The first of the Lost Words is Acorn. At this time of year at Belfairs, there are plenty of acorns about; providing a food source for a range of wildlife. Squirrels and corvids caching acorns to come back to through the winter is a familiar autumnal sight in our woods.
However, there are some slightly more unusual animals that feed on acorns too. Many of our oaks here at Belfairs have significant numbers of strangely misshapen acorns. These are Knopper Galls; induced by Knopper Gall Wasps to provide the larvae inside with a safe, nutritious environment for development.
These wasps have an interesting life cycle. They alternate between sexual and asexual generations; the asexual generation develops in the Knopper Galls on native oaks, while the sexual generation develops in galls on Turkey Oak. The Knopper Gall Wasp has therefore only been able to spread to the UK due to the introduction of the non-native Turkey Oak. The species was first recorded in the UK in the 1960s and has now spread across much of the south of the country.