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The Lie: Evolution


On Aphids, ‘lions’ and Ants

By Mark Stewart

If you were to ask a farmer what he thinks of aphids, he may make your ears tingle. These tiny insects suck the sap from stems and tender leaves in his crop and can do a great deal of damage.

On the other hand, beekeepers in Germany prize aphids highly. In the Black Forest there resides an aphid that gives off a substance called honeydew, which bees love. Beekeepers from far away travel there with their bee colonies. After the bees get honeydew from the aphids they can make expensive, famous fir honey for their owners.

Other insects are divided in their disposition toward aphids, just as people are. Certain species of ants are so fond of aphids (for their honeydew!) that they protect their little friends from their enemies and even hide them underground.

The fact is that aphids are already well equipped for survival, even without the aid of the ants. They have a bewildering sex life, for one thing, which for all practical means assures rapid multiplication. Several generations of aphids may not even have to mate in order to produce offspring! The aphids are born with eggs for other aphids right inside them. These eggs hatch and are born as live aphids with more eggs inside!

In other species, the aphids do not grow wings if a food supply is plentiful where they are, but let the supply run short and the wings begin to grow! Soon they fly off to find more food. As one source puts it, “Here it is literally true that hunger gives wings.”

If it were not for their natural enemies, the earth might be overrun with aphids. But what happens when their friends, the ants, protect aphids against their enemies?

The “aphid lion” (the larva of the green lacewing) is a creature that has a voracious appetite for aphids. It is gray, bristled, and big, while the aphids it likes to eat are white, small, and covered with a fluffy wax-like secretion. As soon as the aphid lion shows up for dinner, alert ants attack it, driving it off.

What does the aphid lion do? Some aphid lions sneak up on aphids and snatch bits of the fluffy wax from their backs, using them to disguise themselves until they appear like overgrown aphids. Then these ‘lions in aphids’ clothing’ sneak into the “flock” while the ant “shepherds” are unaware. If an ant gets suspicious, the disguised lion hides its huge jaws by lowering its head down, and stays very still. Generally, it is inspected and then left alone. As soon as the guardian ant walks away, too bad for the nearest aphid!

To most people, aphids are just tiny dots on a leaf, at most a nuisance. Closer examination, however, reveals the amazing handiwork of the Creator.

Hegner, Robert W., College Zoology, 5th edition, (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1944), pgs.291, 306, 315
Moore, John N. and Harold Schultz Slusher, editors, A Search for Order in Complexity, 9th printing, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: The Zonderman Corporation, 1982), pgs.127, 209, 216, 218,
Mader, Sylvia S., Biology: Evolution, Diversity, and the Environment, 2nd edition, (Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Publishers, 1987) pgs.403, 579