Monday, November 16, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened...

So this week, some of my classes will be looking at galls. I actually started with one class on Friday, and it was pretty neat. We found them, cut them open (which, I know, is committing insecticide, but we just cut open a very small percentage of them) and saw what was inside. Some galls are empty at this time of the year, but others have critters that overwinter in there, and we made some very cool discoveries. Expect some more gall postings this week, assuming I have similar findings with other classes.

Well, I had this oak leaf in my office. I picked it up a few weeks ago because of the shape and the veins, I just liked it and thought I might sketch it at a later time -- never happened. But the leaf happened to have a gall on it. On Friday after my class, I was thinking that it might be a good idea to have a "sample gall," so kids would know what to look for besides just the goldenrod galls, with which they are familiar. I put the oak leaf on my desk so I would remember to bring it to class.

This morning, when I arrived, I noticed right away that the gall had become less round, had flattened a bit. I inspected it, and found that the gall itself had a hole in it -- there was not one when I left on Friday, of this I am certain. And there was a tiny spider near the hole. (Either it emerged from the gall... or it ate whatever did and decided that the gall was good hunting grounds.) There are about 800 types of galls that live on oak trees... 800! Just on oak trees!!!... so it's entirely possible that one of those 800 types is a spider and does come out around now.
See it right there, above the gall in the photo? The actual size of that gall is about 3-4 mm. So I thought that was pretty cool; the gall "hatched" right at my desk. I put the spider and gall in a bug box to show my class today, but then I will release it and let it take its chances in the wild, so as to keep the arachnacide(?) to a minimum.

UPDATE: 2:42 pm. That spider has been safely released. I cut open that type of gall and discovered that the spider did, indeed, come from inside that gall. Cool.

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