Most people recognize aphids, those tiny green or black insects that can infest our garden flowers and veggies.
You’ll often find ants tending the aphids like a herd of cows, moving the aphids around the plant to better feeding areas, protecting them from predators and taking them into their nest at night.
Aphids use their piercing mouth parts to suck up plant sap. In the process they produce a sugar-rich “honeydew” which is the ants’ reward for taking care of them.
Some of what I thought I knew about aphids took a tumble a few days ago. Walking along the Little Red Deer River I spotted red aphids on the stems of several fleabanes. That was a first.
Another surprise awaited when I researched red aphids—they don’t depend on ants. They’re big enough to take care of themselves.
There are more than 225 species of this group around the world. Most of them feed on members of the daisy and bellflower families.
If you’d like to learn more about red aphids (they also come in other colours) search for the genus Uroleucon.