Oh noes! Climate change is affecting “plant lice” aka aphids

From PENSOFT PUBLISHERS and the “we don’t care if these garden pests die” department comes this curious study about aphids, or “plant lice” as they are called in the UK. Gotta love his investigative work when he comes up with insights like this: “he concluded that the plant lice are active during the day”. Zounds! Science!

PostDoc Project Plan invites collaborators to study how plant lice cope with variability

While Climate change steadily takes its toll, promising to raise temperatures around the world by at least 1.5 °C within the next 100 years, organisms have already started defending their species’ existence in their own ways. Possibly, such is the case of plant lice, which evoked the curiosity of PhD student Jens Joschinski with their reproductive strategy, which shifts from sexual to asexual as the days grow shorter in the autumn.

Entomologist Jens Joschinski, currently studying at the University of Würzburg, Germany, is interested in finding out to what extent this advanced reproductive strategy is affected by variable and unpredictable conditions. Do plant lice spread their risks to reduce their losses (like investors that buy hedge funds), or do they put all their eggs in one basket? If plant lice manage their risks, does this adaptation compromise fitness?

By formally publishing his research idea as a PostDoc Project Plant in the open access journal Research Ideas and Outcomes, he hopes to find fellow scientists to collaborate with, as well as a host institutions.

Plant lice reproduce asexually during summer, which means that the mother give live birth to offspring by cloning herself. Then, as the days become shorter, indicating the approaching winter, the plant lice begin to produce eggs, since only they tolerate low temperature and can overwinter. However, there is a transitional period when a fraction of the same species still produce asexual offspring, which is what made Jens Joschinski wonder if this is an intended evolutionary response to climate change.

The focal generation will be kept on individual plants for its full lifetime (middle column), starting two days before birth (left column). All offspring will be raised into adults (right column) to determine the reproductive mode of their parents. CREDIT Jens Joschinski

The focal generation will be kept on individual plants for its full lifetime (middle column), starting two days before birth (left column). All offspring will be raised into adults (right column) to determine the reproductive mode of their parents. CREDIT Jens Joschinski

In order to assess the link between variable climates and the transition to sexual offspring, the PhD student plans to study at least 12 plant lice clones from different environments across Europe, and induce reproductive switches under controlled laboratory conditions. Afterwards, he is to assess the fitness and the ‘cost’ of this microevolution phenomenon.

The PostDoc Project Plan is to build on Jens Joschinski’s research done as part of his doctoral thesis, which is to be submitted for publication later this year. Then, while also being trained in evolutionary biology, he concluded that the plant lice are active during the day, which explains why they suffer fitness constraints related to the shorter days.

“The intended methods leave room for collaborative side-projects beyond the study question (e.g. molecular control of photoperiodism, or sharing aphid lines from throughout Europe), so this article might be of interest to anyone working with aphids”, he points to his fellow entomologists. “In addition, I would be happy to receive feedback from experts in bet-hedging theory, phenotypic plasticity and photoperiodism.”

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Original source:

Joschinski J (2016) Benefits and costs of aphid phenological bet-hedging strategies. Research Ideas and Outcomes 2: e9580. doi: 10.3897/rio.2.e9580

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90 thoughts on “Oh noes! Climate change is affecting “plant lice” aka aphids

  1. Ummm, errrr, does this study have any meaningful or practical application beyond aphids, or how to kill faster, better, etc.? Because, if not, then my only thought is, where is my aphid killing bug spray.

  2. Nope, they are called “aphids” (or “greenfly” or “blackfly”, according to type) here in the UK.
    Not “Plant Lice”.
    Do try to get basic stuff right – it only gives a handle for the warmists to rubbish you if you don’t :-)

    • Born and bred in the UK, I can also say I have never even heard the term “plant lice” before I read this article.

      It’ probably another cretinous attempt by some pseudo intellectual academic to talk down to the public. Olympic swimmingpool syndrome.

      Always known them as black-fly , green-fly or aphids since times when CO2 about 320 ppm.

      • My grandfather worked at Kew Gardens then the John Innes Institute (where they used nictotine fumes to kill aphids in their greenhouses!!), my father was a plant biologist – I never heard either of them use the term “plant lice”

      • No, you’re thinking of Chinese, which has no “R” sound.
        Japanese has no “L” sound, so in Japan they prant rice. (or maybe puranto raisu. I haven’t been there in a while.)

