1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aphides

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APHIDES (pl. of Aphis), minute insects, also known as “plant-lice,” “blight,” and “green-fly,” belonging to the homopterous division of the order Hemiptera, with long antennae and legs, two-jointed, two-clawed tarsi, and usually a pair of abdominal tubes through which a waxy secretion is exuded. These tubes were formerly supposed to secrete the sweet substance known as “honey-dew” so much sought after by ants; but this is now known to come from the alimentary canal. Both winged and wingless forms of both sexes occur, and the wings when present are normal in number, that is to say two pairs. Apart from their importance from the economic standpoint, Aphides are chiefly remarkable for the phenomena connected with the propagation of the species. The following brief summary of what takes place in the plant-louse of the rose (Aphis rosae), may be regarded as typical of the family, though exceptions occur in other species: Eggs produced in the autumn by fertilized females remain on the plant through the winter and hatching in the spring give rise to female individuals which may be winged or wingless. From these females are born parthenogenetically, that is to say without the intervention of males, and by a process that has been compared to internal budding, large numbers of young resembling their parents in every particular except size, which themselves reproduce their kind in the same way. This process continues throughout the summer, generation after generation being produced until the number of descendants from a single individual of the spring-hatched brood may amount to very many thousands. In the autumn winged males appear, union between the sexes takes place and the females lay the fertilized eggs which are destined to carry the species through the cold months of winter. If, however, the food-plant is grown in a conservatory where protection against cold is afforded, the aphides may go on reproducing agamogenetically without cessation for many years together. Not the least interesting features connected with this strange life-history are the facts that the young may be born by the oviparous or viviparous methods and either gamogenetically or agamogenetically, and may develop into winged forms or remain wingless, and that the males only appear in any number at the close of the season. Although the factors which determine these phenomena are not clearly understood, it is believed that the appearance of the males is connected with the increasing cold of autumn and the growing scarcity of food, and that the birth of winged females is similarly associated with decrease in the quantity or vitiation of the quality of the nourishment imbibed. Sometimes the winged females migrate from the plant they were born on to start fresh colonies on others often of quite a different kind. Thus the apple blight (Aphis mali) after producing many generations of apterous females on its typical food-plant gives rise to winged forms which fly away and settle upon grass or corn-stalks.

Closely related to the typical aphides is Phylloxera vastatrix, the insect which causes enormous loss by attacking the leaves and roots of vines. Its life-history is somewhat similar to that of Aphis rosae summarized above. In the autumn a single fertile egg is laid by apterous females in a crevice of the bark of the vine where it is protected during the winter. From this egg in the spring emerges an apterous female who makes a gall in the new leaf and lays therein a large number of eggs. Some of the apterous young that are hatched from these form fresh galls and continue to multiply in the leaves, others descend to the root of the plant, becoming what are known as root-forms. These, like the parent form of spring, reproduce parthenogenetically, giving rise to generation after generation of egg-laying individuals. In the course of the summer, from some of these eggs are hatched females which acquire wings and lay eggs from which wingless males and females are born. From the union of the sexes comes the fertile egg from which the parent form of spring is hatched.

See generally G. B. Buckton, British Aphides (Ray Soc. 1876-1883); also Economic Entomology. (R. I. P.)