I was going to format this post as a spoof Nature communication, but not being as skilled as our students, who turn out excellently formatted mock papers for their assignments, decided not to. I did, however, go for a typical Nature title 🙂
The other day when I was looking at my blog stats I clicked on the view post stats button next to my most read post of the day, Not all aphids are vegans*, and was amused enough by the strong seasonal dynamics shown to post it on Twitter.
Not all aphids are vegans – strong seasonal dynamics
As you can see, the peaks and troughs of views strongly follow the times of year that aphids are present and absent.
As regular readers of my blog will know, I am a bit of an aphidophile. It is kind of hard to miss if I’m honest, but then aphids are fantastic and awesome, so you will get no apologies from me for loving them and writing, or talking about them whenever I get the chance to do so.
That said, not all my posts are about aphids, insects yes, but I do write about other things too, including entomological equipment, classic papers and teaching matters, and sometimes about my holidays 🙂
Given the strong correlation between aphid life cycle timing and visits to the post about biting aphids, I wondered how my other aphid posts stacked up in terms of seasonal viewing.
Aphid life cycles – bizarre, complex or what?
Somewhat surprisingly, well to me at least, the post about aphid life cycles did not show very strong seasonal dynamics, although April, when aphids start to become active, did, at the beginning of the post’s life, show a bit of a peak of interest, but has since broken down completely. Another season aspect of aphid biology is wing formation. This is usually associated with late spring and early summer (Dixon, 1973, 1976), and in this case, the viewing history fitted appropriately.
Not all aphids have wings – seasonally appropriate
What about the other end of the year, autumn and winter? As expected, my post about aphid overwintering showed the reverse pattern to the other aphid posts, people wanted to read about aphid overwintering as winter appraoched.
A Winter’s Tale – aphid overwintering
Aphid posts, as predicted, show a correlation (OK, not tested) with the time of year associated with the appropriate part of the life cycle. We would therefore expect that posts that are more general would show no marked seasonality in their popularity. To test this I looked at first, my posts that deal with entomological equipment, pan traps, clip cages and the poster and then at two posts that fit into the teaching category. Staring with the Pan trap, a very basic and commonly used piece of field equipment, despite a slight expectation on my part that there might be a spring peak (after all, that is when insects start flying) there was no pattern that I could see.
The pan trap – disappointingly no pattern
Nest I looked at the Pooter, an essential bit of general entomological kit (Leather, 2015) used by entomologists of all types. Given that this is used in both the laboratory and the field, I didn’t really expect to see any pattern jumping out at me. I wasn’t disappointed although if you look very quickly, and not too closely, it is just about possible top convince yourself that there is an increase in views during the summer, which would fit with the general increase in insects caught in nets.
The Pooter – perhaps a slight tendency for views to increase in mid-summer
Next, back to aphids, this time a piece of kit that is almost, but not entirely, confined to aphidologists (Macgillivray & Anderson, 1957). My expectation here, was that given that clip cages are almost always used in laboratories or glasshouses, that there would be absolutely no pattern in the viewing figures. Sure enough, that was the outcome.
The clip cage – no discernible patterns
Finally, the two teaching posts, first my tribute to Southwood’s classic species-area paper (Southwood, 1961). I know that this post is used for undergraduate teaching at one university, so given the regularity of university timetabling, might have a chance of showing a pattern; It didn’t.
Southwood (1961) – the number of insect species associated with various trees – no pattern
Finally, a post that has attracted a modicum of attention over the years, all about what to expect in a PhD viva. My hypothesis for this, given that most PhD projects start at the beginning of the academic year and run for four or five years before submission, was that if there was going to be an annual peak in views that it would be between October and January. To save you the troubkle of squinting at the graph, there was no pattern.
Are PhD examiners really ogres? – no consistent peak
In conclusion, aphid posts tend to show viewing patterns consistent with the time of year and life cycle stage, other, more general posts show absolutely no pattern.
Dixon, A.F.G. (1973) Biology of Aphids. Edward Arnold, London.
Dixon, A.F.G. (1976) Reproductive strategies of the alate morphs of the bird cherry-oat aphid Rhopalosiphum padi. Journal of Animal Ecology, 45, 817-830.
Leather, S.R. (2015) An entomological classic – the Pooter or insect aspirator. British Journal of Entomology & Natural History, 28, 52-54.
MacGillivray, M.E. & Anderson, G.B. (1957) Three useful insect cages. Canadian Entomologist, 89, 43-46.
Southwood, T.R.E. (1961) The number of species of insect associated with various trees. Journal of Animal Ecology, 30, 1-8.
*which I have purposely not linked to so as to not influence the count!