Hello folks who wonder if birds who occupy bird boxes are simply squatters of the bird world,

What do you think is the difference between this?

And this?

Is it that the former yellow mustard seeds are larger and the latter are smaller? It would be cool if life was that simple, but it seldom is.

Sure, the first one is a bunch of yellow mustard seeds that will eventually serve their purpose in life by ending up on a hot dog of an MLB fan. But the second ones are no mustard seeds, they are something that begin their lives every spring. In order to see them you must run to a Valley Oak tree near you in spring.

There you might see bright, tender green leaves on the tree.  On the underside of a leaf might be a teeny-tiny wasp not moving much, something like the scene below.

And since it is not moving a lot, that might pique your curiosity. Now there are two theories you might come up with:

Theory A: The wasp is suffering from constipation.

Theory B: The wasp is laying eggs on the leaf.

To confirm your suspicions, look at it from the side.

And that is how galls are formed. (What are galls btw?). But this particular gall is no ordinary run of the mill gall, this is the "jumping oak gall". To see the eggs become a gall, come back in the next few weeks. You will see a white structure on the underside of the leaves.

And soon enough you will see many more galls popping up on all the leaves of the Valley Oak by mid-summer.

If you ever look closely at one of these galls, they would look like pollen grains with spikes. Inside these structures are the larvae of the wasp.

After the galls reach a certain size, they will fall off the leaf and land at the base of the tree. In ideal cases, they will fall among the leaf litter and debris. Over here they will stay hidden and pupate in this gall structure and emerge as adults next spring. But we don't live in an ideal world, do we? Most of our trees have their leaf litter blown away by gas-powered leaf blowers to give us the illusion of a clean landscape. If that ever happens, these galls fall on the concrete but since there is nowhere to hide, they will kick into action to find a cool, dark place to hide. They will then start jumping.

In order to see how they do that; we will have to crack one open. As they say, you can't see the chicken till you crack the egg. There is something moving inside, I can see it.

What is happening inside is, the larva is constantly pulsating inside the gall, and there is not enough room to move around, so it ends up hitting the walls of the gall. When it hits the walls it causes the structure to jump or displace.

And these movements cause the galls to act like this, till they are hidden among the leaf litter away from prying predators.

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