Our friend Brandon Butler asked me if I hunt. I initially said no, then realized that I hunt almost daily, I just don't shoot. Sometimes I eat my finds (mushrooms), other times I photograph my prey and put them under the microscope. I usually "catch and release" when possible but many of my prey are larvae that won't survive or occasionally die from chilling for photographing or saved as specimens. I love the hunt.
Early summer is a great time for gall hunting. As the leaves and buds are coming out, it is easy to spot the various oak galls which are frequently at their most colorful. A few weeks later they are hidden in the leaves and require lots of patience to sneak up on them. They can be very evasive, requiring lots of time to find a specimen I flagged just a week before. This Wool Sower Gall was an excellent example. It was the size of the tip of my thumb, obvious in the photograph but hard to recapture in the foliage.
|Capsules with a larva - REK|
The Wool Sower Gall (WSG) is an excellent example to study, colorful and yet infrequent enough to be elusive. The gall looks like a cotton ball that sometimes has distinctive pink spots. It is also called an Oak Seed gall, due to the seed-like appearance of the early larva capsules inside the gall. The gall is produced by the secretions of the grubs of a tiny gall wasp, Callirhytis seminator. Unlike the more common Oak Apple Gall which houses a single larva, these galls contain lots of "seeds", each containing a wasp larva.
|Seed-like capsule opened to show larva - REK|
|Not Callirhytis seminator - REK|
|C seminator - Ces.ncsu.edu|
I sent pictures in to Bugguide and the response was even more interesting. Ross Hill responded rapidly, identifying it as Torymus tubicola, "a known parasitoid of Callirhytis seminator." He sent it on to Eric Grissell who confirmed the ID. There are over 400 species Torymus species world wide and it takes an expert to get an identification to species level. I didn't expect to find much more information on this species, but finally ran across this blog by who else but Eric Eaton, aka Bug Eric. Charlie Eiseman also reported on several he raised.
|Not C. seminator but still a cool find!|