The leaves are slowly trading their chlorophyll for fall colors and the mornings in the valley are creeping toward freezing. Thus begins firewood season, the time to start cleaning up downed logs and branches that have piled up in the grass and thickets along the road. It is also when I start finding more creatures that live in the frass and fungi under the bark.
|Eyes bulge out the side of its head - REK|
It is the largest of the flat bark beetles but measures less than a half inch long. Its flattened body is an advantage when it comes to traveling the tunnels under the bark created by other larval prey. It is bright red including prominent femurs, with black antennae and legs. Its eyes bulge out the sides of its head.
|Note red femurs with black legs - REK|
The larva is also flatbacked. When I peeled back the bark I would get a fleeting glimpse of flat brown insects looking like legless centipedes. They had legs in front and although they were not fast, they disappeared into tunnels before I could focus on them. Finally I was only able to get the slightly blurred picture on the right of one escaping. Fortunately I have Tom Murray's picture to fall back on.
Peeling off some dead bark can expose intriguing patterns of insect larval tunnels. There is a lot more you can learn in Charley Eiseman's book Tracks and Signs of Insects and his Bugtracks blog.
|Animal, vegetable, mineral or other? You decide.|