So Many Crystalline Galls, 07-25-22

I got up around 6:00 this morning, and got the dogs fed and pottied before heading out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. I was hoping to see some of bucks in their velvet and/or the does with their fawns, but I didn’t see a single deer. That is so weird.  I also wanted to check out “Old Blue” the blue oak that sits along a trail by the river. It usually sports a lot of different galls.

Part of the main trail at the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve

First, though, I stopped near the nature center to see if there were any Monarch caterpillars or eggs on the milkweed plants there. No Monarchs, but I did get to see another critter I’d kept an eye out for: a Mealy Bug Destroyer larva. It’s the larva of a beetle that is related to ladybeetles, and despite its name, it also eat aphids and drinks honeydew. I got some photos of it, and of ladybeetle eggs laid nearby.

“…This beetle was imported into the United States in 1891 from Australia by one of the early biological control pioneers, Albert Koebele, to control citrus mealybug in California… here’s no need for reintroduction here, though, with our (usually) temperate winters. Mealybug Destroyers are effective predators of aphids and various soft scales... The adult stage is small, 3-4 mm long (3 mm is slightly less than ⅛ inch.). Adults tend to quickly move away when disturbed. An additional reason for the adult stage of the Mealybug Destroyer not being well-known is that they don’t have the flashy patterning or coloring that occur in many species. Adults are dark brown with a tan-to-orange head and posterior. The resemblance of the larval stage of this predator to its prey is another reason Mealybug Destroyers may be overlooked or misidentified. With their wooly appendages and cigar-shaped body that looks as if it has been rolled in flour, Mealybug Destroyer larvae look very much like the larval and adult stages of the citrus mealybug (a serious insect pest). The important difference is size: full grown Mealybug Destroyer larvae are at least twice as large as adult mealybugs.

Mealybug Destroyers are not content to attack their prey at just one stage of development. The adult female lays her eggs in the cottony egg sack of the mealybug. As soon as they hatch, the destroyers start snacking. Adults and young larvae prefer eggs, while older larvae will consume mealybugs at all stages... One Mealybug Destroyer larva devours up to 250 mealybug larvae. They will even feed on honeydew, the sticky sugary substance secreted by mealybugs. When honeydew is excreted (mealybugs typically reside on the undersides of leaves), it lands on lower leaves or on the ground, becomes colonized by sooty mold and making infested plants look even worse…” (Galveston County Master Gardeners)

I checked out all of the Valley and Interior Live Oak trees on my way to Old Blue, looking for wasp galls on them, too. There was nothing on the Valley Oaks, beyond the big Oak Apples, but it seems that wasp galls on them are always “late” in the preserve. There wasn’t much on the Live Oaks either, but I was surprised to find a lot of emerging Pumpkin Galls. They normally don’t show up until September or October, but here they were.  I only found one Live Oak Apple gall on one of the Interior Live Oaks, which was kind of disappointing.

I also found a cute, tiny baby Jumping Spider. I’m not sure of the species because it was so young and not fully colored up yet.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The wasp galls visible on the blue oaks are different from the ones on the valley oaks, so I knew Old Blue would have different galls on it than the Reverend Mother tree, and that was exciting – as it always is – because it means I can increase the numbers on my species list for the year. The leaves were covered with Saucer Galls which is pretty common for this tree in the summer.

But I was shocked by how many Crystalline Galls I found. Usually, on this tree, they’re few and far between, but this time they seemed to be everywhere, from the top of the tree to the bottom. Some leaves have a handful of galls, others were encrusted with them. On one leaf I counted over 40 galls! And the color variations were cool: strawberry blonde to deep rose. So pretty. I was so excited and happy to see them.

I didn’t find any Hair Stalk galls or Urchin galls, but I did find a solitary Plate Gall. The others may show up later in the summer. I’ll keep an eye out for them. [There are also blue oaks at Sailor Bar that I want to check out.]

I got to do my “naturalist” thing, helping different people identify what they were seeing on the trail. I talked to one gentleman about the live oak galls, and helped a woman from Utah identify a black walnut tree and an Ash-Throated Flycatcher.  She asked if I could identify a black bird she saw with red on its wings, and I chuckled a little and said, “It was probably a Red-Winged Blackbird… Yeah, some of the names aren’t terribly imaginative.” She laughed. I like being able to do my naturalist thing, and really miss being able to teach the coursework. Stupid cancer.            

I came across the “second bee hive” in the preserve, and the bees were all clustered around the entryway. I think they might have been having a confab about where to go for the day. I wasn’t able to check out the other bee tree on the other end of the preserve, so I don’t know if there is still a queen ensconced there.

Wild Western Honeybees, Apis mellifera, at the mouth of their hive along the trail.

Elsewhere on the trail, I came across a female Wild Turkey with her six nearly fully fledged poults. And there were also spots where I could see the “scratch spots” along the side of the trail in areas where the turkeys scratch for insects and seeds, and also use the dirt they bring up to take “dust baths” (to help get the mites and other parasites off their skin and feathers).

I found quite a few Ground Squirrels, and the Fox Squirrels were out, chopping on the black walnuts. I was watching one Fox Squirrel that looked like he kept dozing off while he was working on his nut. His head kept dropping and his eyes would close, then he’d straighten up again and open his eyes a bit more…

As I was leaving, I could hear a Bullfrog croaking in the little pond, but couldn’t catch sight of it. I hope they’re not killing the bulls this year…

I was out for about 4 hours. This was hike #44 of my #52HikeChallenge for the year; and for the Summer Series, this was 4 more hours of a required 20 hours for the challenge [so, 19½ hours toward that total so far. Golly! Only half an hour short!]

Species List:

  1. Acorn Gall Wasp, Andricus chrysobalani [stunted growth, acorn may look pushed in or sideways]
  2. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  4. Ant, Andre’s Harvester Ant, Veromessor andrei [black]
  5. Aphid, Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii
  6. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
  7. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  8. Bee, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  9. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  10. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  11. California Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
  12. California Brickellbush, Brickellia californica
  13. California Fuchsia, Epilobium canum
  14. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  15. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  16. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  17. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  18. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus [tracks and scat]
  19. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  20. Crystalline Gall Wasp, Andricus crystallinus
  21. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]
  22. Goldenrod, Velvety Goldenrod, Solidago velutina
  23. Grape Erineum Mite, Colomerus vitis
  24. Gumweed, Curlycup Gumweed, Grindelia squarrosa
  25. Jumping Spider, Subfamily: Salticinae
  26. Ladybeetle, Spotless Lady Beetle, Cycloneda sanguinea [no spots; more red than orange]
  27. Live Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Summer Generation, Amphibolips quercuspomiformis [spiky ball]
  28. Live Oak Erineum Mite Gall, Aceria mackiei
  29. Mealybug Destroyer, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri
  30. Meshweaver Spider, Family: Dictynidae
  31. Milkweed, Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
  32. Milkweed, Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
  33. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  34. Mule Fat, Baccharis salicifolia
  35. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  36. Oak Ribbed Casemaker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella
  37. Oak, Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  38. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  39. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  40. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  41. Pacific Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  42. Pearly Everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea
  43. Plant Bug, Parthenicus sp.
  44. Plate Gall Wasp, Andricus pattersonae
  45. Primrose, Tall Evening Primrose, Oenothera elata
  46. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  47. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  48. Saucer Gall Wasp, Andricus gigas
  49. Small Milkweed Bug, Lygaeus kalmii
  50. Snowberry, Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
  51. Spittlebug, Meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius
  52. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura [flying overhead]

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