Seeking guidelines for hatched insect galls on plants

It kinda does. If the distinction is less critical in the case of gall wasps, and the overwhelming practise is counter to the logical/standard approach, then trying to change that behaviour is a huge effort for little reward.


Majority of observations are done in wild, so anyway those numbers will be low, there’re some examples if you look at superfamily level, and galls are much more than one taxonomical group. I see it as a way to say one group worth not caring about rules, while others don’t, we can’t control anything, but we should keep people informed, that’s my opinion, pretty sure observers don’t even know about all this thing.

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But of course, can we be sure it’s less critical enough? Do they develop faster in warmer indoors temp? With altered light levels? With micro vibrations from household appliances triggering earlier emergence… I think it’s better to err on the side of caution, lest we corrupt valuable aspects of the data. And for the sake of an easy and consistent approach across all taxa

@tiwane as we seem to have two very polar positions expressed here, can we get a semi-official guideline clarification from staff? I don’t want to be recommending a practise to other users if it is in fact wrong!

While not specifically asked but I think goes with the original questions, would you we agree that it would be a best practice for observers in iNat to document what they are doing in this situation (i.e. hatching galls & stating whether they used the location/date of gall or raised insect) in the comments (or the like) so if a third party wants to use observation they know what happened and can determine for themselves if it matters for their research/purposes and act accordingly? I think it would be. @murphyslab seems to be doing a good job of that in his observations already. I am curious to see what @tiwane has to say about whether or not to click the “Captive / Cultivated” button in this situation. I see the pros/cons of both sides.

oh, definitely! Any detail added by way of description or comment is gold… even stating the obvious at times can help those that are learning, so totally recommend it. And as you say, if it helps a researcher decide whether an observation fits for their purpose, goal achieved!

I am strong on my position, but yes, I can see why it’s perceived differently. I am happy to hold a different position to others, and just let the vote scenario decide things, but when it’s this polar, I think there is merit to attempting to resolve it, if for no other reason than we be teaching others the “right way” going forward. I would rather be corrected now than find out in 3 years when they release the new onboarding that I was wrong all this time, and have been teaching so many others to do it wrong too!

It was raised that the lion example is an extreme situation, but I think that just proves the point. A lion cub raised to adult in captivity is captive. When released, it would be captive at the place released, and then when encountered a year after release (when it has settled into it’s wild behaviours/routine) it would be wild (or feral?). We have this in New Zealand with endangered birds reared and released under conservation efforts, so it is a good idea to sort out how we should be recording these!

Oh, another example! Birds caught and in hand for banding and then released, would be classed as wild IMO, as it would meet the “brief and inconsequential captivity” criteria that I would consider to be at play here. Once you are spanning a number of days, locations (ie relocating) and in particular a number of life stages (or health levels in cases of nursing injured wildlife back to health) in a captive state, I would think that you have to deem them captive.

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Yes, this is what I meant. See eg:

One more shows up at the family level (the third is casual because it’s missing a pic so I’m not counting it) but it’s still basically unheard of.

For the sake of making the intuition behind my position maybe more clear, I think of taking a gall home and rearing an adult as analogous to something like taking a spore print or making a microscope slide. You’re just adding more diagnostic information about the organism you encountered in the wild. The fact that you have to wait for that emergence to happen under altered conditions is philosophically more similar to applying a stain or dissecting a specimen than to affecting the ecological data relevant to the observation.


An alternative search that I tried yesterday was looking at the observations of the adult Gall Wasps:

It seems that nearly all observations of adult gall wasps are from hatched gall specimens. In other words, it appears to be a normative methodology for those studying galls. So any “scientific data partner” which is focused on galls would probably be “interested in” those observations, per the rationale for using “non-wild” as an exclusionary measrue, as given by iNat’s Help page.


Wild. Although you probably would want to state you purposely set the location to the location of collection, just to make that extra clear. Normally people don’t bother and then I have to mark the observation as “location accurate: no.” (I’m assuming here the plant in question really is a wild plant and not a cultivated thing you picked out of your city landscaping.) I guess it also is worth asking what you mean by “collect.” Did you pick a piece of a plant that is now going to die, or have you propagated the plant and now have it alive and growing at home? If it’s growing at home it’s cultivated now.


