Galls were one of the first things I noticed when I started to explore entomology. I’d see these strange lumps on either the leaves or stems of various plants. Kind naturalists informed me that these were ‘galls,’ but it was a struggle to find accessible information on them.
This book filled part of that need. It’s just 61 pages, so barely scratched the surface when it came to exploring the fascinating world of galls. However, it is the only accessible guide I’ve found, and it packed a lot of information into these pages.
What is a gall?
According to Blanche, The term ‘gall’ refers to any abnormal swelling of plant tissue. These deformities can be on leaves, stems or ﬂower buds of plants—mostly caused by insect activity. Mites, fungi and physical injury can also cause galls.
This guide focuses on the galls caused by insects.
What does the book cover?
A lot of information is condensed into the six short chapters. The introductory chapters focus on gall-inducing insects and their host plants, plus the remarkable adaptations. Blanche discusses the relationship between insect and host plant, the types of insects create galls, and the kinds of host plants that are the insects tend to favour. It explores just how complex the study of galls is. The male and female insect of the same species can look different. The galls also vary depending on where a species is in its life cycle.
There are brief sections dedicated to the wasps, thrips, flies, beetles and moths. I would have liked more information in these sections, however, was impressed with the number of pictures. Despite the brevity, these chapters contain a lot of information. You will likely return to these often as you learn more.
There are chapters dedicated to the enemies of gall-inducing insects; the benefits of such insects and how the insects can have a detrimental effect on both plant and animal life. The benefits chapter focuses strongly on how certain insects can be used for bio-control. Blanche shares examples of overseas locations where native plants have gotten out of control, such as South Africa and Florida.
The whole book is very amateur-friendly, but this is was especially noticeable in the chapter on studying galls. The chapter details how to collect the galls and accurately record any data associated with it. Blanche explores the type of data that is useful to collect and the potential pitfalls of trying to study them. I was very encouraged by it.
Do I recommend it?
Galls are fascinating, and there is so much that is unknown. Life In A Gall is the perfect balance of giving an overview of galls and providing examples of species. This guide doesn’t offer identification tips; however you do get a lot of photos where the specimen is narrowed down to exact species.
Sadly, the book is no longer in print. It is available as a digital copy for around $25. That price point can be off-putting for a digital edition of this size. I recommend seeking the print version at your local library or via a second-hand store.