Meet the beetles: The clerid (AKA Thanasimus dubius)


In the red corner…

In an effort to continue the theme of the last “Meet the beetles,” let’s journey back in time once more, to 1899, when Dr. A. D. Hopkins wrote a short account describing the “barkbeetle destroyer.”  He wrote that these “clerids” lay their eggs at the entrances to beetle galleries, and how these eggs hatch to form “minute-active worms” (larvae) that explore the galleries beneath the bark, feasting upon bark beetle eggs and larvae.  There they eat until they are fully-grown, at which point they carve out a chamber for pupation in the outer bark.  All stages spend the winter beneath the bark, and in the spring the adults emerge, following their prey to pine trees nearby, where they sit beneath flakes of outer bark, “awaiting an opportunity to pounce on any barkbeetle that comes near.”

Read more about how a clerid finds and attacks its prey…


A bit of forestry and magic

This is my first short this summer.  It’s a 3.5 minute ramble about a tool that foresters use to measure forest density – the wedge prism.  The prism is a nice intersection of the fields of ecology and physics/engineering, an example of simple ingenuity saving foresters and ecologists plenty of time.  And if we look a little deeper, the principles of prism (or any angle-controlled) scoring shed light on what matters when thinking about how dense a forest is.  I’ll have a little more on this (and the mysteries of basal area math) coming later.

As far as videomaking goes, this project was a exercise in two things:
1) Taking a topic that many would find dull and trying to come at it from an intriguing angle (in terms of story) to make it interesting to a wide audience (hopefully).
2) Working on my animation skills.

As always, I’d love to hear any feedback on the video.

Getting Closer

I recently got some tubes that allow my camera to shoot down the eyepieces of microscopes.  Here is my first try – a closer look at a Southern Pine Beetle:

I had forgotten how fun it is to simply look at things under a microscope.  More to come soon.


Doing Science

We spent yesterday in the field, down in South Jersey, setting up some resin sampling. We attached tubes to both Loblolly and Pitch Pines after removing a small circle of the each tree’s phloem (loosely simulating an insect attack). This is an overly-dramatic compression of the day’s work.

Want to make whatever you’re doing seem a little more exciting than it actually is? Try setting it to a Devotchka song (really great band –
– Music is Twenty-Six Temptations by Devotchka, with the beginning and end of the song overlapping in the middle.

Siege (taking a cliché metaphor far too far)

189 BC, somewhere in present day Greece

The Roman Fulvius Nobilior stands outside the Aetolian colony Ambracia and commands his army to lay siege to the city. But each time the Roman battering rams fell a section of the wall, they are met by a repulsive force of Aetolians erecting a counter wall. After days of struggle, Fulvius opts for a more creative path and orders his men to begin digging. When the Aetolians notice the heaps of soil outside their wall, they commence digging themselves, making a deep trench along the interior of the wall. From the trench they listen. Using brass plates, they detect the faint sound of mining, along and underneath their wall. Where they hear it, they dig tunnels perpendicular to their trench, under the wall.

What’s going to happen next? How does this possibly relate to beetles? Who the hell are the Aetolians? Read on…

Meet the beetles: Southern Pine Beetle

The Southern Pine Beetle is not a new pest.  In 1912 at the Second Annual Convention of the North Carolina Forestry Association, E. B. Mason stood before the convention and said:

I do not think it necessary for me to dwell on the seriousness of the situation in regard to the Southern pine beetle.  There is not a man here who has not seen the appalling amount of dead pine.”

The beetle, he said, had been in the South for at least 40 years already.  Indeed, SPB is native to the southern United States, and has been frustrating pine timber producers for over a hundred years.

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