I assume you are probably already familiar with it, but if not I highly recommend Charley Eiseman and Noah Charney’s book Tracks & Signs of Insects and Other Invertebrates. It’s a fantastic guide with lots of detail about things like galls and egg cases and silken hides and whatnot. Great photos and explanatory text. Charley’s also awesome about responding quickly to mystery photos posted to Bugguide. Thanks for posting so much cool content! I’m glad I found your blogs. :-)

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Hello there! Funny you mention it, I discovered Charley Eiseman yesterday while I was trying to ID some tricky galls I found in my yard last week. I only noticed them after I crouched down to investigate the harlequin bug eggs that were attached to a nearby sapling [link]. The pink caught my eye, and since I was in “excited insect egg” mode, I thought these were eggs of some sort. I’m new to trying to ID eggs, so that was my wild guess since I hadn’t seen any galls like this in person. Technically, they’re not not eggs?


I posted them to iNat [link], and didn’t get any IDs from people. The next day, I wanted to go back and check on the harlequin bug eggs, and I noticed MORE pink spikes on another leaf, and made another iNat observation [link]:


I am lucky to live in an area with a very active naturalist community. I was at a bioblitz on Sunday and met a guy I have been interacting with pretty heavily on iNat (I love introducing myself to people with my username and see how excited they get to meet me in person!). This guy saw my observation of these galls and identified the plant as a hackberry. Knowing the host plant is the most important step in doing these gall IDs, and after I googled “hackberry gall,” I saw a picture of my galls after scrolling for what seemed like forever:


Image is © Charley Eiseman, see his post about them here [link]. The image above is of the Hackberry Horn Gall (Celticecis cornuata) specimen he sent off to the entomologist who described this midge as a new species in 2013. 

You cannot comprehend how excited I was to (1) ID this under-documented species (there is currently only one, not so great photo of these galls on bugguide [link]–I submitted my photos as an ID request because I kept getting yelled at for being wrong, but nobody’s commented on my page [link] so I might just add my photos anyway) (2) be one of the few people to see AND document it, and (3) specifically request an iNaturalist admin to add the species page because it wasn’t in the system yet.

Next steps: I’m going to go back out into my yard at some point this week and see if I can dig up the sapling these are on and move it closer to the house. I want to watch them hatch! Also, I have access to some pretty fancy microscopes at work, so I can dissect one under a light microscope, and THEN use the scanning electron microscope to get super high resolution images. STAY TUNED.

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dendroica:Eastern False Willow, a.k.a. Groundsel Bush (by…

Monday, October 17th, 2016


Eastern False Willow, a.k.a. Groundsel Bush (by me)

Fun fact: This species (Baccharis halimifolia) has become an invasive weed in Queensland, leading authorities there to import my favorite gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica, as a biological control. R. californica normally galls my plant-crush Baccharis pilularis, but in the absence of B. pilularis they’ll make do with B. halimifolia, thereby replacing flower production with midge production and slowing the spread of the unwelcome plant.

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thanks for calling me a beautiful sparkleturtle, I appreciated it.

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

You are very welcome. Thank you for being one.

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roslyntherogue: These bright orange oak galls protect wasp…

Sunday, October 9th, 2016


These bright orange oak galls protect wasp larvae while they grow.

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freespiritandmindaz: Nature is so beautiful… look at this…

Sunday, September 4th, 2016


Nature is so beautiful… look at this beautiful display of the prickly rose gall. These galls are a parasitic sack formed by the cynipid wasp. The wasp, like many other parasitic insects, uses the wild rose plant as a safe haven for its offspring. They inject a substance into the plant and then lay their eggs in it, as the larva grows, so does the gall and that is what the larva uses as a food supply and as a protection sack until they are ready to join the world. You would think this type of parasitic infestation would be damaging to the host plants, but research shows that the plants are not affected by these types of infestations.

