Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Florida Oak Galls

Now, you might see such a thing on your oak tree and ponder it's source and reason. Perhaps your oak has always felt like a peach tree inside or just maybe that nuclear power plant down the road IS leaking radiation.

At Pure Florida, I usually ponder things for about as long as it takes to get the right tool to figure out what's going on. In this case all it took was a sharp pocket knife.

This oak gall was growing with a dozen others on a young laurel oak in my woods. I was using the machete to clear my JEEP trail of encroaching branches (NO SCRATCHING THE JEEP!) when I noticed the oak festooned with these smooth greenish brown globes.

I plucked one. It was surprisingly cool to the touch. I mean noticeably cold compared to the day, the branches, and my skin. Not sure why, but it was really cool ... in a temperature sort of way. When I sliced it open, it was mostly hollow with a network of filaments running from the inside of the sphere to a fuzzy capsule in the center.

I separated the filaments and removed the fuzzy center. (I'm craving a Tootsie Pop right now ... how about you?)

When I carefully dissected the fuzzy center I found this little wasp pupating inside it.

He was kind of tough to photograph due to his minuteness, but a moistened toothpick allowed me to pick him up and separate him from the background.
That's the tip of a standard wooden toothpick the little wasp is sticking to (we like the fancy colored kind due to our stuffy frufruness here) , so you know he's tiny.
Other things may make growths on oaks of course, but at least for this type of gall, the mystery is solved.
Here's a nice little site with more info on oak gall wasps.
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Thunder Dave said...

Nifty little nest, I guess he/she, needed a little room to grow!

Laura said...

Wow, great macro shot of the wasp! I'll head over to the site to find out more about them.

Finally got a chance to get back over here to see what type of bird that is in the post below. I don't think I've ever see a Sora Rail--or maybe I have, but didn't realize what I was looking at. In any event, it's nice to put a name to the face and I'm about to go look up their habitat info as well. What a cute face he/she has!

Hope you enjoyed your time in G'ville. Last time I was there, the traffic was so bad, I thought I was back in St. Pete again.
I don't think we had traffic jams on Newberry or Archer roads at 7 a.m. in the good old days.

Ahh well, it's still the country.
I'm getting off topic, aren't I.
(sorry!!!) :)

Back to wasps, which do have their uses, you know. Personally, I like to see a nest of them inside the cab of the developer's truck...

Hal at Ranch Ramblins said...

Blue toothpicks?

At first glance, it looked as if you had lanced the wasp with your toothpick - and then I remembered that this was FC's blog, and that would never happen!

rcwbiologist said...

I wonder how many different galls there are in the U.S., or the world for that matter. It seems like they are endless. I don't think I've ever noticed this one before.

robin andrea said...

Frufru toothpics are really the best for showing pupating wasps. I think it's there on the package somewhere about best uses for this product. Good gall investigation.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

Boy howdy, that is some nifty camera you got there, Mr. Florida.

Deb said...

It really galls me that you would flaunt your stuffy frufruness here! :)

Floridacracker said...

Pretty cozy and probably safe from predators.

You should have seen the pile of macro junk photos I deleted before finally getting it right. Whew!
Yes, the morning rush hour into G'ville, although minor by Atlanta standards, is still no fun. Every time I have to do it, it reminds me how good I've got it on my empty 20 mile commute through the woods to school.
Send your wasp nest quick! A developer wants to install a giant development near Newberry road.

I wish I was so innocent, but I'm afraid extracting this little wasp doomed him. You're right tho, I did not impale him.

I wonder if there is a gall predator? Any woodpeckers that access this food source?

AND they look so cool in your post gall investigation martini olive ... shaken not stirred of course.

It's a wonder of modern science.

I extended my pinky as I sliced into the gall. Proper decorum is everything.

Cathy said...

I had the same reaction Hal had. Ick. I'm glad I kept reading and was reassured we'd not been exposed to gratuitous violence - only a gooey wasp.

Doug Taron said...

Funny you should mention gall predators in conjunction with woodpeckers. We have a very common goldenrod galll here in Illinois. In the dead of winter, you can see the downy woodpeckers seeking them out and eszxtracting the developing wasps. The following summer, the woodpecker damage is very obvious on last year's stalks. It looks completely different from the wasp exit holes.

Charley Pitchford said...

I love your photos!!!! Nature shots are always the best. They display the beauty of God's creation, his handywork!!!!

Floridacracker said...

No gratuitous violence here.

I thought some woodie must target them, but I wasn't sure.

Welcome to Pure Florida!
I agree.