Posted by: andeek | April 10, 2010

What To Do With Your Wasp Galls

The other day we had a Book Club gathering. We were focusing on Cleopatra. Cleopatra lived a long time ago, right? Back when they couldn’t run to the store to buy pens and paper for their scrolls or log onto the Internet to write their blogs. Anything they wanted to use, they had to make. By hand. We’re talking – HOMESTEADING. Well, not really. I guess we’re talking more about prehistoric uses for native plants. But it’s a similar concept.

This subject really interests me, so I’ve been randomly collecting information about uses of native plants during all our activities. I know, I know. We live in Texas, not Egypt. However, we thought we’d make the parallel to “using what you have available.”

Something that we have a lot of is Wasp Galls. As Texas Master Naturalist,Ernie Lee, likes to put it, “Some wasp had the gall to lay her eggs on a live oak twig, and this is what happened.”

I borrowed that picture from the TX Agriculture Extension Service. You can read all the scientific facts about the bug on their site. I, of course, didn’t take pictures while we were doing it. That was pre-blog.

The metamorphosis is interesting and it’s fun to look for the eggs and larva inside of the galls. But we were on a mission, remember? Making something from the materials available, right? What, you may ask, were we going to make?

Ink. Yep. Good ol’fashioned ink. The kind you’d use to write on your scroll (I know, they used paint, but it’s a similar concept!) or do something like write and sign the Declaration of Independence. We’re talking HISTORY! This stuff goes way back! Okay, not as far back as Cleopatra, but pretty far back. The concept!

You’re interested, right? Because you’ve seen those little round balls with those tiny holes and you’ve wondered what they are (Is it a seed? Oh, come on, it’s got to be a seed!) – little did you know…



  1. Wasp galls
  2. Rusty nail or screw or anything rusty, really
  3. An old pot
  4. Water
  5. A quill pen – or if you don’t have one of those handy from the goose in your backyard, feel free to take a twig and sharpen it with a pencil sharpener – it’s actually better


  1. Crush the wasp galls. We gathered them and covered them with a towel and then hammered like crazy.
  2. Put crushed wasp galls in the pot.
  3. Cover with water.
  4. Add rusty item.
  5. Boil for 30 minutes or longer (the longer you boil, the darker the ink – however, it will boil over if you have a full pot).
  6. Strain and use! (Dip quill or sharpened twig in ink and write – experiment with other writing utensils.)

It was surprisingly easy and fun. I wonder if we should take some wasp galls with us to the Czech Republic and Germany and show our hosts. Seems especially “American,” no?

By the way, we learned this lesson from a class on Natural Dyes at Friedrich Park led by Peggy Spring. Since I couldn’t ever remember the specifics, volunteer, Mr. Rick, kindly reminded us of the process each time we went back. If you live in the area and aren’t familiar with the programs offered at Friedrich Park and Medina Park, you should fix that. Homeschooler? Call their program number and ask to be put on the homeschool workshop list.


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