Boogie-Woogie Aphids

Beech blight aphids, 9 Aug 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)
Beech blight aphids, Butler County, PA, 9 Aug 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

Last week Andy Zadnik and volunteer Tom Koehler from the Western PA Conservancy showed us amazing aphids on a beech tree at Wolf Creek Narrows.

Beech blight aphids (Grylloprociphilus imbricator) are nicknamed “boogie-woogie aphids” because they waggle their bodies when disturbed.  A puff of wind or a jolt to the branch will start them waving to ward off predators.  My photo is out of focus because the aphids would not stand still when I got close!

Like all aphids these suck the juice of their host, the beech tree, but their scary name (blight) is misleading.  Beech blight aphids rarely hurt the tree and are easily knocked off by a stream from a garden hose. Once on the ground the nymphs can’t fly up because they have no wings, though their mothers do.

Beech blight aphid colonies are sought by ants, wasps and a fungus for their sweet honey dew.  They’re also sought by predators that they mesmerize with their dance or sting with their tiny mouth parts too small to hurt mammals.

This video by the Capital Naturalist shows how they dance.

What’s the boogie-woogie all about?

Click on these links to see what really scares these aphids:  Harvester caterpillar eating aphids, Harvester butterfly ventral view (wings closed) and dorsal view (wings open).


(photo by Kate St. John)


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