Leaf of the Day: Thinking Time and Two Tiny Wasp Galls..

Today was one of those days where the long twisting path of good intentions takes the whole day to navigate, with little to show.. well on paper anyway. I have finished the essay, the 4th rewrite after finding yet more fascinating information about Catesby, stretched some big paper, cleared a space for the even bigger drawing board that has the paper on it, which involved rearranging the nature table yet again, and thought about what to put on its gleaming, white, pristine and untouchable surface.
I am at the ideas stage of a few projects which all seem to need “thinking about”. Thinking time is a great part of being a designer or artist or writer etc. Sometimes it is a good excuse for going for a coffee or not doing anything at all, but usually it is just a necessary part of the process. Staring into the middle distance is not so much a state of catatonia, as a state of contemplation.(maybe sometimes it is hard to tell the difference). I often just sit down with a sketchbook and scribble and have done quite a lot of scribbles over the last few days. If any of them develop legs I will post the development process but without an end result they would be incomprehensible.
The only problem I have with ideas is having too many. They circle round and round my head like swarms of annoying flies and sometimes are just as difficult to catch. If I don’t sketch them immediately, they are gone. Then there is the agonising, decision-making process; which ones to pursue?.. and then I am plagued by the possibility/ probability that I have made the wrong choice.

So I was pleased to leave all that and simply draw this little piece of wood with the two tiny wasp galls. I have found even more photos from Berkeley University’s Calphotos, which has a staggering 290 photos of wasp galls, most by Joyce Gross who took some of yesterdays wonderful photos. See this great resource here . These I am sure are what I found, created by Live Oak gall wasp.

I also neglected the architect of these wonderful creations yesterday. These tiny Gall Wasps differ from species to species but here is the Live Oak gall wasp by Edward S. Ross from Enature.com field guides,


Tomorrow some thing very important is happening here in America and I doubt I will get any drawing done !


Two Tiny Wasp Galls

Leaf of the day: Galls and more Galls

I have spent a large part of today sorting out my nature table which is now overrun with twigs and bits of leaves, many seed pods, cones and dried leaves. The pods from the milkweeds have burst open and errant fairy seeds waft around the room with every breath of air. It’s truly a jumble, but in amongst it all was this small leaf I had picked up one day, with two wasp galls firmly attached to the underneath. It’s such a pleasing object. Not quite a exquisite as the potter wasp’s beautifully made pot which I still have here, and not as comical as the gouty galls I drew some time ago (both here). But the simple arrangement of two perfect little spheres on this leaf make this wasp a bit of an artist.

Galls and other insect built homes are fascinating but these are particularly creative. They are the designs of the Gall Wasps, Family Cynipidae, who, although wasps, are tiny, often no bigger than a fruit fly. The galls are formed by abnormal growth of the plant cells stimulated by chemical secretions produced by the wasps either feeding or laying eggs. The plant tissue grows up around the eggs to protect the larvae, but why they are such extraordinary shapes and colours is a mystery. I can see that some imitate twigs but something red and spotted is not really very well camouflaged.
There are saucer galls, beaked twig galls, dunce cap galls, red cone galls, and spined Turk’s cap galls and everywhere I looked I found more. But this site, BugGuide. net here will give you wonderful identification photos by a variety of photographers. Here are some of the examples.

Starburst Gall

Spined Turbaned Gall

Disk Gall

Saucer gall

Horned gall

Hairstalk Gall

Beaked Twig Gall

Spiny Leaf Gall

More photos and a informative article from Hawk Conservancy Trust .org here

Robin’s Pincushion Gall

Ramshorn Gall

There is an excellent and informative poster “Wasp Galls on Californian Oaks” by Ron Russo here . His comment rings true, “the behaviours and structures that have evolved for the successful survival of Gall Wasps are among the most intriguing stories of nature” It’s a great poster.. Hmm.. decisions? .. If I just move the Nine Inch Nails poster over a bit, there will be room for the Oak Galls.. :).

But they are fabulous aren’t they? I realise now I have a couple more which I thought were tiny fungi growing on a twig. I may draw those tomorrow.

Oak Galls