Friday, May 7, 2010

Boring Beetles aren't so boring: The Banded Alder Borer

Beetles aren't necessarily the most exciting critter to many people. In fact they can give some people the absolute creeps! But some play a positive role in nature and are downright beautiful. Mention the phrase "borer beetles" and usually the reaction isn’t going to be a positive one. Most species of this “long-horned borer” beetle family can cause extensive damage to nature as they bore into live wood. Some of you may recall hearing about the dangerous imported Asian Long-horned Beetle, which devastated mature trees in several Eastern US cities during 1999 and 2000. This caused thousands of trees to be destroyed in Chicago and New York in particular! Harmful boring beetles will attack forest trees including maple, poplar, and alder. They kill the trees by boring large holes through the heartwood of the tree. This in turn causes serious damage to the live tree. Most of these long-horned beetle species which are harmful to trees have the long antennae and long bodies which are characteristic of this family. However, we are fortunate to have a native beetle to our area in this family which actually is beneficial to nature! Introducing: the Banded Alder Borer.
The Banded Alder Borer is very striking as it is 1-1.5 inches long with large black and white striped ("banded") antennae and black and white markings on the body. The antennae are longer than the body! It feeds on alder, ash and other hardwood trees. However, it feeds on the dead or decaying wood of these trees. This in turn is helping with the promotion of the decay of the dead wood in the ecosystem. They lay their eggs on the surface of the tree bark. As the larvae develop they then tunnel inward and later prepare pupal chambers which will be home until the beetle is "born" to life.
Typically you will only see single individuals of them during the summer. Occasionally, however, they are strangely attracted in groups to fresh paint on the sides of buildings during warm/hot weather! Speculation is that a volatile chemical in paint can mimic a certain attracting scent ("pheromone") which draws the beetles to each other. Some painters have returned from a lunch break only to find a number of them unfortunately dead in their open cans of paint. The Banded Alder Borer is the only known beetle that seems to display this potential attraction to freshly painted areas.
Don't expect to come across these lovely beetles very often as they actually are quite uncommon to see. But if you should be lucky enough to see one take a moment to get close and watch it. They do not bite and are not a pest in any way---there is no need for taking any actions to control them!

30 comments:

  1. Hey, I've seen these things! I never pay much attention to bugs; but perhaps after this writeup, I might have found a new fascination!

    ReplyDelete
  2. They are cool, aren't they!? I know what you mean Kim - for all I know about wildlife, or "pretend" that I know, I know virtually nothing about butterflies and insects. It's why I love things tied to photography and outdoors so much living here in the Northwest - I'll never run out of things to learn about!

    I could see you really getting interested in these little things, knowing how much you like to go slowly and look for the small things to photograph along any trail you hike.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That's pretty neat; I'll have to share this with my son!

    ReplyDelete
  4. i found one on my front porch and kept it as a pet because it was a very intresting creature.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I mill maple in Olympia Washington and in the fall they swarm to the logs and fresh cut wood. I had not seen them before and am glad to learn that they are not an invasive.
    Thanks for the info.

    ReplyDelete
  6. That's really interesting David - They are pretty neat creatures. And I just saw one yesterday when clearing away an old maple stump. This time I didn't photograph it as it left by the time I got back. Time to keep eyes open for them again!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm in Kansas and have them in our back yard. We have a lot of dead hedge and pine lying around. Very glad they are non invasive!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Awesome post. I saw one of these in Nevada City and thought it was fake!

    ReplyDelete
  9. My husband and I found three of them in a small wood pile on our property today. Do people collect them? We have one in a jar.

    Rita

    ReplyDelete
  10. I love these little guys. We were in Nevada City, CA and my son found one. He picked it up and walked around the town with it, until we left it in a wooded park.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I had one land in my hair in Victoria this weekend, I thought it was a dragon fly before I saw it then I lifted it out with my hand and it stuck to my finger I shook my hand and off it flew to a window sill across the road.
    We watched it for a while it is very interesting looking.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Found one in nanaimo bc aug 17 down town

    ReplyDelete
  13. Kids through this bug on me, thank you kids.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Just saw one today in Santa Clarita Ca! It was huge! I had never seen one before. It was on the wall outside of a Walmart.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Just saw one today outside my shop. It almost came inside! I took a picture, then it flew away and I screamed like a crazy person. I thought it was gonna attack me. Instead, it flew away gracefully. It was sooooo beautiful in flight! Can't describe it, and I've never seen anything like it.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Landed on a deck in Nanaimo near the beach on July 16, 2014

    ReplyDelete
  17. Just saw six on my maple wood pile in Redmond, WA.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Just caught six after finding them on my neighbor's maple wood pile in Snohomish, WA. Didn't know they weren't invasive, very cool!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Just saw on in our place in chilliwack and it made my 26 year old son scream like a little girl when it landed on him...very cool look beetle...the fifth beatle I think :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Just had an encounter with one in abbotsford, bc. Very interesting beetle.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I just saw one today our was chilling on my leather seat in my 4 runner. We woke up to it just hanging out we decided to catch it in a glass jar to watch it then let it go, and took a couple of pic of this amazing beetle. So glad that that they are not invasive would hate to have to kill something so beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  22. JUST FOUND ONE ON OUR BIRCH TREE IN LOOMIS, WA. WHAT A BEAUTIFUL BEETLE. GLAD TO KNOW MY TREES ARE SAFE !!!!!! GOING TO RELEASE IT ON A PILE OF MAPLE BRANCHES ON A TREE THAT BLEW DOWN RECENTLY.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Just had an encounter with one on the vancouver waterfront. best part of it was seeing how fast my partner was trying to get away from it. glad to know it's not invasive and that it leaves living wood alone

    ReplyDelete
  24. Found one in Pasadena, California. It was on a glass door. They are neat!

    ReplyDelete
  25. My husband just spotted one of these -- we found this article as we tried to look up what kind of beetle it was. Probably only saw it because our apartment building is being painted! Beautiful creature.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I just seen one in my work in Utah

    ReplyDelete
  27. Just saw one on the driveway in Sherman Oaks, CA. Thankfully no fresh paint anywhere around. Beautiful creature.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Sue and Ms Ginger - woofwoofJuly 20, 2016 at 12:54 PM

    My dog and I saw 4 of them yesterday while I was moving some small sections of branches I cut up last year. Took pictures as I was not sure what they were but thought tney might be in the beetle family. There was a pair moving around as if joined together (mating I suppose). They are beautiful little creatures. Glad to hear they aren't a big problem.


    ReplyDelete
  29. I live in Ottawa Ontario Canada. Last year in the fall they covered my whole house . It's now almost mid April.one side of the house where the sun hits is just covered in them . Now we find several in the house everyday. I sure hope they are not eating my home. First time I've ever seen them .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now there are box alder beetles too

      Delete