Tuesday, September 08, 2009

major abs

Have you ever broken the tip off a pencil? Of course you have. This tiny critter with a huge abdomen and virtually nonexistent thorax and head was about the size of HALF of that broken tip!!


A weed sprang up near my lawn. Instead of just pulling it, I decided to shoot it first (take its picture). The thing was milkweed, and the white, puffy head looked like my lawn's dreaded enemy, the dandelion. Approaching for the macro, I noticed little spots. Aww, shucks! I was hoping for a clean and simple subject. Wait! Those spots moved! Looking very closely, I observed them as they made a repeatedly slapped the stem with their apparently disproportionate abdomens.


What were they doing? It looked like they were maybe biting into the stem and yanking back with the whole body to tear a piece out. Or maybe I had it backwards... Perhaps they were rocking their body to thrust a sharp tip forward, puncturing the stem. Just guesses; I was thinking out loud.


Whatever they were doing, I braced the camera, softened the flash with a plastic grocery bag, and took several frames, knowing that the slight breeze would pull most of my pics out of focus. After going back inside to review them, I zoomed in on one of the clearer shots and noticed... babies??? Were these little bugs making littler ones?!


Please, if anyone has any idea that would help with identification, I would like to know what they are. I know the pic looks at first like spiders, but these have six legs.


UPDATE: Based on helpful tips and an internet search, I believe we are looking at Rosy Apple Aphids.


Yes, it just gave birth to a nymph. The one on top seems to be feeding with a tube that I wanted to call a proboscis at first, but it's actually called a stylet.


The horn-like things on its back are called cornicles. They produce a waxlike stuff at the tips that is supposed to defend them, but I understand that it sometimes does the opposite-- attracting certain predators.


They're nicknamed "ant cows" by some because of a mutualistic relationship, whereby ants use their antennae to manipulate aphids to secrete aphid poop (my term). The ants "milk" the aphids like this and eat that stuff. Yuk!


Maalie said...

Craver Vii, the angle is difficult, but you are right, they are not arachnids but insects. They look to me very much like some species of ant (there are dozens, if not hundreds to choose from). They may be sucking the sap or on the hunt for aphids.

Another remarkable example of adaptive radiation. Insects are of course a very ancient taxon, and geologists/biologists have dated their origins to about 400 million years ago. There is some information about ants here .

mr. dave said...

they look like some sort of beetle.could it possibly be Paul or Ringo?

Craver Vii said...

The earth was not here 400 million years ago.

The evidence is more and more available for young earth creationism, but the bottom line is that I know that scientists have made mistakes throughout the ages; God never has. I choose to take God at his Word, regardless of whatever happens to be the scientific flavor of the day.

imac said...

Great capture Craver, all the work paid off.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Craver: What a great close-up of the aphids. Maalie seems to have a good idea of what they are.

Maalie said...

>I know that scientists have made mistakes throughout the ages

Of course they have. Humans are fallible. But that is exactly the point of having an international peer-reviewed publication system. Errors, hoaxes etc (so beloved of the fundamentalist brigade) are rapidly weeded out.

I'm afraid there is no escaping the truth, however much you try. :-)

Craver Vii said...

Good guess Mr. Dave, since we know it could not have been John or George. They died too young.

Speaking of "capture" Imac. I almost decided to put one in a plastic container and mail it off for identification. I decided to try this route first.

After your comment Fishing Guy, I looked "aphids" up on Google. Yeah, Maalie is pretty sharp. We have very different ideas on some things, but I have a ton of respect for the guy.

(ad hominem emoticon)
Seriously though, thanks for visiting, and even for jousting.

Maalie said...

I look forward to seeing more of your delightful biodiversity piCtures :-)

donsands said...

"The earth was not here 400 million years ago."

I'm with you Craver. God is God, and there ain't no other god.

But why did God create that bug?

Anonymous said...

very good shot craver. using a bag for the flash is a brilliant idea.

Maalie said...

>The earth was not here 400 million years ago

I am afraid you are simply wrong. We have come a long way in our knowledge and understanding of nature since the bible was written (e.g. bats are not birds). The earth is some four and a half billion years old. Please let me know what you disagree with here .

donsands said...

"..the hypothesis that Earth and the rest of the solar system formed at around 4.53 to 4.58 billion years ago."

hypothesis: a concept that is not yet verified but that if true would explain certain facts

I agree with this, that it's hypothetical.

Craver Vii said...

Good question Sandman. But one thing I can say about these in the photo is that they are being used to point to the glory of the Lord, if only by our conversation.

Thanks nAncY. I've used other things, but a photography friend did that while we were trying to create a portrait studio environment.

Maalie, the classification of bats as birds (Lev. 11) is not erroneous for two reasons. First, the "scientific" classifications came after those biblical references, and the earlier literary descriptions need not comply to specifications which were established later, or else we're putting the cart before the horse. Second, some things are described according to a lay person's simple observation, and not to extreme scientific literalism that goes beyond normal language. For example, we often speak of the sun rising and setting. That is normal language we use to describe the day according to observation, but we know that literally, the sun appears to rise and set because of our earth's rotation.

True, that in certain ways we have progressed in knowledge and understanding, but God is perfect and immutable. To suggest that He is wrong or to syncretize His story with Darwin's ravingly popular imaginings is an assault on the Lord's attributes. I'd rather be wrong about a man than about God.

Denise said...

Wonderful macro of a fascinating little insect, one we don't get to see that clearly. Really enjoyed your photo and it's been lovely catching up on your other posts today. Thank you for stopping by on my Dad's old photo post. I was very interested in your comment about your family in Puerto Rico. My father-in-law was stationed there years ago in his navy days, my hubby has fond childhood memories and it's where his brother was born. I remember my in-laws stories and their memories are very fond ones, of Puerto Rico and the wonderful people they met there.

Every Square Inch said...

You are seeing some amazing things with your camera. Thanks for sharing them with us

lime said...

wow, that really is a darend impressive shot to get such detail! groovy little biology lesson too!

Craver Vii said...

Denise, I liked your picture of the Wheel Bug too! I'm so glad you have positive associations with Puerto Rico. I've never been there, but I'd love to arrange a visit, so I can see where my parents grew up, milk a cow and pick coffee beans.

Always glad to blab on about these photos, ESI. Thanks for visiting.

Lime, I was quite happy with myself until I Googled Aphid photos on the Web. Some folks have taken unbelievable shots! I knew a brief bio lesson was in order, since every time I showed the pic from my camera, people said it was "sticking its tongue out."