Research on aphid responses demonstrates impact of climate change

Trends towards a warmer climate are dramatically altering the biological responses of aphids, scientists at research station Rothamstead Research have found.

The Rothamstead Insect Survey, funded by the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council, recently published a paper in the Journal of Animal Ecology to coincide with its 50th anniversary of collecting long-term data on Britain's insect populations.

Five decades of data have shown that the first flights of all 55 aphid species studied were found to be occurring earlier and 85 per cent of aphids showed increased duration of their flight season. The seasonal timing of these migrations was shown to be statistically linked to a changing temperature - an indication of the impact of a changing climate on pests.

The researchers also made an assessment of how many aphid species have been recorded by the survey to date and examined the probability of recording new species into the network. From the known UK aphid fauna, 81.5 per cent of species have been recorded.

Dr James Bell, who led the research, said he is keen to identify species of economic concern to agricultural production. "The suction trap network is a valuable tool for monitoring invasive species and on average the network detects a new aphid migrant to the UK every year, but there have been times when five new aphids have been recorded in a single year.

"We're watching out for new, potentially damaging aphids such as Myzus persicae nicotianae, Diuraphis noxia and Schizaphis graminum sensu stricto, which are important vectors of plant viruses to UK crops."

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