Description and Biology
The wool sower gall is a distinct and unusual plant growth induced by the secretions of the grubs of a tiny gall wasp, Callirhytis seminator. These wasps are about 1/8 inch long, dark brown, and the abdomen is noticeably flattened from side to side. The grubs are translucent to white, plump, and legless. Their heads are more or less shapeless blobs. The wool sower gall is a “leaf gall” specific to white oak and only occurs in the spring. When the gall is pulled apart, inside are small seed-like structures inside of which the gall wasp grubs develop (the wool sower gall is also called the oak seed gall). Gall wasps have alternation of generations in which one generation develops in one type of gall (leaf gall) and their offspring develop into another type of gall (stem gall). Wasps of each alternate generation are slightly different in size and the galls of each generation are enormously different from the parent's. The wool sower gall may be the leaf gall of this species because of its transient nature. We don't know what the stem gall looks like. If a fresh wool sower gall is held in a plastic bag out of the sun (so it won't get too hot) within a week or three, tiny gall wasps will emerge. These wasps are harmless to people. Fortunately, wool sower galls are hardly ever abundant enough to cause real harm to white oaks.
White oak is the only host for the wool sower gall wasp.
I've never seen this happen, but if the galls are so abundant as to actually damage a tree, the best time to try to control them is in mid-winter when the wasps are laying their eggs or in spring just as the buds are breaking. The eggs hatch just as the new growth emerges in spring. Orthene or some other contact insecticide might give adequate suppression. However, by the time the galls are noticed, it is way too late to control the gall wasps. The grubs are well protected by the amazing gall tissues.
- Galls on Oaks. Frank, S. et al. 2002. Entomology Insect Notes, NC State Extension Publications.
- Species Callirhytis seminator - Wool Sower. Anonymous. 2003 or afterward. Bug Guide. Iowa State University Department of Entomology.
- NC State Extension Plant Pathology Publications
- NC State Horticultural Science Publications
- North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual
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This factsheet has not been peer reviewed.
Publication date: May 10, 2017
Revised: Oct. 23, 2019
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