Lesson Time: Hackberry Galls

Hey guys!

So, I’ve put up four blog posts so far for you guys. Most of them haven’t been all that interesting, I admit. Although I do love the giant squid one.

But I digress.

Today I’m going to introduce something that I’m going to make not only a regular thing, but potentially the dominant thing on my blog.  I’m going to call this section “Lesson Time”. What that means is instead of just giving you a quick “how I’m feeling” rundown of my day, which is honestly the type of blog I’d probably read sparingly if at all, I’m going to drop a little bit of knowledge that I used or learned during the day. So this means mos everything is going to be an example that’s pretty close to home for me, probably something in whatever geographic area I’m in, and always something in North America.

Because its all well and good to talk about the Amazon, but I like to start kids off with something in their own back yard.

 


 

So I’m going to start it out with on of my favorite “Ewwwwwww… what is that thing, Mr. Chris?” questions.

Image Source (yeah, yeah, my sourcing format sucks today. Deal.)

Image Source (On second thought, I kind of like this format)

So you may be asking yourself “Ewwwwwww… what is that thing, Mr. Chris?”

If you’ve got that gall to ask me that question, you’re probably not aware that this is also called a Gall (see what I did there? See? See? Oh God, I need to get some sleep tonight).

In particular this is called a Hackberry Gall. These little guys are only found on the Hackberry tree (generally Celtis Occidentalis, specifically), and are not known to spread to other nearby plants, unless those nearby plants are more Hackberry trees.

Now they come in a lot of different shapes and forms. Some of them look broad at the base and swoop up in sort of a teardrop shape, like the second picture. Others can look like almost a bulbous ball on a stick, the stick end just barely wide enough to connect the gall to the plant. Colloquially, I’ve heard these referred to as “nipple galls” in the past, although this may not be the commonly accepted term.

If you can’t figure out why they’d be called “nipple gall”, take off your shirt for a minute. Or google “nipple”. And I’ll just let you figure it out from there. I charge extra for that sort of help.

 

So what causes Hackberry Galls?

Psyllid

Image Source

Isn’t it cute?

This is called a Hackberry Psyillid.

Now Psyillids are all part of the family Psyillidae or the Jumping Plant Lice, although recently there has been some discussion of splitting them into different families. So when you look at these guys you may notice a resemblance to leafhoppers or planthoppers (those tiny insects that jump every time you touch the tall grass, more or less), and that’s because they are all in the Order Hemiptera. So they are related, albeit not terribly closely.

Now naturally these galls are formed because the Psyillids will lay their eggs in the leaf, which releases a chemical that causes all that funky growth. The larvae will then spend some time sucking the juices out of the plants until it’s time for them to hatch, at which point they simply tear their way out of the gall, spread their wings, and fly off into the sunset.

One thing about these guys that surprised me about these guys is that they don’t actually harm the tree.

Now, I’ve seen some pretty gnarly infestations of insects before, and this has always looked distinctly like one to me. But nope, apparently it can sometimes make the Hackberry drop its leaves early but otherwise… it has no terribly noticeable impact on the tree itself.

Although I’d be intrigued to see a real tree lifetime analysis of that data, somebody would have to pay for it and, alas, I haven’t found anyone who got funding for that riveting project.

 

 

So there you are!

A little bit of knowledge for your day.

 

Catch you cats on the flippity floppity.

 

PS – yes, I do actually say that in real life. I’m a pretty cool twenty-something.


 

And for further reading on the subject, or just anything having to do with insect damage or signs of insect inhabitance, I’d like to direct you over to Bug Tracks. I’ve read this fine gentleman for a while now and he’s become one of my go-to blogs for anything entomology. Plus maybe, just maybe, if I link him enough I’ll get to meet him one day…

Did you feel that? I just got chills. Entomology-gasm chills.

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