Hiking is a great way to get exercise and be at one with nature. During a walk through the woods, you'll see all sorts of wildlife from insects to birds to squirrels and other creatures, and you might spot a type of plant or flower you've never before seen. There's also a chance you see something strange, and one state's Fish and Wildlife Department is trying to bring awareness to one such odd sight.
Connecticut's Fish and Wildlife shared some photos of weird balls they've seen hanging from local trees. In their Facebook post, they wrote, "No, these are not Christmas in July balls hanging from this little oak tree! And, they are are not some kind of fruit produced by the tree. These are referred to as 'oak apple galls,' and they are created by tiny wasps (Family Cynipidae)."
That's right, those orbs are protective nurseries for tiny wasp larvae. The parent wasp injects a leaf with chemicals that mimic plant hormones, but also include eggs that grow the gall. The chemicals then tell the plant to produce nutrition to feed the larvae. In a way, the wasp takes over the leaf tissue on a molecular level to make a nest. Eventually, the larvae is mature enough to eat its way out of the gall and fly off.
According to the department, "These little galls are some of the most amazing natural occurrences in our forests that are still not fully understood by scientists." They also make sure to note, "It is truly a marvel of nature and causes little harm to the plant, and the tiny wasps do not harm humans."
One commenter showed what the orb looks like on the inside and it is even more mysterious.
The orbs show up in late spring and early summer and about now, the larvae are leaving them. As for the wasps, according to Nature & Garden, they don't sting people or animals. In fact, their stinger isn't designed for attacking, rather it is just a tube for laying their eggs.