I learnt this word the day a mystery wasp hatched out of an Oak Marble gall I’d brought home. Though I thought it must be the gall-causing wasp, it turned out that it was not and could, in fact, have been any one of 29 other species of hymenoptera that can, potentially, make their home in a Marble gall. According to an article I found on the Natural History Museum website (‘Oak-galls in Britain’ by Robin Williams), 21 of those other gall inhabitants are parasitoid (their larvae consume the original gall wasp’s larvae) and 8 are inquiline, which is to say that they are simply ‘exploiting the living space of another’ creature. And the Oxford Dictionary online actually gives the instance of ‘an insect that lays its eggs in a gall produced by another’.
Of course, if I’d been smart and compared the size of the holes in other Marble galls I have to that of the newly emerged creature, I would’ve twigged that they must be quite different. I’m afraid my curiosity then got the better of me and I sliced in half one of the Marble galls I had, which means that the little creatures I exposed will not survive. The larva (and large hole) in the centre is the gall wasp Andricus kollari, and the little larvae and holes are representatives of the other 29 possibilities.
Lesson – and new word – learnt, I have now returned to the wild the other various galls, of several kinds, that I’d brought home thinking they were empty, in case they also have little creatures growing inside them!