Saturday, July 28, 2012
Do you know this culprit?
I was walking in the woods the other day when I came across a gall on this Hamamelis virginiana or Witch Hazel shrub. I didn't have a clue what insect made this gall on the tree so I thought I would do a little research. I found out that it is an aphid (witch-hazel cone gall aphid or Hormaphis hamamelidis) which in a "vampirish" fashion finds a nice juicy intersection of veins and then proceeds to suck the sap from her needle-like jaws. As the aphid feeds on the plant, she is inadvertently jabbing the leaf with her beak. This results in a reaction from the plant which rises up to form a Wilbur Bud** shaped house around her. This is the gall which actually saps sugar and nutrients from the plant that are given to the feeding insect. The galls have a way of tricking a plant into thinking that it is forming a new leaf, which allows the phloem to go into the gall and feeds the insect.
**side bar, if you have never experience Wilbur Buds, I strongly recommend you do so. They are a candy factory in Lititz, PA, and they make the most awesome candy I have encountered!!
Most plants are not severely affected by the aphids, but some can be. Check out what galls you may find when you are next walking in the woods!
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