      • Mandarin Chinese has a set of words which begin with sounds which are written as “r” in the pinyin Romanisation. The letter stands for, roughly, a slightly retroflex “r”, but exact articulation varies from district to district and speaker to speaker, so it sometimes sounds more fricative, and sometimes more palatal. Try this:
        https://resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/pronunciation/The_“r”_sound

        Japanese has a sound normally Romanised as “r” but which is actually an alveolar flap which is, roughly, between a British r and l. This makes it very difficult for Japanese to distinguish between r and l in English words. My wife has lived in the US, Britain, and Australia for close to thirty years, and has university degrees from American and Australian universities, but she still sometimes mixes them up.

        (I often can’t hear the difference between “t” and “c” in Mandarin, or “sh” and “h” in some accents of Japanese. However, I can, often, tell the pharyngeals from the non- pharyngeals in Arabic.)

      • Ask your Japanese friend to say “parallel corollary”. When you get tired of that, get your Danish friend to test you on “rød grød med fløde” and your Swedish friend to check your version of “Sju skönsjungande sjuksköterskor skötte sjuttiosju sjösjuka sjömän på skeppet “Shanghai”.” Then innocently ask them both to say “Jimmy’s yellow jumper”.

        And after you’ve mastered “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch”, have a go at “Mae haerllygrwydd y llywodraeth yn ddychrynllyd.”

      • But as far as I know (and that is nowhere near far enough) Cantonese does not have anything like an “r” sound. It does have an “l”. Perhaps the idea of Chinese using “l” for “r” comes from listening to Cantonese speakers.

      • And stay away from New Zealand. They say “Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu”
        there, and I can’t.

      • To really show off, you need the Xhosa inverted ! click, plus two native South American tongues’ more difficult phonemes. for a non-Brit.
        For a Brit, generally, the French cedilla will impress hugely.

        Auto – a Brit [in or out].

    • I don’t remember ever having heard aphids called plant lice. That doesn’t mean that no one ever calls them that. Here in the USA there are supposed to be 106 local and regional names for Puma concolor, which I speak of as a mountain lion. I do know quite a few who call them panthers and several others who call them pumas. So, things vary.
      There are many .things on this planet known my multiple names. After all . . .
      “There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
      And every single one of them is right!” – Rudyard Kipling

      • I grew up in mountain lion territory in Arizona and we called the Big Cats ‘mountain lions’ as did my ancestors there. ‘Puma’ was a newish sort of name for them.

    • Must admit I’ve never heard of them being called plant lice, many other things but not lice and with the EU’s love of all things bureaucratic it’s getting harder and harder to kill the little beggars as more and more effective killers are band for real or imagined harm the people or the environment..

      James Bull

    • From Wikipedia:

      Aphids, also known as plant lice and in Britain and the Commonwealth as greenflies, …

      So the author looked on Wikipedia, and failed to spot the crucial and

    • I’m in the UK and a gardener. I have never heard the term plant lice before. We know that they are aphids but we call them by colour. Greenfly, blackfly and whitefly. Those are the terms used on the packaging when you buy pesticides.
      Nor had a great problem with them the past couple of years.
      The slugas and snails though? That plague is another matter and a battle I’m losing.

  3. Oops, sorry Anthony. That did sound a bit dis-respectful. Thought it was a minion’s post. But we definitely don’t call them “Plant Lice”. And I’d be happy to translate/check translations from US to UK English should you ever need :-)

  4. “While Climate change steadily takes its toll, promising to raise temperatures around the world by at least 1.5 °C within the next 100 years, organisms have already started defending their species’ existence in their own ways.”
    What a moronic statement, on multiple levels. There is no “toll” from climate change, and the only “promise” of raised temperatures is in the fevered brains of Alarmists. As for organisms already starting to defend their species ecistence, no, organisms are merely doing what they’ve always done; adapting to whatever conditions come their way.

    • How many millions of years have aphids existed? If several very major extinction events troubled them not, why are humans so worried these pests might die? Do note the hardest plants and animals to kill are ‘pests’.

  5. However, there is a transitional period when a fraction of the same species still produce asexual offspring,….

    that’s called Indian summer Jens…….

    ……….which is what made Jens Joschinski wonder if this is an intended evolutionary response to climate change.

    no, it’s a response to something so common it has a name………..Indian summer

    • Latitude June 20, 2016 at 2:32 pm
      However, there is a transitional period when a fraction of the same species still produce asexual offspring,….

      that’s called Indian summer Jens…….

      ……….which is what made Jens Joschinski wonder if this is an intended evolutionary response to climate change.

      no, it’s a response to something so common it has a name………..Indian summer

      Now you’ve done it!
      This is the first time I’ve seen the term “Indian summer” used here. Now the PC Police will be all over Anthony.
      Please use “Native American summer” in the future. (Unless you’re referring to such an event occurring in Canada.)

