Aphids are not generally in need of conservation. Many are notorious pests, causing serious loss of sap to crops that are growing fast in the spring and early summer.

Not only is direct damage inflicted on crops but some aphids also transmit plant diseases such as viral conditions, and excrete copious sweet 'honeydew' that often leads to ants tending the aphids and removing the honeydew for themselves. However, there are many aphids that we know little about, and some will undoubtedly be susceptible to loss of host-plant habitat.

Rhopalomyzus lonicerae is somewhere between these extremes. It is quite common, its biology is well understood and it certainly does build up very large populations on its summer hosts, as we witnessed in the Museum’s wildlife garden in July 2010.

However, its secondary summer hosts do not usually include cereal crops and it is not regarded as more than a potential minor pest. As with all aphids, large populations soon attract predators (ladybirds, hover-flies, lacewings, for example) and parasitoids - small wasps that kill their hosts by eating them from within. These natural control agents can cause aphid populations to crash almost as quickly as they grew.

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