They Literally Eat Themselves A Home Eating Tunnels Through Rotting Wood, And Later Raising Their Young In These Tunnels. And, If That’S Not Cool Enough, They Feed Their Babies On The Poop They Excrete After Ingesting All That Wood. If Another Male Enters The Tunnel, They Respond By Gnashing Their Mandibles And Making A Squeaking Noise By Rubbing Their Inside Wings Against Their Abdomens. Apparently, Unlike Most Other Insects, The Sounds They Produce Have Nothing To Do With Mating; Even The Larvae Can Make Noise.
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Noisemaking Is The Only Purpose So Far Discovered For The Wings Of The Adults, Who Cannot Fly At All. One Researcher Commented, “No Way Has Been Found To Make Them Use Their Wings. Tossing In The Air And Dropping From Tall Buildings…Have Brought Negative Results.”
If The Beetles Are Lucky Enough To Avoid Discovery By Eager Scientists, They Spend Their Lives Crawling And Chewing. Adults Eat An Amount Equal To One-Third Of Their Body Weight Per Day, Which Would Be Like Me Eating Two Whole, Average-Sized Turkeys And A Ten-Pound Bag Of Potatoes.
In The Spring, The Fertilized Female Prepares A Nest In A Tunnel Lined With Finely Chewed Wood. She Lays Two Bright Red Eggs At A Time Over The Next Few Weeks, Until She Has Laid Between Twenty And Sixty Eggs. These Eventually Turn Dark Green, And The Larvae Hatch In About Sixteen Days And Begin Feeding On The Predigested Pulp (Poop) Right Away. One Experiment Determined That Larvae Excrete Twice Their Own Weight In A Twenty-Four Hour Period. The Adults, Meanwhile, Keep Busy Enlarging The Living Space And Predigesting Pulp For The Larvae. After Seven Weeks, A Larva Is Ready To Pupate And Will Begin Hollowing Out A Depression By Rolling Over And Over, Signalling The Adults To Build A Cocoon Of Mud Or Wood Pulp Around The Fat Grub. After Another Ten To Twelve Days As A Pupa, The Beetle Emerges, But, With A Red Head And White Wing Covers, It Looks Very Different From Its Solidly Black Parents. The Young Beetles Turn Completely Black After A Few Weeks Or Months. An Adult Beetle Will Live At Least Three Years, Probably More.
These Beetles Cannot Live And Feed On Living Wood. Their Preferred Habitat Is A Large, Decomposing Oak Or Hickory Log On The Floor Of A Shady Forest. They Like The Old Growth, Too. The Rotting Logs Retain Moisture, So, Even In A Summer This Dry, The Beetles Were In A Moist Environment. In The Cooler Months, The Decomposing Wood Releases Some Heat, Keeping The Beetles Warm. And, If You Know How Nature Works, It Should Be No Surprise That The Beetle Itself Is The Preferred Habitat Of Another Organism A Tiny Wormlike Nematode. Rarely Is An Adult Beetle Found Without These In Their Gut. The Average Number Of Nematodes Found Per Beetle In One Study Was 471. As Another Researcher Put It: “This Seems Like A Heavy Infestation, But One Has Only To Open A Beetle Or Two To Be Convinced. It Is Very Startling Indeed To Open A Fresh Adult And Observe The Wriggling Mass Of Nematodes In The Body Cavity.” Then, There Are The Mites, Found Under The Wing Covers Of These Beetles, And The Microbes, Found Only In The Gut Of The Mites, And So On. Habitat Creates More Habitat.
I Replaced The Chunk Of Bark I Had Peeled Off And Continued My Walk Through The University Of Trees…And Butterflies…And Beetles. In The Late Afternoon, The Dusk-Singing Cicadas Started Calling Again My Cue To Leave This Splendid University From Which No One Will Ever Graduate.
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