Thursday, July 17, 2008

Jumping Oak Galls

I know sometimes I give you way more useless information than you really need or want, but golly, I've just got to show you these things. Every year about this time, millions of these little seed-like things fall down from the oak trees. But they're not seeds, because we all know the seed of the oak tree is an acorn. They cover the patio and make a crunching sound when you step on them. And here's the creepy part; if you sit still you can actually hear them hopping. Why? Because there's a little animal in them! I know you're just dying to know what the creature is, so here you are: it's the larva of Neuroterus saltatorius, a tiny wasp, or the Jumping Oak Gall. Amazingly, those tiny creatures flop around inside there enough to make the galls jump 1/2" off the ground! They jump day and night until they eventually end up in low spots; street gutters, joints in the patio and driveway, and cracks in the soil. But they never entirely disappear; we sweep up millions of them every year.

We have lots of galls here; the common apple gall,

some red Hershey kiss galls,
and some pretty pink turban galls,
but the jumping galls are the most annoying because of their sheer numbers. And the fact that they fall in the middle of summer. In your hair. In your sweet tea. In your dinner. Uck. Oh well, I guess that's just life Amongst The Oaks.

If you want to find out more you can check this site. Or you could just go back to your regularly scheduled programming. Sorry.


Tara said...

Wow, LAura, how unusual! Never heard of this!

cocoadeluxe said...

Uhh.... I have never seen this before.. makes me more curious !

Mary said...

Yikes! And here I thought California was an outdoor paradise... LOL

becky up the hill said...

Oh my! Our Oaks don't drop these little galls..yet! I've seen a few others tho, they do come in pretty colors don't they? Life under my Oaks is a love-dislike relationship...they are deciduous Blue Oaks..except the ones in front are live oaks...I live in a subdivision, not on property..but have 9 large Blue oaks! This is the funniest thing they have dropped. Earlier this summer chicken rained down from the Oaks..onto my vintage tablecloth set for guests. Chicken? To this day I know not..but my guess is a squirrel or bird found some chicken and decided to eat right above my table. I still remember my husband calling me 'Becky you better come here'...I looked out the window and saw him with this puzzled expression. I felt the Oaks were having a laugh that day.

Beverly said...

I don't believe we have these on our oak trees.

Fascinating! And, they really look kind of cool.

spot said...

fascinating pics, Laura. Have we started a post modernist rural naturalist movement?

have you seen my gall wasp pic?

The Scarlett Rose Garden said...

Well! The *gall* of those little buggers, lol!
Never heard of them.
Cool pics!

Anonymous said...

The hoppy things are at it again~!


Sling said...

Hi Laura!
I ran across your blog while doing some web surfing for a post of my own about these curious jumping 'seeds'.
I saw them for the first time a few days ago in Chico,California,and just had to know what they were.
It's my understanding that they only occur in the Sacramento Valley.
Probably why some of your readers have never seen them in their native Oaks.

Anonymous said...

I was at my parents in Folsom Ca. and witnessed this phenomenon. These little things were popping all over the place and made a crunching sound that made it sound like it was raining.

Anonymous said...

I was in Elk Grove at a public pool for a birthday party. These things were all over the ground under the oak trees. I have thousands of them in a clear container and the have not stopped "popping". The are mesmerizing to watch.

Anonymous said...

We had them all over the place in our booth at the Oregon Country Fair in Veneta this year. It was the first year we have noticed them, though we have been in the same spot for about 40 years. Puzzling why this year, and why we never noticed them before. Perhaps this year is a "bumper crop".