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A Willow to Call Their Own

Sometimes Pussy Willows have cones. They are not conifers, it’s something the plant does when it is nibbled by a Willow Cone Gall Gnat Midge.

Willow Gnat Midge Cone Gall

In the summer Gall Gnat Midges fly and find young Willow twigs. They lay an egg that hatches a larva that walks to the tip of the twig and does a special nibble. The nibble makes the Willow grow in a special way. The twig would normally grow long and make many leaves along it. But nibbled twigs don’t grow long, although the leaves do grow, just very close together and thicker than usual, so close that they form these cones and as they grow the larva climbs in and the cone closes around them and cradles them. The larva stays there inside the Willow Cone all fall eating the sugars provided by the tree. The cone keeps the larva warm and safe all winter and then in the early spring they pupate, turn to little flies and emerge, fly to find a new twig, lay an egg that hatches and the larva does a special nibble. 

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