Inevitably green

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Clearing out old files, still, I came across some shots of greenfly from May and June and thought they made a set of greedy, green, garden pests. With apologies to all the gardeners out there.
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A couple of these shots are as much if not more about the background than the aphids themselves.
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They are a little bit pretty seen singly like this? Not convinced? 😉
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Over on my Facebook page I am giving away a 2014 calendar to one winner chosen on Monday next week from those who nominate a Surrey beauty spot. Do visit if you’re local. I am planning to compile a list of nominated Surrey locations to photograph in 2014, with a view to making a 2015 calendar from the best images.

Aphids of every hue

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A few weeks ago, I told a story about a conflict between three species of minibeast in my garden. This week, I thought I might take three days to focus on each of those same three species individually. I promise to do something non-buggy on Thursday.

I am starting with the bottom of the food chain, the lowly aphid. The top image is hot off the presses, taken in my garden yesterday. We actually had some sun this weekend! Back to rain today though. Anyway, I call it “Bringing up Baby”. Babysitting is such hard work, especially when the toddler will keep running away from you!

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Aphids are a lot less attractive in numbers, especially when sucking the life force from one of my rose bushes. The picture above makes me think of sci-fi and contagion-style movies. Euch.

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Still, aphids are a vital part of the garden food chain, like the wildebeests or antelopes of the African plains. I call the shot above “The Bubble Trap”. A blackfly is caught in a double trap of web and water droplet.

Here’s another capture of the same doomed aphid:

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All that is left of the aphid in the next shot is a single wing:

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Singly, however, the greenfly remains an unexpectedly graceful creature, its delicate form suggesting vulnerability:

“He didn’t want to stop cutting, and hacked away so furiously that he shook with the vibrations, wedged between his two levels of rock, like a greenfly caught between the pages of a book which threatened to slam suddenly shut.”
Emile Zola, Germinal, trans. Peter Collier

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Tomorrow, it’s the aphid farmer’s turn, the garden ant. I bet you can’t wait. 😉

The shepherds and the wolf

A story in photographs.
(If you don’t like bugs you may want to look away now!)

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I took this image in my garden last summer. It is part of a story I told with my camera on Flickr over a few days. Here’s the whole thing:

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Some species of ant ‘milk’ aphids by stroking them with their antennae. This encourages the aphids to secrete a sticky substance known as honeydew which the ants eat. Here an ant is caught in the act of doing just that. The ants tend their aphid herds like shepherds, protecting them from predators.

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The next day a visitor has appeared. A hungry ladybird (ladybug to my American friends) can think of nothing better than this ready-prepared banquet of its favourite food, aphids. An angry ant-shepherd glares at this wolf in the fold.

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A day later and the voracious ladybird is still laying siege to aphid city. The ant shepherd has brought in reinforcements but to no avail. The ladybird is like a Sherman tank and angry looks just aren’t going to work. If you look closely you can see an aphid’s legs sticking out of the ladybird’s mouth.

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Another day later and the shepherds appear to have given up and left their flock to their fate. However, that is not the end of the story. The next day, there was no sign of the ladybird and the ants were back tending their flock as if nothing had ever happened.

Of course, really one should not anthropomorphise animals, but sometimes it is just too tempting.