How do I attract/grow aphids (I am NOT kidding!)

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lmao!!!!!
ok go ahead...laugh it off... ;-)
BUT I'M SERIOUS! (seriously!) you might wonder if I have lost my mind, but you'll see that I haven't (atleast not to my knowledge :-] )
Here is a rather lengthy description of my madness:
I am setting up a biotope (basically a simulated natural environment) in an old aquarium. In it, I will be raising a colony of ants (complete with the queen and all) next to an aquatic environment with fish, aquatic snails, and other critters inside. Part of the beauty of a biotope is to observe nature (the other fun part is designing/building it...hehe). It so happens that this species of ants in nature tends aphids, and in return feeds of off its "honeydew" (a symbiosis if you will). Obviouly, I would like to mimic this as much as possible. I am mimicing its natural environment as closely as I can (humidity, temp, soil moisture, soil type, etc...) as well.
So here is my question for all you gardening experts: BE YOUR ENEMY! Get into the tiny mind of the aphid and help me out! Essentially, I need a plant that aphids will go crazy for, and just cover it head to tail (or as close to that as realistically possible). I am not terribly familiar with aphids, but I am assuming that while they feed off of the plant, they do not kill it...right? Also, how would I attract the aphids in the first place to come to the plant? As hard as it may be to believe, I couldn't find any in the yard (atleast not without a magnifying glass in hand). What kind of environment do aphids do best in? moist? dry? humid? wamer? colder? etc... The environment that I am setting up is very close to a tropical area, along side a river (plenty of moisture available). Essentially, I need a plant with the following characteristics (in decreasing order of importance...ie #1 is most important criteria):
1. The plant should preferrably be cheap (less than $20) and easily available (e.g. through HomeDepot and the like)
2. The plant should preferrably enjoy lots of moisture at its roots (although it is possible for me to set up a drier area for the plant, a moisture-lover is preferrable)
3. The plant shouldn't grow too tall (i.e. I would rather avoid large trees such as citrus, cherries, maple, etc... since I am working in a small environment). However, if the plant is otherwise ideal (or pretty close), I am flexible on this [I'll just keep it trimmed]
4. Hopefully, the plant can withstand the abuse from the aphids (I would rather not be running out and buying a new one every couple of months as uprooting and replanting would disturb the environment too much and most probably destroy the ant's nest underground. Keep in mind that although this environment is open (exposed to the outdoors) these ants will *viciously* protect the aphid against all other pests/fungi/predators [including but not limited to wasps, spiders, and even killer bees!] that may stumble onto the plant. So the aphids will be doing really well, and I want a plant that won't succumb to that.
5. Hopefully, the plant doesn't grow too fast, so that maintainance would be minimal (though I am quite flxible on this because most likely, the plant would have to be a fast grower to survive the aphid infestation...plus most moisture-loving plants happen to be fast growers as well)
5. The plant would have to respond well (or atleast not hate) trimming, again because of space constraints (I think most plants would fall into this category any how, so this is sort of a minor constraint...unless my ignorace is far too great on the subject of gardening).
6. The plant can be a grass, shrub, a fern, ground cover (I even considered clovers), tree or anything in between. However, I would prefer that the plant is not an annual or prennial (again because I don't want to have to re-plant and disturb the environment).
I realize that the idea might seem a bit...how would I put it nicely..."off the wall" ;-] and I also realize that I have given you quite a laundry list of criteria, and I also realize that this is a really long post so far...but in your kindness and compassion and most of all expertise! I am certain that you shall deliver the ideal plant! (or even a laundry list of your own! hehe :-)
<steps down from the soap box>
On another note, this species of ants also enjoys its share of nectar hunting ( as a carbohydrate source) and pollen chewing (as a protein source), so I would like to also have a plant that offers flowers with a sweet nectar (hopefully not an annual). Again my understanding is quite limited in this area, but I think that bulbs would be ok (I am under the assumption that "generally speaking" bulbs will re-flower every year and do not need to be re-planted after a couple of years???) Now if you could somehow come up with a plant that cultures aphids...AND has a sweet-nectar flower...why...that would be TRULY GODLY OF YOU! (hint hint) ;-]
PS> I would also welcome any suggestions for a groundcover...especially one that is conducive to lots of "critters" living under it (babytear comes to mind). Obviously, these "critters" would be an additional food source for the ants [this species of ants is known to even hunt its share of various worms underground].
PPS> In my digging up of previous posts on the subject, I came accrossone titled "So you want to grow aphids???" It was a rather funny and sarcastic post and I enjoyed it a lot; but basically, the most useful bit of info that I got from it was that aphids go absolutely nuts for rose buds...so I am very seriously considering a rose as the candidate to use. In that case, do you happen to know of a particular "strain" of roses that is especially "susceptible" to aphids (or any other insect "pest" which the ants would gladly feast on)??? As an afterthought, that question might be better suited for the roses group. I will attempt a post in there as well, but your feedback is welcome regardless!
And finally...Please excuse the profusely long post with your own grace and kindness!
Thanks a bunch for your help! Sam in Los Angeles
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (saman) wrote in

