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Female Sumac Gall Aphids Leaving Galls & Heading For Moss

9-22-16-red-pouch-gall-20160916_0115The sac-like galls found on Staghorn and Smooth Sumac are anywhere from marble- to ping pong ball-size, and usually become obvious in late summer when they often acquire a rosy pink blush. Inside the thin walls of these galls is one big hollow cavity, teeming with tiny orange woolly aphids (Melaphis rhois) referred to as Sumac Gall Aphids.

In the spring, female aphids lay an egg on the underside of a sumac leaf, causing the plant to form an abnormal growth, or gall, around the egg.   The egg hatches and the aphid reproduces asexually within the gall. Thus, all the aphids inside the gall are identical clones of one another. In late summer or early fall, the winged females fly to patches of moss, where they establish asexually reproducing colonies. At some point these clonal colonies produce males and females which mate and it’s these mated females that fly off to lay eggs on sumac leaves in the spring.

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5 responses

  1. Chris

    This solves a big mystery. I never noticed them before this summer, and I’ve been wondering what they are. Thank you!

    September 23, 2016 at 9:31 am

  2. I found one of these on a walk in our woods and photographed it (inside and out) hoping to discover what it was. Now I know.

    September 23, 2016 at 11:28 am

  3. Fabulous and fascinating, Mary! I find plant galls so interesting.

    September 23, 2016 at 1:49 pm

  4. Edward Parsons

    please change my email to Ed

    September 27, 2016 at 6:10 am

    • I’m afraid WordPress doesn’t let me do that. You will have to stop your current subscription and initiate a new one with your correct email. Sorry I can’t take care of it for you.

      September 27, 2016 at 9:00 am

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