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Oak leaves in Spring

New oak leaves
New oak leaves

Our native oak trees (Quercus robur, Q. petraea) support the largest number of insect species of any tree species in Britain (1). Oak leaves emerge pristine and tender, but (like most of us!) become tougher and less nutritious as they age! These lovely virgin leaves are gradually colonised by leaf feeders in a regular seasonal pattern: first come the leaf chewing insects such as caterpillars in the Spring, then the sucking insects such as aphids, followed by leaf mining species in the summer; finally galls form on the leaves in late summer and early autumn (2). It’s remarkable that the leaves manage to do their job of photosynthesising for the tree, with all the hundreds of insect and mite species which rely on them for food!

References to classic studies by the late Professor Dick Southwood and co-workers.

1. Kennedy, C. E. J., and T. R. E. Southwood. “The number of species of insects associated with British trees: a re-analysis.” The Journal of Animal Ecology(1984): 455-478.

2. Southwood, T. RICHARD E., et al. “Seasonality abundance, species richness and specificity of the phytophagous guild of insects on oak (Quercus) canopies.” European Journal of Entomology 101.1 (2004): 43-50.

rcannon992 View All

I am a retired entomologist with a background in quarantine pests and invasive invertebrates. I studied zoology at Imperial College (University of London) and did a PhD on the population dynamics of a cereal aphid (Metopolophium dirhodum) in the UK. I spent 5 years with the British Antarctic Survey studing cold hardiness of Antarctic invertebates and 17 years with the Food and Environment Research Agency. My main interests now are natural history, photography, painting and bird watching.

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