Φεβρουάριος 21, 2024

Gall wasps are out and about, so should you!

Hi everyone!

Remember how I accidentally reared a lot of wasps from fallen branches of valley oak, just about a year ago? https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/149423290

Apparently, this was a good way to rear adults out of otherwise-hard-to-find cryptic bud/twig galls, many of which are actually the missing generations of known species. So this year, with full intention, I’m currently repeating the same process and have already gotten many wasps (both cynipids and chaicids) by now: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2024-01-28&d2=2024-02-20&place_id=any&taxon_id=47201&term_id=1&term_value_id=2,22,24&user_id=norikonbu&verifiable=any

Also this time, thanks to the ongoing Cynipini Larval Sequencing Pilot Study (https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/megachile/83377-cynipini-and-associates-larval-sequencing-pilot-study) managed by @moneykittens in Forbes Lab at University of Iowa, I have peace of mind that all my specimens will be accepted and analyzed whether they are inducers, inquilines or parasitoids.

Just recently, Dr. James Nicholls, one of the leading cynipid experts and co-authors of many new described species, shared some exciting results from his team’s DNA analyses. He generously granted permission to share his preliminary results with others so that more of us could contribute to this ongoing research collectively.

Here’s an excerpt from his email:
“I am all for open science, especially when it involves the efforts of citizen scientists. Providing feedback about results and possible future routes of exploration, and sharing that with your network, is really important and helps get everyone enthusiastic with the knowledge that what they are finding is useful. The sort of network that Adam [Kranz] has been establishing is an invaluable resource – these days there just aren’t the resources available to universities or museums to undertake the sorts of expeditions that Kinsey used to do, with a large team of assistants and collecting millions of galls. A citizen science network linked in with professionals allows for answering all sorts of interesting questions… But these networks require interaction both ways, so I have no problems with you sharing what we’ve been discussing to get others involved or simply interested in what is around them in nature.”

Most of his report was about amazing discovery from other legendary Gallformers contributors such as @nfurlan and @calconey but also our regional luminaries like Ron Russo and Joyce Gross, so I’ll save those details for better occasions (also because it’s a lot more than I can digest all at once :D). But I’m proud to report that a few of my specimens from last year were included among them, so I’m happy to share these few California-specific results (including one collected by @leslie_flint) here.

• Neuroterus from a stem swelling (NO1; https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/154599224), provisionally identified as N. evolutus. DNA shows it to match Neuroterus fragilis, implying N. evolutus and N. fragilis are alternate generations of the same species. Ideally we’d like to rear, sequence and examine the morphology of more of this species in order to confirm this matching of generations.
• A male specimen reared from a cryptic bud gall on Q.douglasii in California (NO2A; https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/153764258). Cytochrome b and opsin sequences confirm this as the previously unknown sexual generation of Neuroterus quaili.
• A petiole swelling gall on Q. lobata in California (LF1; https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/155030500); a provisional identification as Neuroterus fragilis based on the gall is confirmed based on cytb data.

If you find this discovery interesting, I’d also like many of you to collect some fresh twigs from various oaks, put them in Ziploc bags and see what happens. Apparently it’s this time of the year for many wasps to emerge (right before new leaves come out), and since we’ve been having a series of rainstorms throughout CA, this is a golden opportunity to look for fresh downed branches (true “windfalls”) under oak trees, which may give us a rare glimpse into the diversity of oak canopies that we normally can’t get to. So far I collected a fair amount of Q. lobata twigs but don’t have much else, so if anyone wants to try this experiment with any other oaks, that would also be very cool.

The most important step before you get started is to prepare a few crucial supplies for preserving your specimens for future DNA analyses in mind. The last thing we want is to waste any precious lives and valuable data for science! Here are a few basic supplies you need, and feel free to contact me (either as comments below or DM) if you have any questions along the way:
• 95% (or higher) non-denatured ethanol (@cynestor gave me this info and this is a great place to buy a small amount without paying a lot of money: https://www.ebay.com/itm/225299332864)
• Small plastic tubes (0.5ml is plenty big because those wasps are tiny. You may not need this quantity but I’m sure you can find something similar: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BBV2GJW6/?th=1)
• A small eye dropper or syringe to fill tubes
• Tweezers to transfer insects to tubes

