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Beetles, From Exotic Fashion Accessories to Dangerous “Fire Bugs”!

by | Aug 24, 2016 | 0 comments

Beetles Comprise One Fifth Of  The 1.5 Million Living Species On Earth. There are more than a quarter million species of beetles in the world and 25,000 identified in North America alone.

Beetles come in a variety of shapes and colors, from firey red “ladybugs” and metallic green fig beetles to lightning beetles that glow in the dark and huge horned beetles resembling a miniature rhinoceros.

The colorful scarb beeJewled Beetlestles,fig beetles and Maquech beetles are used for jewelry . Still other beetles, Beetle and fabric dyesare crushed and boiled to make red food and fabric dyes, while countless others are farmed for their bi-products; sticky secretions known Beetle and candyas sticklac, that are used in the making of shellacs.  This glaze, by the way, is slathered on thousands of products – including candies, chocolates, and fresh waxed fruit, musical instruments and furniture.  Fact: the Lac Bugs that are commonly refered to a beetles, are really not, although they did share a common ancestor millions of years ago. They are scale insects.

But, beware! Beetles have a sinister side and a devastating agenda. Here in Southern California, and elsewhere, throughout the United States, beetle infestations run rampant and are decimating our forests, killing and weakening once healthy and majestic trees of all kinds. It is estimated that beetles chew their way through American forests,  felling as many as 100,000 trees a day.

They’re on the scene, when fire season flares its ugly head, and thousands of acres of forested land explodes in heat, fire and tons of smoke. So the question is, do beetle infestations increase fire risk?  The answer is, Yes!, but they are not the only factor involved.

The magnitude of recent beetle outbreaks and large wildfires has resulted in researchers scrambling to figure out beetle/fire/fuel interactions.

Traditional expForrest fire in Californiaerience suggests that large scale beetle outbreaks alter fuel complexes (the combination of ground, surface, and canopy fuel) resulting in an increased potential for severe fires, from dead and dying trees.  But conversely, fire damage to trees may predispose them to bark beetle attack.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xts0efS_XB4

Climate changes, increased temperatures and drought, have severely stressed natural vegetation and stressed trees, unable to protect themselves, attract  multitudes of hungry beetles.

Bark beetles attack stressed trees by boring holes into the bark, in which to lay their eggs. A normal, healthy tree would be able to fend off attack by oozing pitch (sap) into the holes pushing the beetle out. But drought-stressed trees have a difficult time producing enough pitch to fight off insects. Compounding the problem, beetles release pheromones that attract other beetles. This mass invasion of beetles can quickly overwhelm a tree. Bark beetles are also attracted to freshly cut wood.

Drought + Insect Damage = Dead and Dying trees = “Fire Danger”!

What can you do to decrease fire risk on your property? According to Cal Fire;

  1. Be proactive. Follow defensible space regulations on your property:
  • Remove dead trees, especially around your home.
  • Create 100 feet of “defensible space,” the natural and landscaped area around a structure that has been maintained and designed to reduce fire danger.
  • Maintain healthy trees by thinning overgrown trees and watering as necessary.
  • Plant a diversity of tree species, including drought tolerant and insect resistant species of trees native to the area.

Bark Beetles Native to California include:

The mountain pine beetle, fir engraver beetle, western pine beetle, Jeffrey pine beetle and pine engraver bMountain Pine beetle life cycleeetles, Red Turpentine Beetle, Elm, Cedar and Cypress beetles.





Invasive species, non-native to California:

The elm leaf beetle was accidentally introduced into the U.S. in the 1830s and is now one of the most important urban forest pestPyrrhalta luteola MHNT Profils in California.



The eucalyptus long horn borer, Phoracantha semipunctata, was discovered in Orange County in 1984. In 1995, approximately ten years after the introduction of P. semipunctata, a second cerambycid euclyptus long horn borerspecies, Phoracantha recurva, was found in southern California (Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties) attacking eucalyptus.


Eucalyptus leaf beetle is a new pest of ornamental eucalyptus and was introduced from AEuclyptus Beetleustralia into southern California around 2003. It is not controlled by native parasites or predators


The Golden spotted oak borer was first detected in San Diego County, California in 2004 by the California Department of Food and Agriculture during a survey for exotic woodborers.  Four years later (2008), iGold spotted oak borert was found attacking three species of oak in the Cleveland National Forest in San Diego county: coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia), canyon live oak (Q. chrysolepis), and California black oak (Q. kelloggii).

The Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PSHB) is a new pest in Southern California. This boring beetle, from the group of beetles known as ambrosia beetles, drills into trees and brings with it a pathogenic fungus (FuShot hole borer and damagesarium euwallacea), as well as other fungal species that help it establish colonies. The PSHB attacks many species of trees, including; Box Elder, Castor bean, Avocado, English Oak, California coast live oak, Big leaf maple, Silk tree, Liquidambar, Coral tree, Titoki tree, California sycamore and Blue Palo Verde.

The Asian Long-Horned Beetle (ALB) is native to Asia, where it kills many species of trees, including poplars, maples, elms and mulberriesAsian Long Horned Beetle Picture_1_featured_530wide. These beetles are large, conspicuous insects, readily recognized by their horns or antennae. Detection of this pest has been made in most states in the northeastern portion of the United States as well as in California beginning in 1996.

There really are ” Fire Bugs”!  No, not this one. Fire Bug small

Charcoal beetles, Melanophila consputa, are programmed by mother nature, to Charcoal Beetle large picseek out forest fires for laying their eggs, The beetles enter a fire to mate while it’s still burning and once the flames have subsided, females lay eggs under the bark of burned trees. The larvae depend on the wood of freshly killed trees as food and because they are unable to defend against the living tree’s chemical defenses. This after-fire behavior provides an environment almost predator free.

The beetles locate the next fire by following infrared radiation emitted by the fire. This beetle’s “armpits” contain infrared “smell” sensors.  ECharcoal Beetleach sensor contains a sphere of water that, when heated, expands to press against a receptor under the second pair of legs. This triggers the nervous system,  alerting the beetle to a distant fire. The beetles fly with their second pair of legs raised into the air, exposing the sensors to the distant fire.

The Fire Bug, Pyrrhocoris apterus, are true bugs with vibrant red body and wing coloration . These insects are native to central Europefire bug, but are also found in western Siberia, southwestern Mongolia, India and northwestern China. In 2008, the red fire bug was first discovered in North America in the southeastern area of Salt Lake City, Utah. Their recent appearance in the United States cannot be explained, but likely they were transported on plant material from Europe or Asia.  They are seed eaters and  are found on linden, mallow and lime trees. More information.


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