An Unexpected Nature Surprise

Jan and I found ourselves with a lot of time to spend at home this late spring. All of our spring programs had been cancelled. You know we aren’t the type to sit around. We always have a list of things we want to do to improve our property, especially ways to make it more attractive for wildlife, but we don’t always have the time. Since we like to do things ourselves and the time was available this year, we were able to accomplish several big projects. Jan’s recent post ( https://wvbirder.wordpress.com/2020/07/24/bills-spruce-adventure-by-jan-runyan/ ) relates the story of how we removed a large, dying blue spruce in the back yard. This project left dozens of large branches to cut up for firewood.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

I didn’t consider the project finished until I had cut and stacked the spruce logs for fall/winter campfires. And that part of the project led to a real surprise.

Photo (c) Bill Beatty

Most days I walk our trails. Much of what I see and hear is the same from day to day, but sometimes there are surprises — something totally unexpected. Recently I was brought to a halt by some faint, but slightly noticeable, somewhat familiar sounds. Standing still, I turned my head in the direction of the sounds. When I saw where they were coming from I knew right away what was causing them. I had experienced these same sounds years before from the same kind of creature. Smiling, I went to the house and said what Jan hears on a regular basis, “Get your shoes on! There’s something I want to show you!”

We stopped near the stacked spruce logs and I said, “Listen. Do you hear that?” “Yeah, what is it?” Jan asked. We went closer and the sounds became louder, more obvious.

Video (c) Jan Runyan

It was like a squeaky crunching or the snipping sound of scissors or clippers. It wasn’t a loud sound, but loud enough to hear when standing nearby. The piles of fresh tiny wood pieces were a clue, too.

Sometime after I had stacked the spruce firewood, Pine Sawyer Beetles had visited and laid their eggs in the dead wood.

Pine Sawyer Beetle (Monochamus galloprovincialis) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

The eggs hatched and the resulting larvae began burrowing into the logs. Young larvae feed on the inner bark, cambium, and outer sapwood, forming shallow excavations. As they grow older and larger with each larval molt, they start to bore back toward the surface, thus forming a U-shaped tunnel.

Pine Sawyer Beetle larva (Monochamus galloprovincialis) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

The clumps of sawdust and, of course, the constant munching sounds, which can be heard for several week, were clues to the presence of Pine Sawyer Beetles.

Photo (c) Jan Runyan

Now, three weeks later, the chomping is still coming from the woodpile and more firewood is changing to sawdust. This is one of the ways Nature takes care of cleaning her house and changing the solid wood into nutrients for current and future living things.

Pine Sawyer Beetle (Monochamus galloprovincialis) (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

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