Cynipini and Associates Larval Sequencing Pilot Study

We have an exciting opportunity coming up in the world of oak gall research!

TL;DR: we're looking for volunteers to collect oak wasp galls, put them in a sealed container, label them clearly and carefully, and mail them within 2-3 days to:

Andrew Forbes
The University of Iowa
434A Biology Building
Iowa City, IA 52242

Long version:

If you’ve posted many gall observations by now, there’s a good chance I’ve asked you to return to a site to collect a gall and rear adults. Rearing adults of the inducing wasp is important because it’s the only way taxonomists can describe an unknown species. We’ve had a remarkable amount of success with this so far, and I was able to bring dozens of specimens reared by iNat users to taxonomists this July at the International Gall Symposium thanks to those efforts.

But if you’ve been involved in this process, you know that rearing has a ton of failure points. You might not know the gall is worth collecting until you leave the site. You don’t know when the gall will be mature enough to viably collect. The gall could mold or dry out or you might rear parasitoids or inquilines instead of the inducer.

For this new project, we don’t have to worry about any of that. The goal is to study the whole community at each point in time using genetic sequencing of larvae. We’re trying to determine when different species show up in galls and which species of parasitoid and inquiline are associated with which inducers. In other words, no more waiting and no need to rear (we will still want to rear plenty of things but galls collected too early or too late to rear inducers are now valuable too).

We are currently working on a grant proposal that will get us some funds to support this work in the lab and in the field for the next few years. This fall, we’re conducting a pilot study to find issues and opportunities in the workflow we hope to expand in the grant. Here’s what we’d like you to do, starting now and extending into Gall Week (9/2-10) and beyond.

Collect oak galls and place them in a sealed container so they don’t dry out (ziploc bags work, or a plastic condiment cup with a lid). If the gall is detachable you can remove it from the plant; if it’s integral, you can either put the whole leaf or host tissue or cut as needed to fit in your container. Ideally each container should contain only one gall species, but multiple galls of a species can go together if they share a host, date, and location.
Label each distinct collection with the following information:
iNat observation number
Host tree species
Location (including lat/long)
Date of collection
Collector name

Within 2-3 days of collection, place them in a padded envelope or small box and mail them to this address
Andrew Forbes
The University of Iowa
434A Biology Building
Iowa City, IA 52242

If you can’t get the galls mailed out in a short timeframe and are confident/curious to try it, you can also dissect the larvae out yourself and put them in 0.5-2 mL vials (eg) of 95% ethanol and store them in the freezer. If there are people who are willing to consolidate collections and do this dissection in bulk, let me know and we can mail vials prefilled with ethanol to you.

DO NOT put dry galls in the freezer--this will destroy the larvae and make it impossible to preserve them for shipment. It may be possible to keep the fresh galls in the fridge to keep the larvae alive longer to consolidate a larger shipment collected over several days, but we haven’t experimented with this. It would be valuable if someone wanted to try it.

It’s your responsibility to make sure that you collect only where it is legally permissible to do so--make sure you avoid collecting in National Parks or similar locations. Most municipal parks should be fine but it’s always good to double check. Use your judgment in terms of collection effort, but generally speaking your ability to affect populations of these insects is negligible.

If anyone is planning to organize any events for Gall Week, you could consolidate collections and make a single shipment from your area, which would save a lot of money overall. Broadly speaking, if you are going to make a shipment, it would make sense to try to collect enough galls of enough species to make it worth the postage.

In terms of priorities: I’ve made a few posts in the past about things I’m especially interested in, but really there are just too many species and generations to list. Anything listed as “Undescribed” on is a top priority and we can’t get too many. A few of the most common species (all the Belonocnema species, Bassettia pallida, and Druon quercuslanigerum on live oak, Amphibolips confluenta and Philonix fulvicollis in the eastern US) are no longer needed, but many other very abundant galls are still of interest. Generally speaking, err on the side of assuming that something is worth collecting, unless you have a specific plan to do something else with it later.

I’m unfortunately not going to have a ton of time to guide everyone on this individually, so I’m hoping that this project provides the space for new and existing members of the wonderful gall community to take initiative on their own and to support each other. That said, feel free to tag me or message me with questions and I’ll try to help.

You can also tag Dr Forbes at @aforbes10 or contanct him by email at or tag Guerin Brown at @moneykittens. They'll be the ones receiving and processing your specimens.

Posted on Αύγουστος 19, 2023 0559 ΠΜ by megachile megachile


Do you have a list of "no longer needed" species from California?

Αναρτήθηκε από norikonbu 11 μήνες πριν

I don't but maybe @aforbes10 can get one from the Prior lab?

Αναρτήθηκε από megachile 11 μήνες πριν

I do actually have a decent list here, which should be (mostly) inclusive of the Prior Lab's collections. These are the galls for which we have good sampling (forgive me for spelling mistakes and if gall names have changed):

Neuroterus washingtonensis (sex)
Neuroterus saltatorius (Sex AND asex)
Andricus quercuscalifornicus (asex)
Andricus opertus (sex)
Andricus coortus (asex)
Burnettweldia washingtonensis (asex)
Disholcaspis mellifica/eldoradensis (asex)
Andricus kingi (sex)
Andricus pedicellatum (sex)
Besbicus mirabilis (asex)
Disholcaspis simulata/mamillana (asex)

Αναρτήθηκε από aforbes10 11 μήνες πριν

Should be Andricus kingi asex right?

Αναρτήθηκε από megachile 11 μήνες πριν

I have some A. kingi asex gen (the little red cones?), but Kirsten Prior has collections from both generations, and her sexgen collections are much better, with a good number of parasites too. I haven't seen pics of those but i can ask her about them if you think they may be something else. I do also recall you were telling me that there was some kind of problem with A. kingi, but my now-cryptic notes just read "A. kingi -> Feron kingi -> our sample Andricus sp." so maybe this relates?

Αναρτήθηκε από aforbes10 11 μήνες πριν

Well Victor is redescribing Feron kingi sexgen in his new paper and iirc it's a different gall than the one previously described as such. If Kirsten has good observations of the sexgen that would be definitely of interest to me.

Αναρτήθηκε από megachile 11 μήνες πριν

If you have a list of "no longer needed" galls from the Northeast, could you please share it? Thanks

Αναρτήθηκε από scoutingforplants 10 μήνες πριν

Philonix fulvicollis and Amphibolips cookii and confluenta are the main ones I know of

Αναρτήθηκε από megachile 10 μήνες πριν

Just stumbled across this and excited about it, as I've come across at least three galls over the past six months that are currently undescribed. Will look forward to participating over the next spring / summer / fall season if there's a grant extended for this and happy to have found the post.

Αναρτήθηκε από scarletskylight 7 μήνες πριν

Just to confirm, this applies to oak galls only. Is that correct?

Αναρτήθηκε από kdff 3 μήνες πριν

Yes, this study focuses on oak gall wasps and their community

Αναρτήθηκε από megachile 3 μήνες πριν


Αναρτήθηκε από kdff 3 μήνες πριν

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