In my last post, I mentioned having seen a robin’s pin cushion in the hedgerow, and I was surprised when a couple of people commented that they were not familiar with this phenomenon.
I rather vaguely stated that they are caused by the larvae of a wasp, but here is some more precise information, courtesy of The Wildlife Trusts website:
“The Robin’s Pincushion (also known as the ‘Bedeguar Gall’) is a gall caused by the larvae of a tiny gall wasp, Dipoloepis rosae. It is widespread and common, and can be found developing on the stems of wild roses during late summer, acquiring its reddish colour as it matures in autumn. The grubs inside the gall feed on the host plant throughout the winter and emerge in spring as adults.”
It set me thinking about how I was aware of the robin’s pin cushion, and I can only conclude that it was initially via Beatrix Potter’s book The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. For those who don’t know this story, the eponymous anti-hero is an impertinent squirrel, who messes around in the woods whilst his more industrious cousins gather nuts to see them through the winter. He gets up to various antics, including playing marbles with oak-apples, and ninepins with a crab apple and pine cones. He also gathers robin’s pin cushions, and sticks them full of pine-needle pins.
I won’t spoil the ending, but there is a very sinister owl involved, and Squirrel Nutkin definitely gets his comeuppance.
Of course, all of Beatrix Potter’s illustrations are delightful, but the squirrels in this book are my particular favourites, which is perhaps why it’s the only one of her books that I have kept into adulthood.