Gall wasps, also called gallflies, are a family (Cynipidae) in the wasp superfamily Cynipoidea within the suborder Apocrita of the order Hymenoptera. Their common name comes from the galls they induce on plants for larval development. About 1300 species of this generally very small creature (1–8 mm) are known worldwide, with about 360 species of 36 different genera in Europe and some 800 species in North America.
|at least 80 genera|
Like all Apocrita, gall wasps have a distinctive body shape, the so-called wasp waist. The first abdominal tergum (the propodeum) is conjoined with the thorax, while the second abdominal segment forms a sort of shaft, the petiole. The petiole connects with the gaster, which is the functional abdomen in apocritan wasps, starting with the third abdominal segment proper. Together, the petiole and the gaster form the metasoma, while the thorax and the propodeum make up the mesosoma.
The antennae are straight and consist of two or three segments. In many varieties, the backside of the mesosoma appears longitudinally banded. The wings are typically simply structured. The female's egg-depositing ovipositor is often seen protruding from the tip of the metasoma.
Reproduction and developmentEdit
The reproduction of the gall wasp is partly parthenogenesis, in which a male is completely unnecessary, and partly two-sex propagation. With most species an alternation of generations occurs, with one two-sex generation and one parthenogenic generation annually, whereas some species produce very few males and reproduce only by parthenogenesis. This process differentiates the various generations primarily in their appearance and the form of the plant galls they induce.
The plant galls mostly develop directly after the female insect lays the eggs. The inducement for the gall formation is largely unknown; discussion speculates as to chemical, mechanical, and viral triggers. The hatching larvae nourish themselves with the nutritive tissue of the galls, in which they are otherwise well-protected from external environmental effects. The host plants, and the size and shape of the galls are specific to the majority of gall wasps, with about 70% of the known species parasitizing various types of oak trees. Galls can be found on nearly all parts of such trees, including the leaves, buds, branches, and roots. Other species of gall wasps live in eucalyptus trees, rose bushes or maple trees, as well as many herbs. Frequently, the determination of the species is much easier through observation of the galls produced rather than the insect itself.
A gall provides the developing gall wasp with a safe refuge for the most vulnerable stage of its life cycle, but many other wasps have found a way to penetrate this defence and parasitise the larva(e) within. Some of these parasitoids use their long, hardened egg-laying tube (ovipositor) to bore into the gall and lay an egg on the helpless gall maker. A bedeguar or robin's pincushions gall, collected before the autumn and kept cool, may result in at least one species of parasitoid emerging instead of the gall maker. These wasps, such as Eurytoma rosae, are beautiful, metallic insects with long ovipositors. These parasitoids may, in turn, be preyed upon by other wasps, hyperparasitoids.
Most species of gall wasps live as gall-formers on oaks. One of the most well-known is the common oak gall wasp (Cynips quercusfolii), which induces characteristic, 2-cm in diameter, spherical galls on the undersides of oak leaves.
Andricus fecundatrix parthenogenetic generation, oak artichoke gall
Raspberry gall made by Diastrophus nebulosus, larvae inside gall
These turn reddish in the fall and are commonly known as oak apples. Light lentiform galls on the undersides of the same leaves are induced by Neuroterus quercusbaccarum; darker ones with bulging edges are formed by Neuroterus numismalis. Also striking are the galls of Cynips longiventris, which likewise can be found on the undersides of leaves, and are recognizable for their spheroidal shape and irregular red streaks. The oak potato gall wasp (Biorrhiza pallida) has round galls that grow to about 4 cm. These are known colloquially as oak potatoes. The latter type of gall is induced by this type of wasp not on the leaves, but on the roots of the oak. On the buds of young oak twigs, one can often find the hard-shelled galls of Andricus kollari and Andricus quercustozae. Galls do not cause significant harm to oak trees.
The galls of the rose gall wasp (Diplolepis rosae) are also distinctive and are known as bedeguars or robin's pincushions. These are found on the shoots of dog roses and have a length of up to 5 cm with red, long-haired outgrowths. Inside the galls are several chambers, which may be occupied by larvae.
There are two subfamilies, one extinct and one extant:
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- The population biology of oak gall wasps (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae) Stone et al. (2002) Annual Review of Entomology Vol. 47: 633-668
- Piper, Ross (2007). Extraordinary Animals: An Encyclopedia of Curious and Unusual Animals. Greenwood Press.
- Kidd, Russell (September 10, 2012), Tree galls are rarely cause for concern, Michigan State University Extension
- Yudell, Michael (July 1, 1999), "Kinsey's Other Report", Natural History, 108 (6), ISSN 0028-0712
- This article is based on a translation of the corresponding article from the German Wikipedia.
- Gauld, I. D.; Bolton, B. (1988). The Hymenoptera. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-858521-3.
- Honomichl, K.; Bellmann, H. (1994). Biologie und Ökologie der Insekten (in German). Stuttgart: Gustav Fischer. ISBN 978-3-437-25020-0.
- Liljeblad, J. (2002). Phylogeny and Evolution of Gall Wasps (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae). Department of Zoology, Stockholm University. 1–176. Doctoral thesis. ISBN 978-91-7265-494-5.