First you need to know if these special aphids or ordinary aphids you can get off the street. I've heard of the ants you are talking about, they stroke the aphids which then secret a sweet fluid out of their ... ahem ... fluid secretion hole.
I'm assuming you need special 'cow' aphids (probably not the real name) (and maybe special diet), but if not, do a search on Sevin dust. Now this may kill your ants and fishies, but if you believe the posts, the aphids will party like it's 1999. Just grow a rose outside and dust it Sevin periodicly. When your biotope population gets low, just pick off a leaf and chuck it in. If you're lucky, the little Antnolds will soon find out which aphids like their hershey holes licked.
- ST
P.S. If you get cancer or some such from the Sevin, don't blame me.
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Salty Thumb wrote:

I have been assured by other experience ant keepers that your local variety aphids will do the job! :-)

I am sorry, but I don't quite follow you here Salty (or maybe the joke is on me!) How would I attract aphids by applying an insecticide to the biotope? I don't follow the logic there. Also, I suspect that Sevin dust will kill off all of the ants since its an *insect* killer (though I couldn't verify that ants are one of the 60 insects that it supposedly kills).

I was thinking about roses already. Any common strains (e.g. available at HomeDepot) that are particularly susceptible to an aphid infestation?

LMAO!!! I am not sure if that "disclaimer" is bulletproof (i.e. some well-paid lawyers could probably poke a couple of gaping holes in it)...but point well taken ;-]
Thanks again! Sam in Los Angeles
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I was being wry. But if you read some of the previous posts, Sevin will kill all sorts of insects except aphids. So if you are a results oriented person, feel the ends justify the means or are just desperate for aphids dump a load of Sevin on a plant, and wait for the plague. You should know however that using Sevin in this manner - a manner inconsistent with its labeling, is probably a felony punishable by federal law etc etc.

I don't know. Compared to some of the regulars in this group (hi everybody), I couldn't garden my way out of a paper bag. Personally, I'd go with the nasturtium recommendation. (It's the name of a common plant not a obtuse botanical classification). My Latin dictionary gives the meaning of nasturcium as 'garden cress'. There's no listing for nasturtium, but my English dictionary says it's from the Latin word for 'cress'.
-- ST
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I've had good indoor crops of aphids on my lettuce, nasturium and sweet pepper plants. Lettuce and nasturium seeds are hard to find at this time of year but you can get pepper seeds from ripe sweet peppers in the grocery store.
Room temperature and humidity are loved by aphids. If your area has not had frost, you might still find aphids here and there. In my yard, they hide in the curled underside of leaves.
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plants. Works everytime!
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On 10/21/03 5:25 PM, in article
wrote:

Why? Cheryl
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Why what?
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I agree with the nasturtium recommendation. I love nasturtiums but stopped planting them because they were inescapably black-aphid magnets. If I wanted a bazillion aphids -- to feed baby geckos for instance -- I would plant nasturtiums.
-paghat the ratgirl
--
"Of what are you afraid, my child?" inquired the kindly teacher.
"Oh, sir! The flowers, they are wild," replied the timid creature.
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Thank you so much for your suggestions. If I may address your post directly:
Pen wrote:

I am not sure if lettuce would work too well since I would have to replant after it dies next year. I am not too familiar with nasturium. What kind of plant is it? (ornamental? edible? flowe? etc) and would it be available at my local HomeDepot? The guys down there are not all that scientific, so would they know what nastrurium is??? (does it have a "common" name?)