      PS For those unfamiliar with the term, here in the Midwest, it was generally applied the warming that occurred after the first hard frost.

      PPS I’ve never heard of an “Indian spring”.

      • Indians come from India but I’m not sure the phrase refers to the weather in any case.

      • Think you misunderstood me, DonM . I meant Indian in the the phrase Indian Summer comes from the British Raj in India and is not about the weather although is much misused these days (not everything is about the U.S.). I am very non-PC, but love history.

      • Margaret, that may be the case but we’ve been using the term “Indian Summer” here in The People’s Republic of New Jersey for at least the last fifty five years.

      • In Texas we find this to appear during the 3rd weekend of September. Drop from 95F plus down to 70-75F for a few days.

      • ‘Indian summer’ is a term that has existed for over 200 years. It refers to ‘fake summer’ and is a warning to newcomers from Europe to the colonies, not to think winter won’t show up if it is warm in November.

        A lesson our warmists gangs don’t understand. One warm day=total hysteria on their part.

  6. There is an error somewhere. First line says they are asexual in autumn, second line says they are asexual in the summer.

    “…which shifts from sexual to asexual as the days grow shorter in the autumn.”

    “Plant lice reproduce asexually during summer, which means that the mother give live birth to offspring by cloning herself.”

    • yeah..and if theyre CLONES then theyre all bloody females!
      so? where did he find males?
      or do the little mongrels have the ability to change sex to male strictly to breed prior to cold onset?
      now THAT is what he needs to be explaining.

  7. Is this one of those studies that have to mention CAGW to justify budgets or for the politics of being a team player, or is there a quota set by the organisation for the number of mentions of CAGW so they can claim they are involved in ”green” research? There are far too many dubious studies where CAGW has little or no relevance to the subject being examined that leave me and others no doubt wondering as to the motives behind this behaviour.

  8. This is very reminiscent of Tim Ball’s interview in the The Great Global Warming Swindle.

    If you want funding to study the sex life of green fly you’re not going to get much help. But if you say you want to study the sex life of green fly in relation to global warming, you’re sure to get your grant money.

    Heck maybe green fly are getting greener as CO2 levels rise, along with the rest of the planet.

  9. It has been pointed out many times that the purported global warming is much less than daily and annual temperature variations at any location.

    It also occurs to me that climates also vary over short distances.

    San Francisco is a city with microclimates and submicroclimates. Due to the city’s varied topography and influence from the prevailing summer marine layer, weather conditions can vary by as much as 9 °F (5 °C) from block to block.

    It seems to me that Jens Joschinski can get his answer by seeking out various microclimates in the study area.

    • However, there is a complication, It has not been determined (or argued, or proposed) that the macro, micro and submicro climates are anthropologically challenged in the same way as is the “main”, or “major” climate which we all presume is what is referred to in the IPCC definition. Feel better now?

  10. @Myron Mesecke
    There is an error somewhere. First line says they are asexual in autumn, second line says they are asexual in the summer.

    All of us are more asexual during the summer. It’s too darned hot….

  11. Sexual to asexual reproduction shift, of bugs that are that big and successful, would have been an interesting paper/story all by itself … no need for the goofy climate change conjecture.

    The black bugs on the green stem don’t look like my aphids … mine are a bit more translucent … and more cartoon like.

  12. intended evolutionary response to climate change

    Nothing is “intended” in evolution.
    Sloppy.
    Also, “climate change” is a meaningless tautology. The well-known French phrase is no-where more true than of nonlinear-chaotic climate:

    Le plus ca change, le plus c’est la meme chose”.

    (The more it changes, the more it stays the same.)

  13. One of my pet peeves: Don’t use PhD in referring to graduate students until they have earned their PhD.

    ‘PhD student Jens Joschinski’

    ‘the PhD student plans’

    ‘The PostDoc Project Plan is to build on Jens Joschinski’s research done as part of his doctoral thesis’

    It appears he is NOT a PhD, and the publisher is jacking up his credentials to make him sound more authoritative. It’s marketing, not science.

  14. We always called them aphids in the UK. I never heard the term plant lice until recently. They seem to come in all colours and are always a nuisance. Ants seem to introduce them to various plants and then ‘milk’ them.

  15. Don’t panic. They’ll be eaten by the ladybirds (“ladybugs”, I think, in US parlance).

    From the BBC recently:

    “The hot summer of 1976 saw swarms of ladybirds infesting towns and cities across the UK, with many people reporting being bitten by them. In the 40 years since there hasn’t been a repeat, but could it happen again this summer?”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35603972

    Another case of global-warmers wanting to have their cake and eat it.

