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Life in a Gall: The Biology and Ecology of Insects that Live in Plant Galls

Life in a Gall: The Biology and Ecology of Insects that Live in Plant Galls

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Life in a Gall: The Biology and Ecology of Insects that Live in Plant Galls

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Jun 4, 2012


What are plant galls and how are they caused? This book introduces the Australian native insects that induce galls on plants and the plant species that host them. It explores the ways the insects have adapted to living part of their lives in the confined spaces of galls, and describes the strategies employed by different insect groups to find a suitable site to induce a gall, obtain food, mate and escape the gall.

Life in a Gall also looks at the predators, parasitoids, inquilines, kleptoparasites and micro-organisms that prey on gall-inducing insects and the ways the insects defend themselves from these enemies. It covers the problems gall-inducing insects can cause for agriculture, forestry and horticulture, and gives examples of several pest species. On the positive side, the book describes the essential services gall-inducing insects provide by pollinating figs, controlling invasive weeds and contributing to indigenous food.

The final chapter provides tips for people who want to collect and study galls, and shows that answering many of the questions still surrounding gall-inducing insects is not restricted to professional scientists but can be achieved by diligent amateurs too.

Jun 4, 2012

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Life in a Gall - Rosalind Blanche





© Rosalind Blanche 2012

All rights reserved. Except under the conditions described in the Australian Copyright Act 1968 and subsequent amendments, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, duplicating or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. Contact CSIRO PUBLISHING for all permission requests.

National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry:

   Blanche, Rosalind.

   Life in a gall : the biology and ecology of insects that live in plant galls / by Rosalind Blanche.

   9780643106437 (pbk.)

   9780643106444 (epdf)

   9780643106451 (epub)

   Includes bibliographical references and index.

   Galls (Botany)

   Gall insects.

   Insect-plant relationships.


Published by


150 Oxford Street (PO Box 1139)

Collingwood VIC 3066


Telephone: +61 3 9662 7666

Local call:  1300 788 000 (Australia only)

Fax:            +61 3 9662 7555

Email:         publishing.sales@csiro.au

Web site:     www.publish.csiro.au

Front cover: Larva, pupa and adult jewel beetle Ethonion leai on Dillwynia hispida.

Back cover: Stem galls of the jewel beetle Ethonion leai on Dillwynia hispida showing the holes where adults have emerged from their galls. Photos: Peter Lang.

Set in Minion Pro 9.5/11

Cover and text design by James Kelly

Typeset by Oryx Publishing Pty Ltd

Printed in China by 1010 Printing International Ltd

CSIRO PUBLISHING publishes and distributes scientific, technical and health science books, magazines and journals from Australia to a worldwide audience and conducts these activities autonomously from the research activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of, and should not be attributed to, the publisher or CSIRO.

Original print edition:

The paper this book is printed on is in accordance with the rules of the Forest Stewardship Council®. The FSC® promotes environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world’s forests.


Preface and acknowledgements


Gall-inducing insects and their host plants

Remarkable adaptations

Enemies of gall-inducing insects

Problems caused by gall-inducing insects

Benefits associated with gall-inducing insects

Studying galls and their insects

Further reading

Glossary of scientific terms


Preface and acknowledgements

Life in a Gall aims to reveal the interesting, and sometimes surprising, facts about Australian gall-inducing insects and the native plant species that host them. It explores the tantalising question of how insects induce plants to form galls and the significance of galls for the gall-inducing insects, their ecological communities and for humans. It also outlines the strategies employed by different insect groups to find a suitable site to induce a gall, adapt to living part of their lives in the confined spaces of a gall, obtain food, mate and escape the gall.

Gall-inducing insects have enemies that prey on them, and the book outlines the various ways in which they defend themselves from these enemies. It highlights the serious problems that gall-inducing insects can cause in home gardens and for horticulture, agriculture, forestry and conservation. It also explains why gall-inducing insects are sometimes able to build up to pest proportions and suggests ways in which outbreaks can be controlled.

But gall-inducing insects do have a positive side. They may benefit human society by providing free ecosystem services such as control of invasive weeds, pollination of figs and production of food.

A final chapter provides tips for people who want to collect and study galls for themselves. It also briefly outlines current scientific research associated with Australian gall-inducing insects – including an unusual research study carried out by primary school children with the help of some scientists. The success of this study demonstrates what can be achieved with a little collaboration!

I have intended Life in a Gall to be a reference guide for interested readers, so the use of scientific terms is kept to a minimum. Most new concepts are introduced using general language followed by the appropriate scientific term in brackets. If at any time you want to check the definition of a scientific word there is a glossary (page 62), which lists relevant scientific terms and their meanings.

I would particularly like to acknowledge the contribution made by the numerous photographers who so generously donated most of the images appearing in this book. No single person could have had the time, or knowledge, to photograph and verify such a diverse array of insect and plant species. Without the input of these photographers this book would never have happened.

In addition, I would like the many people who expressed enthusiasm for the idea of a book about Australian galls to know how extremely encouraging their comments were. I also want to thank my husband, John Ludwig, who, in his usual calm and unassuming way, provided emotional and technical support during the whole of the book’s development. Thanks too to my helpful CSIRO editor, Nick Alexander, and to CSIRO Publishing for agreeing to produce the book.

Rosalind Blanche

Female galls of two different scale insect species of the genus Apiomorpha with two very different appearances – even though they are on the same eucalypt. Photo: Lyn Cook.


At some time in their lives most people have probably noticed strange lumps, bumps or deformities on leaves, stems or flower buds of plants. They may well wonder what causes these unusual growths and how they might affect the plant. Few people realise that many of these deformations, or galls as they are called, are the result of an insect inducing the plant to provide it with a place to live and feed.

The term ‘plant gall’ refers to any abnormal swelling of plant tissue. The swelling may be due to an increase in the size of plant cells (hypertrophy) and/or an increase in the number of cells (hyperplasia). It is important to understand that the gall is formed by the plant in response to the presence of a gall-inducing agent. The gall-inducing agent itself does not build the gall.

Gall induced by a scale insect, Cystococcus pomiformis, on a Corymbia sp. Photo: Emma Woodward.

Leaf pit galls of a psyllid,

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