Insect Galls: The Invasion of the Brown Fuzzies!
I think it's appropriate that this is happening so close to Halloween. If you've tuned in for GardenLine in the last two weeks — or if you could read my listener e-mail, — you would have to conclude we're under attack by the Brown Fuzzies.
In all the years I've been doing GardenLine, I can't remember ever getting as many calls and e-mails asking "what are these fuzzy brown growths on my oak tree?" I'm going to blame it on last January's freeze.
They're insect galls, and the two most common we see in Houston are (1) the brown fuzzy nodes on the bottoms of oak leaves, and (2) the tumor-like growths on smaller limbs.
Galls appear as the result of an insect, mite, fungal or bacterial irritation. But the ones most often seen in our area are the work of small, beneficial wasps that lay eggs on the plant, then use their stingers to trigger reactions in the tree. The tree encases the eggs in galls, which house and feed the young. The offspring dig their way out, then ants, spiders and beneficial insects such as lacewing larvae move in.
Pea-like growths can form on leaf undersides when a small wasp lays her eggs in the leaf tissue. The hedgehog gall wasp triggers leaf galls with a tan to orange-ish fuzz. That's the one in abundance this year.
The mealy oak gall wasp causes woody twig and stem galls on live oaks. And the oak apple wasp is responsible for the spherical, spongy-filled galls on red oaks.
Galls are generally harmless, so treatment is unnecessary and a complete waste of money. That's because insecticides that target gall-producing insects must be applied when the insects are laying eggs. Normally, that's in the late spring. This year, the wasps seemed to have been here in late summer and early September. So, we're seeing the insect galls of the later-than-normal egg-laying wasps.
Affected foliage may drop early, though. And heavy populations of large galls, such as the gouty gall, may cause some dieback or limb drop. But the use of an insecticide may harm beneficial insects that offer biological control. And remember, you can prune and discard infested parts if you like.
If you are slightly freaked out about galls, remember they won't be there this time next year. Bottom Line: Don't Fear The Brown Fuzzies! Or the "tumors."
Plants For All Seasons 249 & Louetta
While we don't have an official GardenLine appearance this weekend, may I suggest you pay a visit to Plants For All Seasons, Highway 249 at Louetta, this Saturday. They are working in conjunction with some well-known names in organic gardening to bring you the first-ever ORGANICA!
They will have a series of one-hour lectures and Q&A sessions with the likes of Mike Serant of Micro Life Fertilizers, John Ferguson of Nature's Way Resources, Dr. Bob Randall from Urban Harvest, and Boomer Cardinale from Natural Industries, makers of Actinovate.
The day-long event will feature refreshments, giveaways, vendor samples, and all kinds of experts hanging around to answer specific questions. Maybe most important, if you show up wearing green and say "GET YOUR GREEN ON," Plants For All Seasons will knock 10 percent off your purchases. Plus, you can check out SynLawn or Strickly Green Grass, that new synthetic turf I just started talking about. It looks pretty darn real, and I'd appreciate your feedback on it and the event.
exclusively on NewsRadio 740 KTRH.
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