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Secretions Of The Aphis


The liquid ejected by the aphis, (plant louse,) when feeding or sucking
the juices of tender leaves, and received by the ants that are always
in attendance, is something like it; but in this case the bees were in
attendance instead of ants.

This mode of elaborating honey, although not generally collected by
bees, perhaps may not be too much out of place here. Also, it may
furnish a clue to the cause or substantiate some theory of honey-dew.

These insects (_Aphis_) have been very appropriately termed "ants'
cows," as they are regarded by them with the most tender care and
solicitude. In July or August, when the majority of the leaves of our
apple trees are matured, there is often a few sprouts or suckers about
the bottom or trunk, that continue growing and putting out fresh
leaves. On the under side of these, you will find the _aphis_ by
hundreds, of all sizes, from those just hatched to the perfect insect
with wings. All appear to be engaged in sucking the bitter juice from
the tender leaf and stalk. The ants are among them by scores. (They are
often accused by the careless observer of the injury, instead of the
_aphis_.) Occasionally there will issue from their abdomen a small,
transparent globule, which the ant is ever ready to receive. When a
load is obtained it descends to the nest; others may be seen going and
returning continually. Many other kinds of trees, shrubs and plants are
used by the ants as "cow pasture," and most kinds of ants are engaged
in this dairy business.[11] Would the bees attend on the _aphis_ for
this secretion, (for it appears to be honey,) if the ant was not there
first? Or if there were no ants or bees, would this secretion be
discharged, and falling on the leaves below them, be honey-dew? If they
were situated on some lofty trees, and it lodged on the leaves of small
bushes near the earth, it would, with some authors.

[11] The history of insects, as published by Harpers, gives more
particulars on this interesting subject.

These questions I shall not answer, at present. As for theory, I shall
probably have enough before I get through, where I hope the subject may
be more interesting.[12]

[12] Since the foregoing was written, I have made some further
observations on this subject. In August, 1852, I noticed, on
passing under some willow trees, (_Salix Vitellina_,) that
leaves, grass, and stones, were covered with a wet or shining
substance. On looking among the branches, I found nearly all the
smallest were covered with a species of large black _aphis_,
apparently engaged in sucking the juices, and occasionally
discharging a minute drop of a transparent liquid. I _guessed_
this might be the honey-dew. As this was early in the morning, I
resolved to visit this place again, as soon as the sun got up far
enough to start out the bees, and see if they collected any of
it. On my return I found not only bees in hundreds, but ants,
hornets, and wasps. Some were on the branches with the _aphis_,
others on the leaves and larger branches. Some of them were even
on the stones and grass under the trees, collecting it.

We will now return to the flowers, and see what few there are yet to
appear, after the middle of July. The button-ball bush (_Cephalanthus
Occidentalis_) is now much frequented for honey. Also, our vines,
melons, cucumbers, squashes, and pumpkins. The latter are visited only
in the morning, and honey is the only thing obtained; notwithstanding
the bee is covered with farina, it is not kneaded into pellets on its
legs. I have seen it stated that bees never get honey early in the
morning, but pollen instead. Now it is not best always to take our
word, who pretend to know all about it, but look for yourselves into
some of these matters. Take a look some warm morning, when the pumpkins
are in bloom, and see whether it is honey or pollen they are in quest
of. Also please make an observation when they are at work on the red
raspberry, motherwort, or catnip; you will thus ascertain a fact so
easily, that you will wonder any one with the least pretension to
apiarian science could be ignorant of it. I mention this, not because
it is of much importance in itself, but to show the fallibility of us
all, as we sometimes copy the mistaken assertions of others.

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