If you’re a gardener and love caring for flowers and plants, you may have come across an aphid. When you’ve spotted aphids, you’ve probably noticed that they come in varying colours. So, do aphids change colours?
Aphids can change colour, and different species of aphids have varying colours. Colour is important for aphids as it helps them blend in.
Varying colours in aphid species depends on many physical conditions. Certain studies have shown that aphids alter their colour due to a change in light intensity. Other studies also show that colour change is also affected by temperature.
The colour of aphids is dependent on various chemical pigments. This colour change helps aphids to blend in with their surroundings and fool predators. Several animals in the wild get their colours from molecules called carotenoids – aphids, one of them.
In the same way that lutein is bright yellow and lycopene makes tomatoes red, carotenoids are what give aphids their hue.
The aphids found in tomato plants, obviously, like to feed on tomatoes and, therefore, are like tomatoes and have the same colours, they don’t have lycopene, but they have red carotenoids.
Aphids themselves don’t make these carotenoids; they get them from the food they eat. The many flowers, berries, and vegetables they eat give them the carotenoids that produce their distinctive colours.
Why Do Aphids Change Color?
Aphids change colours to blend in with their surroundings, such as the food they eat. This helps them to hide from predators. Different factors can be reasons for aphid colour change, such as changes in light intensity, temperature, or a chemical molecule called carotenoid.
Many animals get their colours from these chemicals, and many fruits and vegetables also get their colours from carotenoids. An aphid feeding on a tomato plant will appear red to help it blend in with the tomatoes.
Animals get their colour from carotenoids from the plants, fruits, berries, and vegetables they eat. The same is how an aphid gets its colour.
What Colours are Aphids?
Aphids vary in colour; as mentioned earlier, they get the colours from the plants they feed. Most species feed on one species of plant that they favour more than others, so their colours are the same as the plant they feed from.
Some other aphid species feed on various plants, often eating whatever they find. Different species of aphids will have different colours. They can be brownish, greenish, reddish, orange, and many other colours, some species of aphids with varying colours are mentioned below.
Below are some of the different colour shades you will find aphids in:
Yellow and Black
Bean aphids feed on legumes, flowers, and many woody plants. Adults are black and have pear-shaped bodies with yellowish legs.
They also have three black cornicles. These black cornicles are present on their abdomen. They’re small elongated tubes. Nymphs are either dark brown or sometimes black.
Cabbage aphids have a chalky grey and mealy appearance with a pear-shaped body. These types of aphids mainly feed on a variety of mustard family plants and cole crops. The nymphs of cabbage aphids are yellow.
The green peach aphids feed on various green vegetables, grains, and some fruits such as tomato, spinach, cucurbits, lettuce, carrots, corn, legumes, flowering plants and stone fruit trees.
The adults of green peach aphids and also their nymphs are khaki-coloured. The adults only have one cornicle that comes out from their abdomen and is at the centre.
The cornicle often makes the aphid look like it has a small stinger, but like all aphids, green peach aphids are also harmless.
Light and Dark Green
These aphids that are light and dark green are melon aphids or cotton aphids. These aphids ingest plant sap from carrot, citrus, cucurbits, woody plants, ornamentals, and flowers.
The adults and younglings are light and dark green, while the nymphs are of yellow gradient colour. Like all other aphids, these are also pear-shaped.
Orange or Bright Green
Potato aphids feed on potatoes, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, and several other plants. Nymphs and adult potato aphids have long bodies that come to the end of their abdomens. The adults are bright green, while the nymphs are orange in colour.
The adults and nymphs of pea aphids are bright green and ridged in texture. These aphids eat alfalfa, clovers, broad beans, and peas. They’re a little unique in appearance and slightly different from other aphids in looks.
They are a little similar to katydids.
Adult aphids have two cornicles on both sides of their thick abdomen. Sometimes the adults of these types of aphids have wings while their females are wingless.
Aphids camouflage by blending in with the vegetable or fruit they feed on. Their chemical pigments or molecules called carotenoids helps them get their distinctive colour from the vegetable or fruit they eat.
Aphids change in size and grow from nymphs to adults. Their shapes also change a little when they’re nymphs, and they get more elongated and bigger when they’re adults, but their diet remains the same.
Aphids, members of the family Aphididae, are every gardener’s nightmare as they can ruin vegetables and fruits from whichever plant they’re eating from.
They change colour for several reasons, such as light intensity, temperature, and carotenoid molecules that give them their distinctive colour. Varying species of aphids have different colours like orange, reddish, brownish, black, and so on. These colours help them camouflage so they can hide from predators.
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Ryan is a keen gardener from the UK who’s spent years dealing with countless, common pests over the years so knows the ins and outs of how to deal with pests in the garden