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Beetle Poop and Wildfire Recovery

Wildfires have been happening for millions of years, but how does the environment recover from such widespread destruction? The surprising answer: beetle poop.

A Beetle on a Leaf

Photo: nutmeg66 (Flickr)

A Beetle on a Leaf.

Wildfires have been happening for millions of years, but how does the environment recover from such widespread destruction?

The surprising answer: beetle poop.

A specific species of beetle poop actually, coming from the white-spotted sawyer. It’s found all over North America, and lives and lays eggs in dead, burnt out trees. Of course, it also produces waste in areas where trees have died or been destroyed by fire. The droppings are composed of fecal matter and chewed wood shavings. It turns out, that mix is perfect for replenishing soil nutrients lost during forest fires.

However, there’s one problem. In many cases, after a forest fire loggers come in and cart away the dead wood in order to recoup some of the economic losses. Unfortunately, they also remove a lot of deadwood beetles and their droppings before they can enliven the soil. It takes about two years for the beetle to complete its life cycle and produce enough dung build-up to do any good, so loggers should wait at least two years before clearing away the remains of burnt forests.

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