I am a bit confused by this. Are you referring to bell peppers? (they kind you find at your local store which come in green, red, yellow, etc?) If so, I was actually considering that plant as well, so your vote of confidence is most appreciated!

Done! hehe

frost isn't really a problem here in Los Angeles (this late in October, and the weather was 95 today!!!). I inspected the rose buds today in search of some aphids, but couldn't find any. Oour roses are under direct sunlight most of the day. So I guess its too dry for the aphids to like it...there is always the neighborhood roses (time to go on an aphid-kidnapping rampage LOL)
Thanks again for your reply! Sam in Los Angeles
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Coleus comes to mind.

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Elizabeth wrote:

As luck would have it, I was down at HomeDepot today (on other business) and there was the sign "Assorted Varieties of Coleus ON SALE! $3.97) So I picked one up! :-) Thanks for the info Elizabeth! Just one question: Most info on this plant online indicates that it is an annual (i.e. will die after one year), but the guy at HomeDepot (not their actual assistants, this was another "customer" who happened to be a landscape contractor) said that if this plant is kept in the shade, and in the warmer climate of Los Angeles, it behaves as a perennial and won't die at all. Now I am all confused and don't know what to think! Please clarify!
Thanks as always! Sam in Los Angeles
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The plant commonly known as "Coleus" in the horticultural trade is not a true Coleus at all. In fact, the genus Coleus is now obsolete and considered synonymous with the genus Plectranthus.
The "Coleus" of the horticultural trade is actually Solenostemon scutellarioides and it is a tender perennial from Malaysia that is usually grown as an annual in temperate climates. It can be propagated from cuttings and grown for years in a greenhouse or indoors.

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hehe
Cereoid-UR12- wrote:

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Any time, babe!!!

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The guy at HD is correct. You can grow coleus as a house plant, although it tends to get spindly without enough sunlight. If the plants begin to look bad and send up numerous (ugly) flowers--you can take cuttings and start over (I do this). There are hundreds of varieties with different growing properties. Coleus are often used in botany experiments and they are related to the mint family.
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You are only partially correct, Phish.
The cultivated "Coleus" (Solenostemon scutellarioides) IS in the Mint family, Lamiaceae (Labiatae).
There is only one species involved but hundreds of selected cultivars (not botanical varieties).
All plants will grow spindly without enough light. They will do much better in a greenhouse.
The flowers of Solenostemon are not at all ugly. They may be rather small and not showy by your standards but they are quite interesting and intricate, especially when viewed with a hand lens. They are designed to attract pollinators, not to impress you personally.
The plants are often used in high school botany experiments to demonstrate photosynthesis and pigmentation.
wrote:

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Botanical nomenclature aside, most of the plants sold as Coleus are tender perennials which are grown as annuals in most areas of the country. In a frost free area of Los Angeles they will persist. In the coastal areas, some will tolerate full sun, inland they will prefer shade.
--
elizabeth, Baton Rouge, LA <------------ former Sandog
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Botanical nomenclature aside, ALL the plants sold as "Coleus" are tender perennials.
There are NO cold hardy species of Solenostemon or Plectranthus!!
The succulent, aromatic and the showy flowering species of Plectranthus are very popular perennials in frost free parts of Florida and southern California, probably Louisiana too. The succulent ones do very well in full sun. The more herbaceous type will also thrive in full sun if given plenty of water.

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I agree. No cold hardy species of Solenostemon or Plectrantus. There are a few Coleus x hybridus that are annuals even in frost free zones. Still, I believe most of what you will find locally can be grown as a tender perennial in most areas of Los Angeles.
--
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