Aliens in the Garden


I’ve seen some pretty fascinating insects over the years, but using this clip on macro lens https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07LG651ZD/ref=sspa_dk_detail_3?psc=1&pd_rd_i=B07LG651ZD my husband bought me to use with my iPhone has opened up a whole new world. Last night we went down to our garden and while he was busy picking lettuce and tomatoes, I wandered around inspecting leaves and flowers with my new “eye.” I saw aliens! 👽

While I can’t tell you the exact names of all of these creatures, I can tell you that 7 pm must be dinnertime for some of them…like these micro beetles all over my flowering parsley. https://youtu.be/9_NRtS1HJTg

Unidentified micro beetles on Parsley blossoms
July 21, 2019
San Juan Island, WA

One of my favorites was this ladybug larva. I’ve been seeing several different species of ladybugs in the garden. This larva is probably Coccinella septempunctata or the Seven Spotted Lady Bug. A voracious predator, ladybug adults and larvae love to eat aphids. Curiously, while I saw plenty of aphids in my garden, I also saw some strangely mutant ones, so keep reading and scroll down for photos.

Ladybug larva
July 21, 2019
San Juan Island, WA
photo by Cynthia Brast-Bormann

The normal, healthy aphids look like this one. Isn’t she sort of cute watching over all her little babies on the leaf!

Mom aphid with young nymphs
July 21, 2019
San Juan Island, WA
photo by Cynthia Brast-Bormann
Mom aphid with young nymphs
July 21, 2019
San Juan Island, WA
photo by Cynthia Brast-Bormann

The strange aphids I noticed when I was picking peas. I am not 100% certain, but I believe this is a pea aphid that has been infected with fungi. After doing a bit of reading about these fungal pathogens, I believe it could possibly be (Pandora neoaphidis), an aphid specific entomopathogenic fungus that acts as a biocontrol for aphid populations. The taxonomy and ecological roles of fungi is beyond the scope of my knowledge and experience, so if you decide to read more about this, I suggest googling “Pandora neoaphidis” with “biocontrol.” One interesting bit I did note in my reading was that certain native ladybugs won’t eat aphids that are infected with the fungi, but that the non-native Asian ladybird beetle, Harmonia axyridis eats aphids indiscriminately, fungal infected ones too! Since I was eating peas while I was picking, I’m glad I stopped before popping the pea with these in my mouth. While I’m not entirely opposed to eating insects, I imagine my taste to be a bit more like the native lady bugs.

Pea aphid with fungal pathogen, possibly ( Pandora neoaphidis)
July 21, 2019
San Juan Island, WA
photo by Cynthia Brast-Bormann
Pea aphid under the microscope
possibly infected with (Pandora neoaphidis)
July 21, 2019
San Juan Island, WA
photo by Cynthia Brast-Bormann
Pea aphid with entomopathogenic fungi
July 21, 2019
San Juan Island, WA
photo by Cynthia Brast-Bormann

The next image is of the weirdest looking creature yet. This is another aphid, but instead of entomopathogenic fungi, it is the victim of a parasitic wasp that has injected it with eggs that will hatch, consume the remainder of the aphid body, then eat their way out. Here’s a link to another photo I found online of this stranger-than-strange occurrence in nature. http://www.aphotofauna.com/hymenoptera_wasp_praon_mummified_aphid_22-09-14.html

The Alien
Mummified aphid infected with parasitic wasp larva
July 21, 2019
San Juan Island, WA
photo by Cynthia Brast-Bormann

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