Aphids: Reproduction & Life Cycle

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

If you are curious about aphids, you've come to the right place. In this lesson, we will get up close with the reproduction and life cycle of the aphid. Read on to get the scoop on these tiny but fascinating creatures.

Aphids at a Glance

If you have ever looked under the leaf of a flower or plant and found a cluster of tiny insects, you've most likely encountered aphids. Aphids are small sap-sucking bugs that feed on plants. They reproduce quickly, giving the scientific world plenty of opportunities to study them, and in turn providing us a lot of information on these creatures. Let's investigate.

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Reproduction

The sex life (or non-sex life) of the aphid is one of their most unusual features. Some aphids reproduce sexually, some reproduce asexually and some use both methods of reproduction depending on their environment. With asexual reproduction, females can either give birth to live clones or lay eggs, all without a male aphid.

For the aphids that do involve a male, it gets a little more complicated, but also more interesting. After laying eggs or creating clones, the new females are able to produce copies of themselves as well. When the weather heats up, some of the eggs hatch into males. When the males are sexually mature, they can mate with the female aphid, who then produces eggs that will survive over the winter and hatch into more aphids.

Life Cycle

Since some aphids use asexual reproduction and others use sexual, while still others use both, there are a few different paths their life cycle may take. The cycle is also affected by environmental factors. The average lifespan of an aphid is one month.

Holocyclic Life Cycle

In a holocyclic life cycle, the aphid starts as an egg that is usually planted before winter. From there it hatches into a fundatrix, which is a wingless female aphid. Next, the fundatrix will create daughter clones. These females will then go on to create both males and females. These males and females mate and create an egg that can survive the winter.

Anholocyclic

In an anholocyclic life cycle, female aphids simply create live birth clones of themselves without the help of males. So the life cycle usually looks like this: a female aphid which sometimes has wings and sometimes does not, creates a clone called an aptera. This aptera is unwinged and can survive the winter, then goes on to continue the cycle by creating more clones.

Host Changing

Some aphids change the host plant on which they make their home, causing their life cycle to differ slightly from others. They start out as eggs which hatch into fundatrices. These fundatrices create viviparous females, which means that they create the next generation inside their bodies, which are then born fully formed but smaller than the parent. This generation is where the magic happens. These females create the sexupara, which fly back to the original host and deposit both male and female aphids. These aphids mate to create the overwintering eggs, starting the entire cycle again.

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