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GALLS on OAKS

James R. Baker and S. B. Bambara, Extension Entomologists

CAUTION: This information is for North Carolina and may not apply to other areas.

[General Information] [Control] [Other Resources

General Information

wool sower gall imageSome insects and mites cause unusual growths on plants called galls. Galls may form on any part of the plant from the flowers, leaves and stems to the roots. The abnormal growths developing in plant tissue are due to the powerful enzymes given off by the immature gall-forming insect as it grows. The plant tissue is remarkably altered even to the point of replication of chromosomes without cell division.

Most galls are formed by three kinds of insects or mites: gall wasps, gall midges, and gall mites. Other less common gall producing insects are aphids, psyllids, and gall flies. Since most galls seem to do no permanent damage to their host plants, limited research has been done on the biology or control. This note is about galls formed on oak by gall wasps.

gall wasp photoMany gall wasps develop for 2 or 3 years in woody galls on the twigs of oaks. Adults then emerge from the twig galls during the winter. They lay eggs in the buds and die. When these eggs hatch, and new growth resumes on the oak, salivary secretions of the gall wasp grub act as powerful plant growth regulators and force the tree to form the gall. Gall wasp galls typically have an outer wall, a spongy fiber layer and a hard, seedlike structure inside of which the gall wasp grub develops. Although gall wasp grubs have chewing mouthparts, they do not seem to chew plant tissue. Evidently the gall secretes nutrients which the grubs lap up.
wool sower "seeds"

The wool sower gall is caused by secretions of grubs of a small gall wasp, Callirhytis seminator. The wool sower gall is specific to white oak and only occurs in the spring. The galls contain seed-like structures. The gall wasps develop inside these structures.

(This gall is also called the oak seed gall.) Fortunately, wool sower galls are usually never abundant so that the health of infested trees is rarely threatened. These wasps probably lay their eggs in midwinter and the eggs hatch just as the new growth emerges in spring. By the time the galls are noticed, it is too late to effectively control the gall wasps. Wool sower gall wasps probably have an alternate generation of wasps which develops in galls in the buds, twigs or on the leaves.

roly-poly gall on oak

Roly-poly galls are caused by gall wasps in the genus Andricus and are called roly-poly galls because the wasp grub develops in a seedlike shell and nutritive layer structure loose inside the hollow gall. The roly-poly gall is probably an alternate generation for a twig gall not now recognized. The roly-poly gall is a very specialized gall as it has no spongy layer of plant fibers. Evidently the nutritive layer absorbs nutrients directly from the outer wall as it rolls around in the gall. Roly-poly galls are not likely to cause significant plant injury. (Andricus coronus at right.)

roly poly gall image

stem gall

Cynipid Dyrocosmus floridensis stem gall on red oak.

acorn plum gall

Cynipid Amphibolips quercusjuglans, Acorn plum gall.

stem gall

Cynipid Callirhytis clavula stem gall on white oak.

Bassettia pallida on live oakBassettia pallida gall Oak Apple Gall Development - Cynipid wasp Amphibolips confluentagreen oak apple gall split open oak apple galldried oak apple gall Stem or flower-like gall Andricus quercusfoliatus on live oakandricus gall
    Galls wasps in the genus Neuroterus have some of the most unusual galls. Neuroterus irregularis causes an irregular gall on the leaves of post oak. Neuroterus saltarius forms tiny galls on the leaves of post oak that are dehiscent, that is, they drop off of the leaf. A sunken scar marks the spot of the gall. If enough galls form on a leaf, the leaf may die back. One Extension agent reported that so many Neuroterus galls had dropped out of one tree that the ground appeared to be covered with sawdust!   N. sal gall damage galls on oak leaf curling itneuroterus leaf gall

Control

Usually by the time a gall is noticed, it is too late to carry out adequate control measures. In order to properly time spray applications for gall wasp control, collect some of the galls and store them in plastic bags outside, in the shade. When the small, dark wasps emerge, it is time to spray. If after a few weeks no wasps have emerged, then collect another sample and store them in the shade and wait. Gouty oak gall wasps emerge from the stem galls in winter. Many of the wasps from leaves and succulent stem gall emerge in late spring or early summer. When the gall wasps emerge, spray the tree thoroughly. Sevin (carbaryl) pesticide is labeled for gall wasp control on shade trees and park trees. Do not allow public use of treated areas during applications or until sprays have dried. These formulations are suitable for home use, however, chemical control is rarely effective and often not worth the expense. These galls are generally not life-threatening to the tree.  Damage is mainly cosmetic to a mature tree. Damage to young trees by stem galls in a nursery setting may cause weakened branches in a tree as it matures. Attempts at protective sprays may be warranted in such a setting.

See also, the Pest News article on Oak Galls .
Doug Caldwell's Note on marbles in your trees.
Florida Insect Note .

References of interest:
Eliason, E. A. and D. A. Potter. 2001. Spatial distribution and parasitism of leaf galls induced by Callirhytis cornigera (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae) on pin oak in Kentucky. Environ. Entomol. 30: 280-287.
Eliason, E. A. and D. A. Potter. 2001. Horned oak gall biology and management. J. Arbor. 27: 92-101.
Eliason, E. A. and D. A. Potter. 2000. Budburst phenology, plant vigor, and host genotype effects on the leaf-galling generation of Callirhytis cornigera (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae) on pin oak. Environ. Entomol. 29: 1199-1207.
Eliason, E. A. and D. A. Potter. 2000. Biology of Callirhytis cornigera (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae) and its associated gall community in Kentucky. Environ. Entomol. 29: 551-559.Graham N. Stone, Karsten Scho¨nrogge, Rachel J. Atkinson, David Bellido, and Juli Pujade-Villar. 2002. The Population Biology of Oak Gall Wasps (HYMENOPTERA: CYNIPIDAE). Annu. Rev. Entomol.



Other Resources

For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service personnel.
Published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.
© 2001 NC Cooperative Extension Service
Prepared by: James R. Baker & S. B. Bambara, Extension Entomologists

ENT/ort-05       May 1994 (Revised) November, 2002

Web page last reviewed January, 2011 by the webperson.