Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Melanophila


Papilio paris nakaharai
Papilio paris nakahara  
Dear Mr. Saugstad,

I got another question about the fire beetles in the west, for it is almost impossible for you to find them in Taiwan, this humid humid island. From my understanding, animals evolved to survive. Take natural camouflage for instance, some caterpillars can mimic bird droppings or tiny snakes to an unimaginable state. For, the failure of mimicry would mean death to them.

Then, why would Melanophila, this genus of fire beetle, intentionally evolve to be fire loving? For fire are indeed dangerous to most animals. And even though melanophila has an amazing infrared tracking ability, the temperature of burnt ashes could still be high and lethal to them, is that correct?

So, why would they do that? Is it because that their environment had run out of food and resources? So they have to go to extremes or go extinct?

I sincerely wish that this question make sense to you. For my background is actually humanities and I basically know nothing about entomology, or ecology.

Sincerely, Johnnie

Dear Johnnie - The larvae of fire beetles feed under the bark of dead/dying trees, and a forest fire usually results in a large number of such trees. These beetles' ability to detect both the heat from fire as as well as some volatiles found in the smoke from burning trees allows them to home in on this resource before less capable competitors can do so. This article should help you understand this phenomenon: http://tinyurl.com/propzwq

Hope this helps,

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Ed Saugstad


Will accept most questions in general entomology, including those related to medical entomology, taxonomy, ecology, arthropod surveillance, and pest management. If you are requesting a 'mystery bug' identification, PLEASE either attach an image to your question, or post an image on a web page (such as Flickr) so that I can look at it, as verbal descriptions frequently are insufficient for a definitive identification.


21 years in the U.S. Army as a medical entomologist; duties varied from surveillance of pest populations (including mosquitoes, cockroaches, ticks, and stored products pests) to conducting research on mosquito-virus ecological relationships and mosquito faunal studies. Ten years as a civilian analyst for the Department of Defense, primarily on distribution of vector-borne diseases worldwide. Limited experience on surveillance of agricultural insects in North Dakota and Indiana.

Entomological Society of America, West Virginia Entomological Society, Society for Vector Ecology, National Speleological Society, West Virginia Association for Cave Studies.

American Journal of Public Health, Contributions of the American Entomological Institute, Japanese Journal of Sanitary Zoology, Journal of Economic Entomology, Mosquito News, and Mosquito Systematics.

B.S. in entomology from North Dakota State University in 1963, M.S. in entomology from Purdue University in 1967.

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