BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

On a bike, riding somewhere. Every day, rain or shine.

Posts tagged ‘insect’

#365daysofbiking Interdependence

September 2nd – The Darlaston Robins Pincushion Galls are looking really amazing right now – the one on the main ‘trunk’ (stalk? Branch?) of the wild rose is the largest I’ve ever seen, and still growing – now the size of a tennis ball, but elongated. On the outer leaves, the one that clearly misfired across multiple leaf nodes is causing odd, isolated patches of gall growth on leaves and twigs that look almost tumourous in nature.

This is an absolutely fascinating thing and I make no apologies for regularly featuring it. This is part of the wasp gall’s lifecycle and it’s absolutely stunning that such a tiny insect should co-opt and corrupt the growth of a plant to create such a host for its larva.

Amazing stuff.

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#365daysofbiking Well spotted

July 17th – Near Jockey Meadows on the way home, I stopped to take a call on the phone, and whilst mooching around on handsfree, I noticed this 10 spot ladybird in the adjacent hedge.

It appears to be native and not a an invasive harlequin, and yes, 10 spot ladybirds often have 12 spots apparently! There’s a similar yellowish harlequin but the pattern is markedly different and there’s no tell-tale dimple on the rear of the wing cases on this one.

I guess I must have done but I don’t recall seeing one this yellow before. A rather charming and endearing find – and the client who called me had no idea what I was doing.

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#365daysofbiking The cycle

July 9th – I’m always interested in insect galls as regular readers will know and one of the most interesting in the UK is the robins pincushion gall, which affects wild and dog roses.

Forming the same way as oak galls – from a wasp injecting eggs into a plant bud which are coated in a plant DNA corrupting substance – pincushion galls are brightly coloured and made up of a solid nodule up to a inch or so diameter, covered in hairy spines, which if you look closely are miniature facsimiles of rose stalks, thorns and all.

Numerous larvae hatch in chambers within the gall, eating their way out as they mature.

This year on a rose where last year’s dead remains of a pincushion gall can be seen complete with cavities where the wasps emerged, there are two new ones growing about 12 inches further up the branch.

And so the lifecycle of a tiny but fascinating insect continues.

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#365daysofbiking Goo, now

June 27th – Clayhanger Common and lots of areas of grassland now are dotted with white frothy blobs of slime on leaves and grass stalks. As kids we called this somewhat unattractive phenomena ‘cuckoo spit’ although in reality it’s nothing to do with cuckoos.

The goo is actually the protective coating on the nymph of the froghopper bug, which is noted for its prodigious jumping ability. The  adults lay their eggs in late summer, which overwinter in plant stalks. As the nymphs hatch, they produce a bitter, foamy liquid as a byproduct of sucking plant sap, which then surrounds them and protects them from harm until they become fully grown.

The creatures do no harm to their host plants, but can carry a plant disease called  Xylella Fastidiosa which although not in the UK yet, is expected to make it here soon.

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#365daysofbiking From mighty oaks

May 3rd – It’s always interesting to watch the variety and spread of oak galls on the trees I pass.

At the moment, rosy red oak apples are developing well, corrupted from leaf buds by the tiny wasp who laid her egg in the bud. Her larvae will hatch inside, done on the inside of the gall and drill their way out when mature.

Fascinating things that don’t harm the tree and continue a millennia old relationship between oak and parasite.

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#365daysofbiking The rise and gall:

September 12th – I’ve been watching the robin’s pincushion gall I found in Darlaston mature as the weeks pass by. I’m interested to see if it shows any sign of being vacated by the insects who grow inside it, and also observe how it decays, to find out what’s under the ‘fur’.

It’s grown redder, and the fur seems to be dying away, with a cavity open on the upper side. I wonder if the wasps have left?

These creations of parasites – unique to wild and dog roses – are absolutely fascinating and I’ll be keeping an eye on this one as autumn draws on.

July 25th – These oak knopper galls actually took me by surprise a couple of days ago, but the photos I took weren’t great, so I revisited the saplings they’re growing on today.

I spotted them on a tree near Victoria Park in Darlaston and I don’t think there’s a single normally formed acorn on that tree at all, and yet several adjacent ones have no knoppers at all.

These mutations of normal acorns are of course caused by a tiny wasp that lays eggs in the acorn buds earlier in the year. A secretion the eggs are coated in causes the acorn bud to mutate and grow in a distorted form, forming a gall, with the wasp egg at the centre. 

The larva hatches, and eats it’s way out of the gall, which provides it enough nourishment to grow to maturity.

Insect galls like this don’t hurt the tree, but of course, do affect it’s fecundity.

Isn’t nature amazing?

May18th – Arriving at work today on a sunny, bright but nippy morning in total contrast to the day before – I spotted this wee creature, very much alive on the doorhandles. I guess it can only have got there by a startled bird dropping it when disturbed by a called (I had just missed the post who’s not noted for their gentle approach to their duty).

I was quite concerned it might die, so I popped it in a nearby tree – presumably to be taken again by bluetits or some other creepy crawly eating bird.

Wonder what it would grow into?

May 29th – I don’t know why, but I find these oak galls a bit horrible. They are distorted leaf buds, into which a wasp injects it’s egg and a chemical which causes the tree to grown the gall instead of a leaf stalk. The larva lives within the growth, feasting on it. When mature, the wasp eats it’s way out and the life cycle continues.

This tree on Clayhanger Common is peppered with these tumour-like galls – they look like fruit. The gall doesn’t harm the tree particularly, but it’s a very visible parasite.

there are many different types of gall wasp, all with different methods and growths. I’ve not seen this one before, and am unsure what it is specifically.

Nature can be very odd sometimes.

July 29th – Oak Apples, or galls, are an interesting thing. Very visible right now, they are the gall of a type of wasp that lays it’s egg inside new oak leaf buds. A chemical reaction caused by a secreted fluid causes the gall to grow, and inside, the wasp larva feeds on it, eventually burrowing it’s way to the surface and flying away.

Isn’t nature amazing?