In the present study, we analysed acetylcholinesterase (ace) target site insensitivity mechanisms. A 650 bp length DNA containing the putative acetylcholinesterase (ace1) precursor was obtained and compared with other Hemipteran species. The sequences of many individual aphids collected from alfalfa crops in Saudi Arabia were analysed for the presence of resistance mutations: no resistance mutations were found at the resistance mutation loci 302; however, the presence of a serine-phenylalanine substitution (S431F) was identified in one individual. The S431F substitution, has been shown to confer significant levels of both organophosphate and carbamate resistance in other aphid species, and is now found for the first time in T. trifolii. We subsequently developed a simple polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism assays for the S431F mutation, using a TaqI restriction site destroyed by the S431F mutation. The novel diagnostic assay may support the implementation of Insecticide Resistance Management strategies, for the control of SAA in alfalfa crops in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and other countries worldwide.

Concepts: DNA, Mutation, Insect, Saudi Arabia, Hemiptera, Insecticide, Aphid, Sternorrhyncha