Galls and the Reverend Mother, 08-23-20

I got up around 6:00 this morning and headed out with my friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne, to go visit what I call the “Reverend Mother” tree at William B. Pond Park on the American River. The tree is my go-to tree for galls every year.  Unfailingly, the tree sports hundreds of galls of at least a half dozen different species.

Today, the “Reverend Mother” did not disappoint.  She even gave Roxanne her first sighting of an oak Rosette gall. Yay!  We also found Spiny Turbans, Flat-Topped Honeydew galls, Yellow Wig galls, Fuzzy galls, Disc galls, Jumping galls, Irregular Spindle galls, Red Cones, “Baby Leaf” galls, Oak Apples, and Club galls.  So that was twelve different kinds of galls on just one tree.  Thank you, mama!

There were some old lerps from the lerp psyllids on the Eucalyptus trees, but most of them had already fallen to the ground.  On one Eucalyptus tree we also found the galls of the Australian Eucalyptus Gall Wasp.

Australian Eucalyptus Gall Wasp, Ophelimus maskelli

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

On some of the Live Oak trees there were Ruptured Twig galls, first generation spiny Live Oak galls, Erineum Mite galls, and some tiny galls that looked like messed-up Two-Horn galls. We’re not sure if they’re their own species, are a different generation of another species, or are Two-Horned galls that have been infiltrated by another insect. Near some of the ruptures on the branches of one tree, we also found what I think are some kind of scale insect.  They looked like tiny mud sausages set out in rows… The more you see, the more you realize that there’s more you don’t know.  Hah!

Unidentified Scale Insect, Superfamily: Coccoidea

Along one part of the trail, we found lots of Vinegarweed. Rox had never seen them before and was startled by their strong turpentine scent.  They have such lovely purplish flowers.  We also found two kinds of tarweed, Fitch’s with its needle-like thorns and the softer Pit-Gland.  Like the vinegarweed, tarweeds are sticky to the touch and exude a resinous smell.  These plants bloom late in the summer providing pollinators with a source of nectar.

Vinegarweed, Trichostema lanceolatum

Speaking of pollinators, I was surprised to see a California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly flying around.  It’s very late in the season for them; most of the pipevine their caterpillars need to survive is dead and gone by now.

And speaking of nectar, I caught sight of a few Yellowjackets flying around the “Reverend Mother” tree and knew that they went in search of the honeydew exuded by the galls induced by the Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis.  I followed one of the Yellowjackets and caught her sucking on one of the galls.  Unlike Paper Wasps, Yellowjackets are usually super-aggressive, but this one was so focused on her food that she let us get pretty close for photos.

Western Yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica

In the areas where there were stands of fennel plants, a small flock of Bushtits flitting from plant to plant, eating the seeds and flower heads. The tiny birds move so quickly, though, it was almost impossible for me to get a clear photo of any of them. Sigh.  We didn’t see a lot of other birds but did catch sight of some Western Bluebirds, Mourning Doves, the ubiquitous Canada Geese, California Scrub Jays and Yellow-Billed Magpies, among others.  We heard quails and some Belted Kingfishers, but didn’t see them.

We walked for about three hours, which is longer than we thought we’d walk today considering the bad air quality.  There’s a lot of smoke in the air from the wildfires northwest of us.

Species List:

  1. Australian Eucalyptus Gall Wasp, Ophelimus maskelli
  2. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon [heard]
  3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  4. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  5. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  6. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  7. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  8. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  9. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  10. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  11. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  12. Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides
  13. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  14. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  15. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea
  16. Cottonwood Leaf Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populivenae
  17. Dallis Grass, Dallisgrass, Paspalum dilatatum
  18. Disc Gall Wasp, Andricus parmula [round flat, “spangle gall”]
  19. Drippy Nut, Brenneria quercina, Lonsdalea quercina [a bacterium that infects wounds in oak tissue/acorns]
  20. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  21. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  22. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  23. Fuzzy Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis washingtonensi [round faintly fuzzy galls on stems]
  24. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
  25. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  26. Irregular Spindle Gall Wasp, Andricus chrysolepidicola [on white oaks, Blue, Valley, etc.]
  27. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  28. Leaf Gall Wasp/ Unidentified per Russo, Tribe: Cynipidi [on Valley Oak]
  29. Live Oak Erineum Mite gall, Aceria mackiei [kind of looks like rust on the backside of the leaf]
  30. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
  31. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  32. Mower’s Mushroom, Haymaker Mushroom, Panaeolus foenisecii
  33. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  34. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  35. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  36. Pit-gland Tarweed, Holocarpha virgata
  37. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  38. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  39. Red Gum Eucalyptus, River Redgum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis
  40. Red Gum Lerp Psyllid, Glycaspis brimblecombei
  41. Redseed Plantain, Plantago rhodosperma
  42. Ribwort Plantain, Plantago lanceolata
  43. Rosette Oak Gall Wasp, Andricus wiltzae
  44. Round Gall Wasp, Cynpis conspicuus [round gall near base of leaf on Valley Oaks, formerly Besbicus conspicuus]
  45. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens
  46. Silver Wattle, Acacia dealbata
  47. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, asexual, fall generation, Antron douglasii
  48. Tarweed, Fitch’s Tarweed, Centromadia fitchii
  49. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  50. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, unisexual gall, 1st generation, Dryocosmus dubiosus [small gall with a horn on either end]
  51. Unidentified Flatsedge, Cyperus sp.
  52. Unidentified Oak Gall Wasp, Tribe: Cynipini
  53. Unidentified Scale Insect, Superfamily: Coccoidea
  54. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  55. Vinegarweed, Trichostema lanceolatum
  56. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  57. Western Yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica
  58. Woolly Oak Aphid, Stegophylla brevirostris (lots of white fluff & honeydew)
  59. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi
  60. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli
  61. ?? tiny spider