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Born Pregnant: Aphids Invade with an Onslaught of Clones | Deep Look

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Channel: Deep Look
Categories: Biology   |   Environmental   |   Science  
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Female aphids are the matriarchs of a successful family operation taking over your garden. But dont lose hope; these pests have some serious predators and creepy parasites looking to take them down.

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DEEP LOOK is an ultra-HD (4K) short video series created by KQED San Francisco and presented by PBS Digital Studios. See the unseen at the very edge of our visible world. Explore big scientific mysteries by going incredibly small.


Aphids are one of gardeners most hated pests. Theyre incredibly prolific, seemingly popping up overnight to take down your favorite veggies.

"Aphids are just experts at reproducing," said Ian Grettenberger an entomologist at the University of California, Davis. "Given the right conditions, they can multiply really quickly and get out of control.

For most of the year female aphids giving live birth to clones that are themselves already pregnant. That means that most of the time, all of the aphids you see in your garden are pregnant females.

When their population gets big enough and the plant theyre on starts to wane, aphids start giving birth to a new type of winged clones called alates. Amazingly, the alates are genetically identical to their wingless mothers. The alates take to the air to find new plants to colonize.

--- What do aphids eat?
Aphids use their pointy stylet to pierce plant leaves and such out the sugary sap. Usually, plants can handle a light infestation, but aphids reproduce quickly. Heavily infested leaves yellow and wither. Aphids can also carry viruses that they spread between the different plants they feed on.

--- How do aphids spread?
Aphids give birth to winged clones called alates that fly from plant to plant. Since aphids can clone themselves, it only takes one aphid to infiltrate your garden and start causing trouble.

--- How do I get rid of aphids?
Some gardeners use oils and pesticide sprays to get rid of aphids but its very challenging to get every last one of them. You can purchase predators like lacewing larvae to hunt and eat aphids. You can also purchase parasitoid wasps that lay their eggs in aphids, killing them.

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Congratulations to the following 5 fans on our Deep Look Community Tab for identifying the phenomenon of aphids giving birth to young that are already pregnant - telescoping generations!

Philliam P
Pawe Szymanek

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