Talked about this a bit. I think there can be reasonable arguments for a few different ways of handling these, but we feel that if the galls were reared at home, then an observation of the adults should use the date and location of when they were observed in your house (or wherever they were reared) and marked captive. You can then then add links on each observation to the other observation. If you make a new observation of the reared adults and use the date and location of collection, that information is not necessarily accurate regarding the phenology and conditions of the galls in the wild.

You should probably make a new, captive observation for the reared adults and link to it, but I think you could make an argument that photos of the reared adults represent further evidence of the galls you encountered in the wild, similar to spore prints, etc and can be added to the original observation. Either way, make sure you clearly describe what you’ve done so that anyone wanting to use the data can evaluate it for themselves.


I think part of the problem with situations like these, is that some of us try to apply logical solutions whereas others apply more intuitive solutions. And I don’t mean logical in the sense of “better” or “more correct”, but in the context of a “paper” or theoretical solution quite seperated from real world limitations, and by the intuitive approach I mean one where it more fits the real world influences at play.

This speaking purely from a “logical” perspective and not an intuitive one: Situations involving animal sign are another example of how phenology can be skewed. A bird species that only nests during December, for instance, and the chicks are always fledged and fully adult by, say, April, and then an observation of just a feather that came from a chick but found in August and the observation gets annotated as juvenile, because it is a juvenile feather… The logical argument is that because it affects the phenology graphs negatively (others have defended this as “outliers” that will be accounted for when interpreting the graphs), these observations should be marked in some way to cover that, and to me the logical approach is a DQA of “organism not present”. The juvenile feather is present, but the actual adult bird is not, and the organism is the bird, not the feather. The intuitive way to handle this, however, is to mark the feather juvenile, because we are talking about the feather, not the bird. This was a passionate discussion from quite a while ago, and I don’t think there was ever a concensus either way on that one either.

It’s hoped that clarifications such as this find their way into the new onboarding. But then again, how complicated and overwhelming should that be? The reality is that the world is just a complicated place, and WE find it difficult to learn iNat over a period of years. The very thought of cramming all that I have learnt in 7 years into one onboarding session is scary!

I don’t envy your job, Tony!

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If you spot a den or a gall, the organism may be “present” but you haven’t directly observed it.

Your comment, kiwifergus, brings to mind a modification I have thought about proposing for the “Alive or Dead” line in the “Annotations” section.

I would change the heading to “How Observed (Alive/Dead/Other Evidence)” and add two options to the current (Alive, IDK, Dead) drop-down menu:

  • Observed signs of passage (e.g., prints, feather, feces)
  • Observed residence or nursery (e.g., den, nest, gall, leaf mine)

Would that help?


Speaking again from a logical or theoretical perspective, I see problems with categorising prints, feathers or nests in an annotation covering alive/dead. The later are describing the actual organism, which in virtually all cases of being able to determine alive/dead, the actual organism is present. You could make the argument that a leg bone might be marked as dead, on the assumption that the organism died there, but it could have lost the leg and is still limping around somewhere else… but overwhelmingly, dead/alive means organism is present in the observation. In the case of sign, such as feathers, abandoned nests and tracks, it can be almost overwhelmingly stated that the organism (alive or dead) is NOT present at the time and place of the observation.The sign is literally stating that the organism was here “some other time besides right now”. From a practical perspective, I also see problems… the suggested additions would just be differentiating sub-states of the IDK state… when the IDK state was only added to cater for (all) situations that didn’t resolve to either dead or alive.

Ultimately, I’m not looking for a solution on this at this point in time. It’s been debated at length in the past, and there is no concensus on how it should be handled. My own position was that if the sign was not “fresh” [edit: ie actual organism present within a couple days of observation date], then it would be marked “recent evidence = no”, but it turned out I was wrong in my interpretation of that DQA setting, ie it is for sign that is older than 100 years (ie fossils!).

I’ve only raised it here as a further example of how we can be divided in our positions on what we each deem fairly straightforward issues, and it’s largely due to how we approach from different starting points (logical/practical in these cases).

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