Know What These Little ‘Apples’ are in Maine? You’ll Wish You Didn’t.
We all know Maine is the most tree-covered state in the US...
As such, even in the most populated areas of Maine, there are tons of trees of all shapes and sizes. I only live about ten minutes outside of the city, and I have gigantic pines on my property, huge maples, and birches for days. Like most yards, I also have tons of oak trees.
In fact, let's take a minute to marvel at the majestic oak... Of all the trees in your yard, the oak is practically a small habitat all by itself. So many creatures of all varieties depend on the mighty oak to provide it shelter, or food, or sometimes even both. We've all seen the giant squirrel nests up in the top, presumably chock full of acorns for winter.
There's one oak dweller though, that's enough to make you a little nauseous.
Ever see these little green "blisters" on an oak tree? Or maybe you've found a brownish pod version of this, lying on the ground somewhere and wondered what they were. These are called "oak apples" or oak "gall". Most people assume it's some kind of little naturally occurring infection or something. Noooope. It's way more gross than that.
These little balls are actually the home, so to speak, for a gall wasp. Adult gall wasps will inject a chemical into the leaf buds as they're forming, and these little green balls form in that spot, providing us with these funky looking mini-apples. But you may not want to think about eating one...
There's a whole life form growing in there.
When gall wasps are in the larva stage, they grow inside the balls until they mature. While inside, they feed off the nourishment provided by the ball and tree. Eventually, a full grown gall wasp will emerge from the ball and do it's thing. Eventually, those adults will do the same thing, and the process continues.
Unless of course, a competing kind of wasp manages to penetrate the shell of the oak gall, and lays their own eggs inside. So even inside the cozy home of the oak gall, the larval gall wasps are not safe. Mother Nature can be such a cruel jerk at time.
But still, knowing that those little balls on the tree actually contain some grody baby wasp isn't really something that sounds like good news either. Sigh... No winning.
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