Fall 2014 SMTP Interesting Finds: True bugs (Order: Hemiptera)

True bugs (Order: Hemiptera)

True bugs are an insect order scientifically known as Hemiptera with about 80,000 species. You might know representatives such as cicadas, aphids, planthoppers, leafhoppers, and, most prominently, stink bugs and bed bugs. In the Fall 2014 School Malaise Trap Program, the leafhoppers (family Cicadellidae) were the most diverse group, with 158 species collected. Aphids (family Aphididae) were in second place with 119 species, which included a number of interesting species.

Ladybug2Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects with sucking mouthparts called stylets that allow them to pierce plant tissue and suck out the sap. Depending on the plant species and extent of the attack, aphid feeding can lead to yellowing, curled leaves, stunted growth, and even death. The soybean aphid (Aphis glycines) was one of the most widely collected species of aphid, being found in traps at 21 different schools, primarily in Ontario. The soybean aphid is native to Asia but it has become a serious pest of soybean in North America since 2000. Interestingly, the Halloween lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis), which can help to control the soybean aphid and is also an introduced species, was collected at 18 schools in this Fall program.

With little natural protection from predators, aphids employ various mechanisms to avoid predation. Species collected in the Fall program exhibit a few of these mechanisms, including two Tetraneura species that can cause plants to form galls, abnormal swellings of plant tissue, wherein the aphids can survive. Multiple species of woolly aphid (subfamily Eriosomatinae), which excrete a waxy, woolly-looking covering that provides protection from predators, were also collected.

Norway maple aphid (Periphyllus lyropictus)
Norway maple aphid (Periphyllus lyropictus)

Aphids are not only pests of agricultural crops, they can also damage trees. Collected in the Fall  program, the Poplar leaf aphid (Chaitophorus populicola) feeds on poplars and cottonwood while the Norway maple aphid (Periphyllus lyropictus), as the name suggests, feeds on Norway maples. Another interesting find were three species of giant conifer aphids (Cinara spp.), some of which are known to attack Christmas trees and, because they can survive freezing temperatures, they can remain on the trees on route to consumers, becoming a nuisance during the holidays.

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