Something akin to Christmas balls are showing up in trees throughout Connecticut, and state officials are warning admirers the festive decorations are actually communities of wasps.
The tan-colored globes are often referred to as “oak apple galls” and can easily be mistaken for fruit, according to Connecticut Fish and Wildlife.
“These little galls are some of the most amazing natural occurrences in our forests that are still not fully understood by scientists,” the department wrote in a June 23 Facebook post.
“They are protective nurseries for tiny wasp larvae that live at the center of it. Galls provide protection, as well as nutrition from the host plant. They are produced by a parent wasp that essentially hijacks leaf tissue at the molecular level to form a self-serving nest instead.”
Wildlife officials shared photos showing one oak tree had more than a dozen of the balls, some hanging in clusters. Holes were found in them, indicating adult wasps had already emerged, the department said.
Officials did not reveal the location of the tree.
“It is truly a marvel of nature and causes little harm to the plant, and the tiny wasps do not harm humans,” the state reported.
The orbs are known to appear between May and June, and the larvae eat their way out, emerging about a month later as adult oak apple gall wasps, according to The Wildlife Trusts.
“Gall wasps won’t sting persons or animals. Their sting isn’t designed for attack, it’s actually simply a tube that lays eggs,” according to .Nature & Garden.
“It can pierce through woody tissue but the wasp won’t use it to defend itself.”