Honeydew Galls and Drippy Nuts, 08-18-21

I got up around 6:00 this morning so I could go out to the William Pond Park by 6:30 am. I wanted to go checkout the Reverend Mother tree again before it got too sunny and hot outside. It was so smokey outside it was tough to stay out and walk in it. The sun was “red”, and its reflection on the river looked like flaming blood. Creepy!

Because of the smoke cover, the temperature never got above 88° today, and there was a bit of a breeze. The breeze brought more smoke in, but at least the air was moving.

Because of the smoke, the Sacramento Zoo has been closing its doors early; and because of the proximity of wildfires, the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge has closed its auto tour route so it can be used by fire fighters for staging their equipment.

Anyway, at the park, I was pretty much just looking for galls today, so didn’t pay attention to much of anything else. On the Valley Oak trees nearest the parking lot, I found lots and lots of Red Cone galls, Oak Apples, and Spiney Turbans.  I also found quite a few Round galls (with their lumpy bumpy surface) on those trees; my first sighting of the season.

Round Gall Wasp, Cynpis conspicuus [round gall near base of leaf on Valley Oaks, formerly Besbicus conspicuus]

The Reverend Mother tree still doesn’t have all the galls she normally has, but I was able to find more Red Cones and Spiney Turbans, along with Fuzzy galls, Convoluted galls, and Yellow Wig galls.

I haven’t seen any Club galls, Rosette galls or Disc galls on her yet… There were, however,  LOTS of Flat-Topped Honeydew Galls exuding their honeydew. I didn’t see a lot of ants tending to them, but I did see a lot of wasps.

In fact, there seemed to be wasps everywhere. I found them on the lawns, drinking water from the grass (the sprinklers had been on just before I got there), and around the trash cans and remains of what I think was a fish on the ground. It was so deteriorated that it had gone black so it was hard to identify what part of the fish it might have been.

Yellowjackets, Western Yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica

In another spot, I found a pair of wasps struggling with a dried leaf; they almost looked like they were in a tug-o-war over it. I wondered if they were masticating it to make wet papery mulch for a nest somewhere nearby. I couldn’t get near enough with my camera to be sure.

On the live oaks I still haven’t found any of spiney ball galls of the Live Oak Gall Wasp, Summer Generation. They seem really late to me. I found a few Pumpkin galls and some Two-Horned galls.

The stand-out on the live oaks was the number of acorns affected by Drippy Nut, Brenneria quercinaLonsdalea quercina, a bacterium that infects wounds in oak tissue/acorns. Lots of dark acorns, lots of “foaming” ones.

I also found one that looked like an unfertilized “female flower”; nothing was attached to the cap except a thin, white, skeletal-looking wick. So weird.

The water in the river is still really low right now; you can walk across it in places. At one spot near the river bank, I saw a Red-Shouldered Hawk in a tree, a Black Phoebe and some Spotted Sandpipers on the rocks, some Mallards in the water, and a Turkey Vulture on the opposite bank. They all pretty much ignored each other.

A trio of Belted Kingfishers flew over a couple of times, chattering to one another, but they didn’t land anywhere near me so… no photos of them. I DID see the hawk later on in another tree being beaten up by some Northern Mockingbirds who wanted him to move along.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

I also found an Assassin Bug nymph on some of the rushes by the water.

Assassin Bug, Leafhopper Assassin Bug, Zelus renardii [nymph]

And on a Coyote Brush bush, I found some more Lace Bugs. Some of the lace bugs were tannish-brown while others were pure white. I don’t know if that meant they were different species, or simply different instars of the same species. On the underside of some of the leaves, I think I saw the eggs covered in “varnish”.

“… Lace bug eggs are found on the lower leaf surface, usually alongside or inserted into a leaf vein. Adult females secrete a varnish-like substance over the eggs that hardens into a scab-like protective covering…”  I just think they are sooooo interesting.

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed home. This was hike #70 in my annual hike challenge.

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Species List:

  1. Assassin Bug, Leafhopper Assassin Bug, Zelus renardii [nymph]
  2. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  3. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus [flyby]
  4. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  5. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  6. Canyon Live Oak, Quercus chrysolepis
  7. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  8. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
  9. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  10. Drippy Nut, Lonsdalea quercina populi [bacterium that affects acorns]
  11. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  12. Formica Ant, Lasius americanus
  13. Gall Inducing Wooly Aphid, Stegophylla essigi [in live oaks, folds the leaf over itself; sometimes the leaf turns red/reddish]
  14. Gouty Stem Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercussuttoni  
  15. Green Lacewing, Chrysopa coloradensis
  16. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  17. Lace Bug, Corythucha sp.
  18. Live Oak Bud Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercusagrifoliae
  19. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  20. Mimosa, Persian Silk Tree, Albizia julibrissin
  21. Northern Catalpa, Indian Bean Tree, Catalpa speciosa
  22. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  23. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  24. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  25. Pennyroyal, Mentha pulegium
  26. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  27. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  28. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  29. Round Gall Wasp, Cynpis conspicuus [round gall near base of leaf on Valley Oaks, formerly Besbicus conspicuus]
  30. Round-Gall Wasp, Fuzzy Gall, Burnettweldia washingtonensis [round, fuzzy, on twigs]
  31. Soft Rush, Juncus effusus
  32. Spined Turban Gall Wasp, Antron douglasii [summer gall, pink, spikey top]
  33. Spotted Sandpiper, Actitis macularius
  34. Tarweed, Pit-Gland Tarweed, Holocarpha virgata 
  35. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  36. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, unisexual gall, summer generation,  Dryocosmus dubiosus [small, green or mottled, on back of leaf along the midvein]
  37. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  38. Vinegarweed, Trichostema lanceolatum
  39. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi 
  40. Yellowjacket, Western Yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica