Do you ever get involved in a project only to completely freak yourself out and give yourself a case of the heebie jeebies? Then you have to put yourself into a timeout just to get your brain to re-boot and move forward. Kind of like when you are stacking fire wood and you feel a little tickle on your arm only to find a wee tick blissfully navigating the hairs just above your wrist as it saunters happily toward your jugular. Then for the rest of the wood stacking time you feel more ticks, ghost ticks apparently as every time you look there isn't a tick in sight. Well it just so happens that one of our recent leaf raking experiences turned into a moment of the heebie jeebies. We had finished our leaf raking for the day and we were just admiring all of our handy work when we noticed a small growth sticking to the underside of an oak leaf. It was weird and really stuck on the leaf. I mean stuck! In order to remove it you had to tear the leaf. Within minutes we found a pink crystal like fungus stuck to a leaf. Then all of a sudden we were seeing many strange growths on several leaves. Some seemed related but there were at least a dozen different shapes and sizes. After collecting about fifty leaves we took all our little “fungi” into the house to get a better look under the microscope. Not knowing what to expect I was completely startled to see a tiny worm wiggling around and trying to reach the lens of the microscope. “Oh … my …. gosh!!!! Yuck !!! .....” was all I could manage as I bounced up and down trying to shake the vision from my brain. “Gross!!! It's an egg sack or something.” For a brief moment an episode of the Twilight Zone flashed into my brain as it dawned on me that we had just carefully carried at least fifty of these things into the house. Needless to say, they exited the house with a lot less care. Once I stopped feeling squirmy I went to see my 'ole friend Google and I set to work trying to find out what our yard was infested with. It took hours and the day was shot because I was not getting up from the computer until I figured this mystery out. Well, as it turned out we have “Galls”. What is a gall you ask? It is an abnormal growth caused by the irritation of an egg of a Gall Wasp. The wasp lay their eggs on oak leaves and then when the egg hatches the larva comes out. (That must have been who I met under the microscope lens). The egg irritates the leaf causing a gall to form around the larva. The gall becomes the food source of the larva as it matures into a wasp. So now, we have a Gall Wasp farm sitting on the table. Yes, I went back outside and gathered up all the leaves with galls, apologized to them, and now they have a new home. I'll post an update when an if they hatch, providing I get past the heebie jeebies.
here are two leaf galls we found
below is an adult Gall Wasp ~ (image from http://www.pbase.com/image/52682866)
All you ever wanted to know about Gall Wasps can be found here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gall_wasp
Update ~ June 21st, 2012: Well it has been exactly six months since we collected the galls. No I haven't been waiting for the exact six month mark, it is just a God thing that I chose today to post an update. :-) None of our little galls have hatched, so either they had already hatched when we found them (except for the little fellow wiggling in the microscope) or we killed them by putting them in captivity or maybe they are still waiting to emerge. I just don't know but my heebie jeebies have subsided for the most part.