This weekend, I had the chance to visit the Discovery Museum in Sacramento, CA. While the museum itself was pretty awesome for a small space, I was most intrigued by something I saw outside. The museum is surrounded by trails with some riparian habitat and plenty of oak trees in the area. Typical California woodland. All these oaks had these funny looking “apples” all over them which are really not apples at all. They’re called galls, and are actually quite common if you know where to look. Often, wasps or flies will lay their eggs in plant tissues (leaves or stems of plants) to develop. The immature insect emits chemicals that mimic plant growth hormones thereby creating a protective covering for themselves as they develop. Once they’re mature, they chew their way out of the gall and fly free!
This is a great blog post about the Oak Gall Wasps of California: Left Coast Naturalist: Oak Gall Wasps – the Cynipids.
via Oak Gall Wasps.
One of my good friends from grad school now studied passalid beetles at the University of Kentucky. While she’s interested in cooperation and sociality, it just so happens that passalids are of interest to another group of researchers.
Dr. Eoin Brodie works at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and is also an assistant adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (whew, that’s a mouthful).
One of their research projects is to understand how these beetles might optimize biofuel production by studying the beetle’s symbiotic gut relationships. Let’s hear it for my alma mater!
Passalid beetles: Nature’s efficient lignocellulosic biorefineries | Brodie Environmental Microbiology Group @ LBNL.
And the cicadas return…check out this great post on The Two-Way from NPR about RadioLab’s quest to track the emergence!
via It’s Almost Cicada Time! Help Radiolab Track #Swarmageddon : The Two-Way : NPR.