Some have the gall

We have a small oak sapling behind the house that has achieved a height of about 32 inches (81 cm) and has maybe two dozen leaves. It also has a dozen or so oak galls, which are tumor-like growths, emanating from its branches in three places. These are caused by  oak gall wasps, which—for the benefit of you taxonomy fans, belong to the Apocrita suborder of wasps in the superfamily Cynipoidea—and develop immediately after the females lay their eggs. That by way of introduction.

I have noticed, during the past week or so, that there is nearly-constant activity on and around these galls: Practically every time I walk by the little tree, I can see one or several very colorful wasps intent on patrolling the surfaces of the galls.

Paper wasp 1952I decided to investigate further today and went out slowly and sat down quietly next to it this afternoon.  During the ten minutes or so, before the next rainfall drove me back indoors, I was able to get a satisfactory series of images, sufficient for me to identify them.

Paper wasp 1942My first feeling was that they were paper wasps, and I was happy to find that a perusal of BugGuide confirmed my tentative identification. They are most likely Polistes dorsalis, commonly known as brown and black paper wasps, and they appear to be nibbling on the outer surface of the galls.

Paper wasp 1933I am quite pleased with their apparent acceptance of my close presence, and I plan to revisit them—as weather allows—over the course of the next few days (we have been having a LOT of rain).

Paper wasp 1932Please wish me luck and for continued indifference on their part—stay tuned!

About krikitarts

Welcome to Krikit Arts! I'm a veterinarian; photographer; finger-style guitarist, composer, instructor, and singer/songwriter; fisherman; and fly-tyer. Please enjoy--and please respect my full rights to all photos on this Website!
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2 Responses to Some have the gall

  1. Mike Powell says:

    I especially wish you continued indifference from the wasps. I am ok with bees, but don’t like to mess with wasps. By the way, I love the bright colors of “your” wasp.

    • krikitarts says:

      In my experience, if you move very slowly, you’re very likely to have no aggression, unless you’re in the immediate vicinity of a nest. I am especially wary of yellow jackets, though! And yes, I agree–I find paper wasps especially colorful and handsome. Thanks, Mike!

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