Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/84

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76THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

quite cold; that night there was a hard frost. The ants evidently knew that this change in the weather was about to occur; therefore they removed their property to a warm and sheltered place. I have often watched the ants in autumn when the aphides were ovipositing; the former would caress the latter, and seemingly would endeavor

PSM V54 D084 Ichneumon fly laying eggs on aphides.png
Ichneumon Fly laying Eggs on Aphides

to stimulate and cheer them during the operation. As soon, however, as the eggs were deposited, the ants would seize and carry them into the nest; the aphis mother was left, without any compunctions whatever, to die during the first frost! Her life work had ended, and the economy of Nature needed her no longer.

Ants are always on the lookout for the new colonies which are continually being started by the winged females. As soon as one of these new herds is found by an ant, she returns to the nest and notifies her companions. One or two ants then accompany her to her newly found treasure, which in future is always, night and day, under their watchful care. As the herd increases in numbers, additional herdsmen, or rather dairymaids, are called into service.

Associated with this species are commonly to be found other species of aphides, notably the one which secretes, or rather excretes, a white powdery substance which is to be seen on their backs in soft, plumose masses. On microscopic examination this substance is found to be fairly teeming with microbia. These microbes, at the first glance, seem to be of different species; maturer judgment, however, declares them to be but metamorphic forms of the same individual.

A "white" aphis can be seen in the photograph at the base of the upper leaf stem. With a small pocket lens the details of this creature's structure can be easily made out. There are several of these aphides on the vine, but the one mentioned is the largest and the most conspicuous. They, are much larger than the nectar-producers, are oval in shape, and distinctly flattened. In fact, in general outline they are strikingly like that bête noire of all good housekeepers — the Cimex lectularius. The ants frequently congregate about these