    • It’s the ladybirds larvae that eat the aphids rather than the ladybirds themselves IIRC. Hover flies like eating aphids, too. Shallow nectar sources attract hover flies so I grow English marigolds (calendulas) around the veggie garden.

    • I am aghast. Calling lady bugs ‘infesting’ anything is insane! They are the gardener’s best girl friends!

      • Also, in all my years gardening, I have never been bitten by lady bugs but certainly have been attacked by very aggressive wasps, ants, etc.

      • If you had a few hundred trying to overwinter in/under your house, and they didn’t quite want to hibernate throughout, you would be able to see how the term is applicable to ladybugs.

  16. I’ve lived in the UK 60+ years and never heard aphids called plant lice.

    Blackfly or greenfly, yes

  17. What about the ants?
    If climate change kills off the greenfly, the ants will suffer. They herd the greenfly and milk them.
    Won’t somebody please think of the ants?

      • ems, the army ants are the least of a concern. When I was in the Texas panhandle, I noticed that the ants there were like those I grew up with down here near Houston. There guys have been replaced by the Fire ants from Africa. So warmer weather, the farther north the fire ants and the wild hog population will go. listen to “you can’t be a wimp and live in Texas” to get a fire ant idea.
        http://www.mytexasmusic.com/smytheandtaylor/

  18. which is what made Jens Joschinski wonder if this is an intended evolutionary response to climate change

    I sincerely hope that this was not written by Jens himself but by the (non-scientist) author of the press release. There’s no “intention” in natural selection even though the amazing results of evolution might give the illusion of intention to those inclined by ignorance or religious indoctrination to look for it.

    Really. What rubbish.

  19. New Zealand has (or rather had) at least 15 native aphid species, some of which may now be extinct, and more than 100 introduced species (and rising). Two of the native species were reasonably common, and were widely distributed in both the North Island and the South Island. (NZ is a long thin country running roughly north-south.) Native aphids are found from sea level to the sub-alpine zone. It’s noteworthy that winged/sexually reproducing aphids of one of the two common species are found in the spring and summer, that some species overwinter as eggs, and at least one species just keeps right on through the winter. The wide north/south distribution means that the reproductive strategies of the two common species are not that sensitive to photoperiod. The main thing about aphids, and the reason so many foreign species have established themselves, is host-specificity. The native species have been here or in Australia since Gondwana broke up, so they’ve coped with a lot of temperature change. As long as their preferred host plants are still available to them, aphids will do fine.

    As to the strategy. Suppose you are an aphid, programmed with the goal “increase aphid biomass as much as possible”, and you have two options: sexual and asexual reproduction. What do you do? If you expect the plant you are on to remain exploitable for another few asexual generations, stick with what you know works. Reproduce asexually, don’t bother with wings, and stay where you are sucking hard. If you expect the plant to stop being exploitable (maybe you’re killing it, maybe you expect a hot summer, maybe you expect a freezing winter, maybe it’s an annual plant) soon, then produce two sexes, let them mate and shuffle their genes, and let the females fly off and lay their eggs elsewhere. It’s the classic search/exploit tradeoff. There are LOTS of aphid species, and they’ve been around for a long time, so I expect that by now different species exploit different cues.

    I’d never heard the term “plant lice” before. The thing that really irritates me about this article is the crazy idea of looking at just 12 clones as if there were only one aphid species instead of over 4,000. That’s like thinking that 12 individuals will tell you about every kind of mammal!

  20. theres an Old saying

    you dont have an excess of snails(bugs)
    you have a DUCK deficiency!
    admit I had some aphids on kohlrabi this yr
    lifted the mesh and threw a few chooks at em
    sorted pdq

  21. So we can just watch this go insane when the 12 year cycle of the locust. grasshoppers, hits the east coast. Those in Texas have a bird food insect, most call love bugs, that come out every year. When we have a colder than normal winter, The love bugs come out with a vengeance. mother natures way of feeding the bird population quickly.

  22. As the study’s author is German (Jens Joschinski, Würzburg, Germany), I wonder whether he simply picked the translation most similar to the German word ‘Blattlaus’ (literally ‘leaf-louse’).

    http://www.dict.cc/deutsch-englisch/Blattlaus.html

    Blattlaus translates as aphid, greenfly and plant louse on that site, though I have never heard the term ‘plant louse’ used in the UK.

  23. S. Australia recently had Russian wheat aphids appear. Many farmers are concerned since the associated loss (estimate) is up to 75% damage from them. Were 1st reported in Tarlee region but have spread rapidly.

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