I also want to emphasize that everyone should always check regulations of local trails/parks and collect responsibly. I’d like to share this wonderful “The Insect Collectors’ Code” written by Dr. Carolyn Trietsch and Dr. Andrew Deans at Penn State: https://academic.oup.com/ae/article/64/3/156/5098337
I’ve been wishing to have an ethical guideline like this for a while, so was happy to learn about it during the WaspID Course 2024 I took in January. BTW, this online course (founded/directed by @louisnastasi, taught by @mileszhang and many other Hymenoptera experts around the world) was an awesome learning experience, just in time for documenting all sorts of tiny wasps emerging in my rearing bags! (Thanks @kimberlietx for your recommendation :))

Last but not least, thanks @megachile again for connecting citizen scientists/naturalists with the world’s best experts in such a mutually rewarding way! Those who are not in CA, he also keeps adding his own “wishlists” across the US so check back his journals and observations to see what’s new: https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/megachile

Thank you all for taking time to read!
Noriko

Posted on Φεβρουάριος 21, 2024 0349 ΠΜ by norikonbu norikonbu | 18σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Φεβρουάριος 03, 2023

Let’s look for more spring oak galls this year!

Hi everyone!

Bisexual generation (sexgen) galls of most oak gall wasps are underobserved, so let’s keep our eye out for them this spring! The key is to look on the same trees you’ve seen lots of summer/fall galls, when new buds/leaves/flowers come out. If you’re interested, feel free to share this post or tag others in the comments.

@megachile posted this wonderfully detailed info on Forum (https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/spring-oak-gall-wasp-hunting/38630) so I highly recommend reading it to get ready.

I also wanted to share some examples of my own interest for our region, California.

Andricus kingi (Red Cone GW)
Common host: Quercus lobata (Valley Oak)
Red Cone galls are so common, yet there’s no observation of their sexgen galls to this day! This really blows my mind because I’ve seen some trees covered with thousands of Red Cones in summer. So I plan to revisit such trees this spring, and hope you can too. (The link above also has more tips how to look for these.)

Cynips douglasii (Spined Turban GW)
Common host: Quercus lobata (Valley Oak), Quercus douglasii (Blue Oak)
Another common galls in summer, but sexgen galls are still rarely observed. Here’s what they look like:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=any&taxon_id=469443&verifiable=any&field:Gall%20generation=bisexual

Andricus gigas (Saucer GW)
Common host: Quercus douglasii (Blue Oak)
Apparently there are many look-alike of this sexgen galls so we definitely need more observations. Again, look on the same trees where you’ve seen lots of Saucer galls in summer. For now, we don’t have much info other than this: https://www.gallformers.org/gall/1487

Andricus pattersonae (Plate GW)
Common host: Quercus douglasii (Blue Oak)
Similar to A. gigas, so look on the same trees where you’ve seen lots of Plate galls in summer. These tiny conical galls could also be sexgen galls of many other species but we don’t have enough data to compare at this moment:
https://www.gallformers.org/gall/1558

Cynips quercusechinus (Urchin GW)
Common host: Quercus douglasii (Blue Oak)
Another species with no sexgen gall observations, so who wants to be the first?
https://www.gallformers.org/gall/1725

Heteroecus pacificus (Beaked Spindle GW)
Common host: Quercus chrysolepis (Canyon Live Oak)
This one has a little more photo references so shouldn’t be hard to find, should it?
https://www.gallformers.org/gall/1961
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=any&taxon_id=123507&verifiable=any&field:Gall%20generation=bisexual
https://joycegross.com/images.php?search=2&taxon=Heteroecus+pacificus&ordr=

Unknown Mini-Leaf GW
Common host: Quercus lobata (Valley Oak)
Last year, I found a tree with lots of “Mini-Leaf” galls (https://www.gallformers.org/gall/1944) in spring. Then in summer, I revisited the same tree and found lots of Rosette galls (Andricus wiltzae):
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/119291719
It may be my wishful thinking that Mini-Leaf is the sexgen of Rosette (because they are both leafy green :)) but as you can read in the discussion above, I’m not confident with rearing adults so if anyone wants to try rearing adults from Mini-Leaf galls this spring, it’d be great!

This is just a tip of iceberg so if you know a spot with any particular galls abundant in summer, look for sexgen versions of them in this spring!

Noriko

Posted on Φεβρουάριος 03, 2023 0703 ΜΜ by norikonbu norikonbu | 15σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

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