Monday, March 3, 2014

Beetles and Trees

Saw this beautiful beetle on a tobacco bush leaf at the Gondwana Landcare planting. Of course, just because the little critter was resting on a weed tree doesn't mean that is its preferred food. It is always difficult not to play god and kill voracious insects when they start eating newly planted tree seedlings.

Iridescent Striped Jewel Beetle on Tobacco Bush
by R de Heer

I'm guessing it is a kind of jewel beetle. They lay their eggs deep in new wood. Their larva hatch in the goodness of time and eat their way out to start the cycle all over again. Ruining the timber, some will say. 

I read somewhere there is a specific species of jewel beetle for every species of rainforest tree in Australia. I don't know what this one is or what tree it prefers to use for its larva. 

Like every other creature on Earth, it will have an important part to play in the food-web it exists in. If that beetle species becomes extinct due to human beings playing god without meaning to by spraying  pesticides against wood-borers, by building over habitat, or by causing the weather to change, the food-web containing that beetle is impoverished.

How important can one species of beetle be, I hear the proverbial devil's advocate say.

There's a knock-on effect. Very similar to when a car producer goes broke. It isn't only the 4000 car manufacturing jobs that disappear, but also all the parts manufacturers, nearby lunch bars, and all the rest of the supporting services.   

One species of beetles can be the tip of a pyramid of loss.