Oak Galls - The Wasp Lifecycle

I posted earlier about the oak bug galls we find lying around our big oak tree. My kids love to squash them when they are all dried out and empty. But I promised to show what they look like when they're occupied!

We were so fortunate to find 13 oak galls today. Apparently the wasps have been busy. It's been unseasonably cool here and I think they are getting the (wrong) message that it's fall. So this is what they've been creating:

Click on any of the images to enlarge

Basically, the wasps are using our oak tree as a place to store their eggs. They lay their eggs into the tree, the tree reacts (like an immune response) and forms these galls around the eggs. The eggs overwinter in the galls. The larva develop safely and emerge the following season.

Wondering what's inside? There is a big spongy mass inside and a lot of juice. Deep purple juice. They are difficult to open and after our initial experimenting, we've decided not to open any others. There is life inside, after all. But once they've left, the mad crushing of crusty galls may commence!

This is what it looks like once they've left:

And these are the wasps responsible for all these galls. Honestly, our oak tree is swarming with these wasps right now. They are really getting down to business.

We've collected these galls and will save them over the winter. I'm hoping we can catch the new wasps as they escape next year. We've missed every one of the caterpillars that emerged from the chrysalis farm we found under our deck (literally....we had so many!)

My husband would be annoyed at the number of wasps in our yard and he'd worry about their effects on the trees. But, our tree can handle it. Sure it takes energy for the tree to make these galls, but it's been doing it for decades and it's a strong, hardy tree. Plus, I like having the wasps around.

I really, really do! I have seen these predators in action. They have wiped out entire armies of caterpillars that were eating my plants. Last year, I watched for about 20 minutes while a wasp devoured a caterpiller...start to finish! It was miraculous. I had no idea they could do such a thing, and I've welcomed them into my garden and yard. They also pollinate and provide an important part of the food chain (as predator and prey.)

You will see no bee or wasp killing from me. In fact, if I ever find a sale on bamboo...you can bet I'll be making some honeybee homes. :)


Emelie said...

YIKES! I am a big scaredy cat when it comes to wasps and bees. I hate them! I am like an elephant when it comes to those things! If I see any flying around our yard (and I do all summer) I rush the kids inside. Once we had one get stuck in our high window in our living room that is vaulted, and it was too dumb to fly the other way so we hid out in my upstairs bedroom for about a half hour and then watched as it tired itself out trying to repeatedly go out the same way, and then walk to the edge exhausted and fall to its death. Sad, but true.

Emelie said...

You are toooo brave!

Emelie said...

Those podsw are pretty though..just the thought of an unsuspecting someone thinking they were fruit and taking a bite....uuuuggghh!

Anonymous said...

too crasy. neat you hve those

basicliving@backtobasicliving.com said...

I love that you posted this! I find these all the time and finally googled them and pictures of them - and up popped your post. We have those everywhere around here - we especially find the empty shells left behind. I am seriously considering collecting a few of those gall balls and keeping them to see if wasps hatch out. Did you actually end up doing this? If so, did you put them in jars? With nothing else? I would really like to try it! Thanks for posting this.

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