Sunday, May 27, 2012

Northeastern Pine Sawyer

Stately and columnar, a grove of red pine, Pinus resinosa, towers over the sands of Presque Isle County, Michigan. Pines  - jack, red, and white - comprise a large and important part of northern Michigan forests. All three are native, and form natural stands, but all species are also planted, such as the grove above. Pines harbor lots of life; everything from Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Pine Warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatches to all manner of interesting insects.

Our party had stopped for lunch at a campground that was liberally grown over with all three native pine species. While eating our lunches, we were pleased when a female Merlin flew over, scolding heartily. It turned out that she had her nest nearby, and off some of us went for a discreet look. Upon our return, I was quite pleased to see that other members of the expedition had captured a most interesting and showy beetle.

It turned out to be a northeastern pine sawyer, Monochamus notatus, which is a wood-borer that specializes in conifers. While this insect can be very common, one doesn't often see them, or at least I don't. So, we took the opportunity to make some photos.

Pine sawyers are not small bugs, and their antennae are impressive by any standard. Much of a pine sawyer's life cycle is spent as a large white grub, chewing its way through the wood of dead or dying pines. I would think that one of these grubs would be a woodpecker's culinary dream, and the beetle larvae are probably an important reason as to why there are so many woodpeckers in these piney woods.


Anonymous said...

So, do these sawyers actually do any permanent damage to trees?

Jason Kessler said...

Funny; most of MY life cycle has been spent as a large white grub. Small world...

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