Goldenrod Ball Galls Provide Winter Food for Birds
Goldenrod ball galls are formed by the female gall fly in May or June when she lays her eggs on the goldenrod stem. Upon hatching, the larvae eat into the stem where they secrete a chemical that causes the stem to form an abnormal growth. The larvae live and grow there over the summer. In winter, some of them provide food for downy woodpeckers and chickadees. You may be able to find galls that show signs of a bird breaking in and eating the larva inside. This happens around December when other food is growing scarce.
Woodpeckers make a cone-shaped opening in the galls and use their long tongues to extract the grubs. They like to feed near the edge of forests. Chickadees more rarely eat the insects. They make larger messier holes to get to the larva. I believe these holes were made by woodpeckers, but feel free to correct me.
If you want to find these galls for yourself, be patient. First, train your eye to see the round growths on the goldenrod stems. Then make sure you look on all sides of the gall to find the opening. It took me several weeks to find my first one, but then again, I was probably looking too early in the year. Then I found six or more in one day.
Here’s more information about goldenrod galls and winter food for birds.
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?Matthew 6:26
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