The new life of dead trees


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Also the big black beetles in pine logs and huge millipedes in rotting hardwood, which seem to be feeding on the wood or fungi.


I just want to point out that this has made me want to go on a flippin’ adventure, which is flippin’ fantastic.

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Atomosia puella courtship flight

Laphriinae, a very large and charming group with eighteen species on Crowley’s Ridge. These include nine species in the Genus Laphria, large wonderful mimics of bumble bees, and very popular among entomologists. But some of the other genera are quite tiny. All have in common that they lay their eggs in rotting wood, thus providing their larvae with a rich source of beetle grubs.

Laphria flavicollis laying

In this and the next remarkable pictures by Cheryl, a Laphria flavicollis can be seen ovipositing in a rotten Sweetgum (Liquidamber styracyflua) log. In this picture the oviduct can be seen protruded into a crack in the log

From The Robber Flies of Crowley’s Ridge, Arkansas


Nice linkage, thanks!

I have a “wood digester” pit that contains, among many other things, a large colony of patent leather beetles (Odontotaenius disjunctus). They are exceptionally fond of cherry wood, so I give them the leftovers and occasional offcuts when I’m splitting cherry for the fireplace.

These guys are like friendly little rhinoceroses. They are colonial and tend their young communally. If you sneak up very quietly, you can sometimes hear them talking to each other and to their young inside the logs.


The article misses Inside the rotted log, which can give us beautiful “spalted” wood. Fungus and insects can leave wild colored tracks through the wood. There are insect tracks where they apparently fill in the hole behind them as they move… what a life. Of course, the wood isn’t always in good condition, but it can be fun.

I just finished a coffee table using spalted maple (this and following). I bought a stack of rough-cut wood years ago, and I recently picked 4 pieces and planed them. Oh, look - two bookmatched sets… and now we have a table. My style is clunky, but I just wanted to show off the amazing accidental art.


Our house is surrounded by woods, including logs, stumps, and a couple of makeshift benches in various degrees of decay. Twenty years ago, some of these were so solid that you would need a chainsaw to cut through; now so soft that you can put your finger through the grain, host to lichens, fungus, newts and mice, and a nest of mysterious black bugs that took exception to my dog disturbing their home.

It’s great seeing real-life examples of what I’ve learned in science class way back in grade school.


The marine equivalent is whale fall. Carcasses of dead whales sink to the bottom of the sea where they form communities for marine worms and bottom feeders for upto 50 years.

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Who would have thought there would ever be another dead-tree edition of BoingBoing??

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Many mushrooms from the psilocybe genus grow on wood as well, so fallen trees can be an excellent place to find new friends (and bring them out to make new ones).

One thing I remember from wilderness training: don’t jump over logs while hiking, because you never know what may be on the other side. Of course this article just highlights what I always intuitively knew: logs should be treated with care because they’re homes to some of the coolest stuff you can find.

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