I had a very productive collecting year in 2019, adding almost 900 slides to the collection and pushing forward several long-term research goals. The highlight of the year, arguably, was our final long trip of 2019, driving to Clayton, New Mexico and back in late September/early October via Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado. There were some cold camping nights, beautiful places, and amazing sunsets.
There were many good aphid finds on this trip, but the best were several samples collected on Holodiscus (Rosaceae). I have been studying the aphids that live on this genus of plants since the early 1990s, including publishing one new species and a couple host plant alternations back in 2000. I have much new information since then, and plan to write a major manuscript during 2020 reporting on my findings. Among other finds during this trip was a pair of collections that conclusively show that one of the fern-feeding species I study, Macrosiphum walkeri, uses Holodiscus as primary host in the Southwest (I previously showed it was anholocyclic in the warmer parts of the Northwest). In one site near Taos, New Mexico I was able to collect many alate viviparae, alate males, and oviparae on Holodiscus. Nearby, I gathered some of the same species on a small woodland fern on a steep streambank, showing that migration between fern and Holodiscus was underway that week! In other sites I was able to get the apterous males and oviparae of the mysterious species of Illinoia that uses Holodiscus, and in Colorado near Denver I gathered good samples of the undescribed Acyrthosiphon.
Clayton was not the best aphid collecting area due to the time of year and the type of habitats, but at least I was able to collect some unusual Pseudoepameibaphis on Artemisia filifolia, find the largest dragonfly I’ve ever seen, plus my first wild tarantula. The return trip was slow for aphid collecting but offered some excellent camping and views.
Now, as 2020 begins, I am preparing for a lovely opportunity I’ve been granted – a 2-week residency at Playa on Summer Lake during which I’ll be drafting the manuscript on the aphids of Holodiscus. It should be a great time to work in seclusion and meet some interesting artists and possibly other scientists from across the country.