These little helpers get their name because aphid midge larvae (pictured above as the orange bugs) feed on aphids, a dreaded and very common plant pest. The adult midge flits around your garden pollinating and looking rather fetching, ridding your patch of any unwanted nasties. The next time you see a party of aphids, hopefully, you will see these small heroes hard at work for you.
Beneficial Insects in the Garden
One of the good guys in the garden, though its name makes you want to scratch. The adult Aphid Midge or Aphidoletes aphidimyza, looks very much like a fungal gnat but is a predator in the garden. Hiding under leaves through the day and emerging at night to reproduce. The female aphid midge can lay over a hundred eggs at a time, and these shiny orange eggs are carefully laid amongst a colony of aphids, so there is a sufficient food supply for her young. To make sure they get the most from the aphid colonies, the adult aphid midge feeds on the honeydew that the aphids produce. They have no interest in feeding on humans but supplement their food supply with the nectar and pollen from plants. The adults only live for a few weeks but can lay a few clutches of eggs throughout the garden.
The larvae hatch in a few days and immediately starts to feast on the aphids. They inject a paralysing toxin into the leg joints of the aphid and then proceeds to suck the body content out of the aphid, before moving on to the next aphid. They can devour over fifty a day during their short life stage as larva. In under a week, they are at full size and sated and drop to the ground where they burrow into the soil to pupate into their next life stage. Just over a week later, they emerge as adults and the cycle starts all over again.
These glutinous little larvae can eat more aphids than their better-known counterparts of Lady Beetle Larva and are not fussy about which aphids they devour. Over 70 different species of aphid are on their menu, and so are commercially grown as predatory insects for the horticultural industry. The name midge makes you think of them as the enemy, but this is true only if you are an aphid.
One of the counterparts of the aphid midge is the paralysis wasp or Aphelinus abdominalis. This is a tiny wasp that reproduces by stinging an aphid and laying a single egg inside it. The egg hatches and starts to feast on the aphid but not killing it immediately. Eventually, the adult paralysis wasp emerges from the mummified remains of the aphid. If you ever see the lifeless shell of the aphid, which is brown and crispy, look closely and see if it has a hole in the abdomen from where the wasp has emerged.
Not all wasps and midges are our enemy and before you spray, look closely for these champions of the garden. When you see a gathering of aphids use a magnifying glass and hopefully you will see our small heroes hard at work for us.
For the original article please visit About The Garden website.