1. Many aphids form mixed populations of cyclical and obligate parthenogens. This is puzzling, because all else being equal, obligate parthenogens should outcompete cyclical parthenogens due to the two-fold cost of sex. Yet cyclical parthenogens produce frost-resistant, diapausing eggs in autumn, while obligate parthenogens spend the winter as active stages. Frost resistance thus represents a short-term advantage to sexual reproduction mediated by winter temperatures, which may promote this coexistence.
2. Because obligate parthenogens overwinter as active stages, there may be selection for increased cold tolerance compared to cyclical parthenogens. This has the potential to gradually erode the advantage of sexually producing eggs.
3. Four obligately and four cyclically parthenogenetic lines of Myzus persicae (Sulzer) (Hemiptera: Aphididae) were collected from each of two areas differing in winter severity, and their survival after exposure to a severe experimental frost (14 h at −9 °C), as well as their reproductive performance at a low (10 °C) and a high (20 °C) temperature were compared.
4. There was significant variation among lines in survival after the experimental frost, but this variation was neither related to their reproductive mode, nor to their area of origin. Similarly, neither reproductive mode nor origin had a significant effect on reproductive performance, independent of temperature. The average slope of the response to variation in temperature was also similar for both reproductive modes, despite the fact that slopes differed significantly among lines.
5. Within the limits of extrapolating from laboratory experiments, it is concluded that in M. persicae, the active stages of obligate parthenogens are not better adapted to cold temperatures than those of cyclical parthenogens.