On my adventure through the yard today, I was looking for the host plant for yesterday’s Atteva aurea. I found a winged elm, (Ulmus alata) with chewed leaves. Could this be evidence of a. aurea?
A couple of squirrels were squablin’ or romancin’ (I’m not sure which) in the back corner of the yard. I watched them scurry around and make a ruckus for a while until my eye was drawn to a branch that was illuminated by the early sunlight. I recognized the wide corky wings, and went in for further inspection of this winged elm. The leaves were not palmate (star-shaped), so I knew it wasn’t a sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), the only other tree around with “wings” on its branches. By the way, I’ve just learned, thank you Google, that atala means winged, or to bear wings.
There were quite a few of these galls on the tree’s branches. Someone mentioned in one of our Louisiana Master Naturalists (Northeast chapter) workshops that galls are made when an insect damages the leaves or bark and there is a chemical reaction that forms the gall. The insect lives in and takes nournishment from them–or so I hear. I’m not sure who made the one in the picture above.
So, I’m looking around the tree and about 6 feet up the tree, there are some caterpillars doing headstands. What the heck?!
What are these strange fuzzy, green non-caterpillars? Well, thank goodness for iNaturalist! These belong to the elm finger gall mite (Aceria parulmi), a very tiny arachnid, that has, for better or worse, made this winged elm it’s home.
So with it’s fingers and it’s wings, I’ll leave it to carry on with it’s business. Maybe tomorrow I’ll run into something else interesting in the hedgerow. Thanks for learning with me!