I find galls very interesting and these ones in particular are one of my favorite… the wasp that created these galls was surely an artist… it used the leaves to create the perfect bed for its children <3 here is another perfection of Nature’s artistry…

#galls #insects #parasitic #parasiticwasp #cynipidwasp #natureswonders #naturesbeauty #freespiritandmind #art #artistry #plantgeek #plantlove (at Love Nature)

Diplolepis polita is the wasp’s scientific name. These galls show up in the California wild rose (Rosa californica) at the Carpinteria salt marsh; I love showing them off to tour attendees. Russo discusses the species extensively in Field Guide to Plant Galls of California and Other Western States.

I’ve always wondered if the spines (which are flexible at first, then become brittle with age) represent the wasp repurposing the genetic code that produces the rose’s thorns.

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wildflowers-of-southern-ontario: Ball Gall on a…

Thursday, May 19th, 2016


Ball Gall on a Goldenrod
Solidago spp.

Asteraceae (Aster) Family

In the photo above, you can see the hole created by a Eurosta solidaginis, Goldenrod Gall Fly. The inside is empty: if you cut it open, you will see a tunnel exiting from a central chamber with no insect inside.

Galls are abnormal growths that can arise in all
parts of a plant caused by insects. Galls usually do not injure their hosts to the point where the
entire plant is debilitated. These creatures produce
galls to provide food and shelter for themselves. [x]

Among goldenrods, there exists three types of galls – each caused by a different insect and each differ in shape. The gall shown above is a ball gall, named for its spherical shape. The ball gall is sometimes called an apple gall for its reddish-purple hue. The other two types are the spindle gall and the rosette gall. [x]

Gall Formation + Goldenrod Gall Fly Life Cycle

  • In late spring, after mating, the female Goldenrod Gall Fly (Eurosta solidaginis) deposits her eggs, via her ovipositor, onto the young leaves of a goldenrod, near the apical meristem.
  • About ten days later, the eggs hatch and the hungry larvae eat their way several millimeters from the oviposition site
    into the stem (at the apical meristem) and form a chamber where
    they spend their hours eating the plant’s living cells. The ingestion leads to the excretion of significant amounts of metabolic
    by-products that stimulate the abnormal formation of a ball gall, likened to a tumor.
  • In autumn, the growing larvae, about a quarter-inch in length, tunnel towards the gall’s exterior but do not break it, preparing an exit route come spring. They return to the main chamber where they prepare for the winter season: their metabolism slows and glycerol, an antifreeze, is synthesized (along with sorbitol and trehalose) and it replaces their internal water.
  • Come winter, the gall of the senescent goldenrod shelters the larvae, although the gall provides very little insulation (see Irwin & Lee (2000) below).
  • The warm days of spring stimulate the larvae from their slumber, pupae form, and after a few days, adult flies exit from the pre-made tunnel, through the thin-walled porthole now hard and brown (as seen above).
  • The non-feeding adult Goldenrod Gall flies live for about ten days. During that time they do not eat (they have vestigial mouthparts) and solely live to mate and lay a new batch of eggs on a goldenrod stem.

Source: x, x

Journal of Insect Physiology (2000) 46:655-661.
Mild winter temperatures reduce survival and potential fecundity of the
goldenrod gall fly, Eurosta solidaginis (Diptera: Tephritidae)
By J. T. Irwin & R. E. Lee

A low metabolic rate during the winter months conserves the energy, achieved during the past summer and autumn by continuously eating, of the Goldenrod Gall fly, enough energy to mate and lay viable eggs. The low metabolic rate is induced by cooler temperatures (around 0°C), average to the region. Winters with above average temperatures increase the insects’ metabolic rate and proves detrimental in the spring when fecundity decreases as a consequence.


Figure 1 Summary of the data from the article by J. T. Irwin & R. E. Lee (2000).

Photographs taken on Thursday, April 20, 2016 along the Applewood Hills Trail, Mississauga.

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