We (folks in the Lindroth Lab and I) put together an educational booth that focused on trophic interactions between plants, aphids, ladybugs, and ants for the Saturday Science event at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery! Aphids eat plant sap, which is rich in sugar, and ladybugs are predators of aphids. Luckily, some aphids have bodyguards for protection; ants! Ants tend aphids by shooing away any predators (e.g., ladybugs) and/or competitors (e.g., plant hoppers) of the aphids. The ants then receive sugar as their reward; they feed on “honeydew”, a sugary substance that the aphids secrete.
To show this complex and interesting system to the children and families, we brought in some live specimens: aspen seedlings, aphids, ladybugs, and ants! Here’s a photo highlight from the event that the kids took using my digital microscope!