Aphids Infest the Bitterroot Outdoor Journal
The Green Ash tree, found in many backyards throughout Montana, is home for a special kind of aphid, as Bob Danley explained in this week's Bitterroot Outdoor Journal (heard Thursday mornings about 7:45 a.m. on KLYQ 1240 Radio and klyq.com). The Wooly Aphid is only 3 millimeters long and is wooly white and blue in form and color. It's one of over four thousand species of aphids in the world and is almost always on the Green Ash tree (fraxinus pennsylvanica). It sucks juices out of the leaves, causing them to curl, and excretes sticky sugar, often known as honeydew, using protein to feed its eggs, which hatch already pregnant, so the reproduction rate is very high for the aphid. It only has a month-long lifespan each summer, often NOT on the Green Ash tree. However, in the fall, the eggs hatch out winged aphids (see photo above) that come back to the Ash tree to lay eggs and at that time they become food for lots of birds. That is happening right now in the Bitterroot Valley.
The birds have different bill shapes that let them "glean" the aphids out of the tree's furrows. Bob says you'll see birds like the Western Tanager and the Yellow-rumped Warbler (see photo below). Bob also reminds you that you might see other species of birds in a flock because they have similar food desires.