In the Details

Small things are typically overlooked. In stronger words, ignored, forgotten. Small things are often called details. A German born architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) once said, “God is in the details.”

This is about details in nature. A detail is a part. This “detail” of nature is on average 5mm long. Think of the lead on a freshly sharpened pencil. It’s about 5mm long. Our detail has a name; the Golden Rod Gallfly (Eurosta solidagnis). The Latin name enables us to understand how this tiny, magnificent detail of nature lives, and where. Solidago in Latin means Goldenrod. Of course, the common name may work even better: Goldenrod Gallfly. To see this fly, find the goldenrod. It is worth the time it takes to search.

Click on the link to see the fly…



Your search can be comfortable. It needs to happen in late spring. The adult Goldenrod Gallflies can be seen on Goldenrod for only 10-14 days. They have no mouth. They do not eat. Their role in the Gallfly life cycle is the production of the next generation. After mating, they die, role complete. While they are flies and do have wings, they are awkward fliers. Instead of using their wings, they walk. Goldenrod plants spread by rhizomes or roots. That means the Gallflies will find numerous Goldenrod plants in the area from which they emerged. They can walk to find a mate. Males wait at the tips of the Goldenrod for a female to pass near.

Now for the “details.” After mating the female begins egg laying. Detail 1: the female can select the plant best suited to make a safe gall for her eggs by tasting it. She does this with the chemical sensors on her feet and in her antenna. Say it out loud, “I didn’t know that!” Detail 2: Upon hatching the larva begins to eat the Goldenrod plant cells within the stem. We know about saliva. Our mouths water at the sight of food. Goldenrod Gallfly larva have saliva too. It has hormones which mimic plant hormones and cause abnormal growth at the place where the larva is located in the stem. This forms the gall. You know what to say, remember detail 1? Detail 3: By fall the little larva is about 5mm long having molted (shed its skin) twice. It has eaten a hollow chamber in the gall it lives in. Now it chews a tunnel to the outer surface of the gall. It leaves just a skin over the opening. Detail 4:  Now in its 3rd stage winter arrives. Cold temperatures outside the gall cause the glycogen in its body to convert to glycerol and sorbitol. These chemicals work like antifreeze and prevent the death of the larva. This time you can shout, “I didn’t know that!”DSC_0031_1350sig

One more detail…Detail 5: When warm weather returns the fly, larva pupates in the gall. Now there is an adult fly in the gall. Remember the adult fly does not have a mouth? NO problem. The adult fly has a built-in balloon like structure that it can inflate between its eyes. It pushes its way out the tunnel and the balloon break the skin at the surface.

You ‘ve been shouting. “I didn’t know that!” How to respond to detail 5?  Here is my suggestion. Get on your knees. Thank God. Thank Him for HIS incredible power and infinite wisdom.

There is one other thing. It’s really big, huge actually. God is in the details. Not only the details in the life of an insect. God is in the details of your life. He knows you. He knows everything about you. Need proof? God knows the number of hairs on your head. Jesus said, “What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So, don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” You are even more valuable to God than a whole field of Goldenrod Gallflies.

God is in the details. Your details. This is a life changing truth. You can live in it.


Author: davidwellis

What does a grandfather, husband, former public school teacher and Education Specialist for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service with many life experiences in nature do with them? A naturalist with a camera-makes outside a daily destination. My confidence is that God will guide my words, and photos. We live in a magnificent world, come and look at it with me through eyes, lens and words. To God be the glory. Current Profile Photo- Prickly Ash, the name summarizes this brushy undergrowth well. It fascinates me with its thorny branches. Seeing a vine wrapped around the trunk called for a photo.