Friday, November 25, 2016

Yes they do, no they don't, yes they do, NO...they don't!

I am really tempted to begin this update with yet another rant. However, having given the matter a great deal of thought, ok...not too much thought at all, I have gone for substituting 'rant' with 'question'. And here it comes: "What would you get if you crossed a seal pup with a shark and an aphid?"

No I haven't gone crazy (well, that's a matter of conjecture) and this isn't a photo-shopped image or even some sort of genetic mutant. Why would you need to hybridise when we already have creatures like these. Nope, this is the large (giant) willow aphid: Tuberlolachnus salignus. 

Professor of Entomology at Harper Adams University in Shropshire, Professor Simon Leather, wrote in June of 2014 "The large (giant) willow aphid, Tuberlolachnus salignus, is, in my opinion, one of the world’s greatest unsolved mysteries". He went on to say that it is sometimes regarded as the largest aphid in the world. What is the great unsolved mystery that surrounds this aphid? Professor Leather again: "A great unsolved mystery about this aphid is the function of the dorsal tubercle, which so closely resembles a rose thorn, or to me, a shark’s fin". 

And the professor's conclusions? "Nobody knows".

But it doesn't end there, as the comedian Jimmy Cricket used to say..."Come 'ere, there's more". 

There's a second unsolved mystery... knew you'd be pleased!

The second mystery is that every year, in about February, it does a disappearing act and for about four months its whereabouts remain a mystery.

Professor Leather: "We have an aphid that spends a substantial period of the year feeding on willow trees without leaves and then in the spring when most aphids are hatching from their eggs to take advantage of the spring flush, T. salignus disappears! Does it go underground? If so, what plants is it feeding on and why leave the willows when their sap is rising and soluble nitrogen is readily available?
So here is a challenge for all entomological detectives out there. What is the function of the dorsal tubercle and where does T. salignus go for the spring break? Truly a remarkable aphid and two mysteries that I would dearly love to know the answers to and yet another reason why I love aphids so much".
You and me both professor. Oh and whilst I think about it, are you sure about this statement, 'when most aphids are hatching from their eggs to take advantage of the spring flush'. I wonder if you have read the article in my link at the bottom of this update?
Jimmy Cricket
You see...the reason I can't forget about this latest faux pas is that, well, I kinda lambasted the local and national newspapers last time over their poor research skills and yet this one seems to out-stupefy the papers. What troubles me about this latest find is that it concerns the University of Illinois. Bad enough you might think that a university is publishing 'facts' about insects that are incorrect; worse still is that this is in a GUIDE FOR TEACHERS entitled 'Let's talk about insects'. 

Number one on their list of important facts for teachers to impart to students is that 'all insects hatch from tiny eggs'. VIVIPARITY is what I suggest they look up in the dictionary! Most insects lay eggs but NOT all. The university of Michigan run something called 'BioKIDS' and their mission statement is to 'promote students' deep understandings of current science topics'. And yet.....

Sacré bleu!

Here's where it ties-in nicely with my aphid story. Let's get the correct information from The Amateur Entomologists Society eh? Quote: "Viviparity means to give birth to live young rather than laying eggs. Most insects produce eggs but some, such as aphids, are viviparous and give birth to live young".

Changing tack then: I recently found a couple of nice fungi ...

This bracket fungus, possibly Piptoporus betulinus or 'Razor Strop' and a beautiful one that I found in local pine woods that I think is a coral fungi, but as always, happy to be corrected...

It's quite odd just how many times this phenomenon occurs but once again, no sooner had I said that I hadn't seen a particular bug this year, than one appears as if by order. I am referring to my old friend 'Issus coleoptratus' this time. I posted a photo of a nymph in my last update, stating that I hadn't seen an adult...

The nymph from my last update
The adult I found a few days later

I think that concludes today's business and so I will bid you farewell until next time and leave you with a couple of phone pics of the glorious Kentish autumn that we have been experiencing...

                                           Giant Willow Aphid link is HERE


  1. Nearly missed this blog entry... think I received the e-mail, but was busy doing something else, then forgot...! Anyway!
    An interesting one as usual JJ. However, like you I always thought aphids only gave birth to live young, but it isn't the case! There are different sexual 'generations', better explained in Wiki (as ever!) - section 7 Reproduction:
    No idea about the 'shark fin' though. Fascinating!

    Totally love that coral fungus! Never seen one as beautiful as that! Stunning autumnal images too with fabulous colours.

    Well, that leaves me to wish you a fabulous Christmas (and Boxing day! ;-)) and all the very best for 2017!

    Maria x

  2. Hello Maria,

    No worries about missing this update-I have been distracted from the internet myself lately. Thanks for this lovely comment though. The point I was making about live young was that not ALL insects come from eggs and aphids are amongst those that give birth to live young. Yes, I did actually know that some aphids do not, but I thought that the willow aphids did? ;-) Phew! It was the blanket statement that ALL insects come from eggs that I found in quite a few articles that worried me.

    The coral fungi is beautiful I agree and was a first for me too. Autumn was a bit special here in Kent, hope it was also in your part of the world.

    Many thanks for your wishes for Christmas and New Year Maria, I return them with love. Thank-you once again too for being such a great and regular contributor to my little blog. Here's to next year.

    1. Just to be clear.....;-) I know that aphids can produce both live young and eggs...

    2. Ha ha!! I got that, thanks JJ! x


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