Cute but Destructive

A couple of days ago, I had to go to Chassahowitzka WMA to mark a particular plant, a Swamp Azalea. I would never have seen this plant unless it was in bloom. It was perfectly hidden among other vegetation, and the only way I found it was because I drove super slow, and looked for stuff ‘out of place,’ and in this case, it was their beautiful white blooms. 

Swamp Azalea

While I was in the area, I checked on another plant-the Yellow Butterwort. When I first took some photos, on the 23rd of February, their flowers were just emerging; a week later, most of them were in full bloom. I counted at least 60 plants and folks that makes me a very happy plant nerd!

Have you ever be so concentrated on photographing something that you are there long enough to be visited by ??????

Well, that happened to me, and it scared the nectar out of me. I was knelling down taking photos of a thistle, and something lands on my shoulder and totally freaked me out! I am not a big fan of picking up things that I have no clue if it will bite, spit or dig into my skin. But with all the massive amount of time I have invested in researching, self-education, and continued education, I felt pretty confident about what it was. Let me introduce you to an incredibly beautiful insect, the Southern Sculptured Pine Borer (Chalcophora georgiana)

This lovely insect is a member of the Metallic Wood Borer family. It’s the largest in its family and quite a showy beetle. However it’s not a favorite insect among timber growers, because it depends on pine trees for its survival.

While the adults are feeding on young buds and leaves (needles) of pine trees, the larvae stage is busy munching furiously to get to that sweet and soft heartwood.  

Females oviposit (a new word I learned- it means to lay eggs.) within the bark’s crevices. Once the larvae develop, they bore until they reach the heartwood. When the larvae cycle is completed, the adults exit through the holes they excavated – ya, those round holes you see in pine trees’ bark.

I have seen these beetles before but never really looked at them. It was incredible. The copper/brass metallic coloration was so intense against the sunlight that it was amazing to see, and when you hold them in your hand, you can feel this weight to it. It went into a protective mode by collapsing its legs tightly against its body. After it knew I was not a threat, it became more relaxed. I took a couple more photos and then gently transferred the beetle to a nearby branch.

I have yet to see or photograph their larvae stage, but unfortunately, those are the bearer or borer of bad news. Bad news for pine trees, as some pines can survive by using their sap healing methods, others have perished. 

Here’s a fun fact.. Did you know that the MCZ Base: The Zoological Collections database = Museum of Comparative Zoology- Harvard University has a mounted Southern Sculpted Pine Borer from 1857 collected by LeConte, ya 1857!

What I would like people to take home from this experience is to know that you never know what or who will find you when you are out exploring nature. Be mindful of those creatures, great or small, that do happen to cross your path because, in some way, that experience may affect you in a personal way. It could be to open your eyes to see the beauty and wonderment of how nature is created or to help you take a moment to breathe and enjoy being in nature.

Thank you for letting me share all my experiences with you.  


Links for further reading

Reevaluation of Chalcophora angulicollis (LeConte) and Chalcophora virginiensis (Drury) with a review and key to the North American species of Chalcophora DeJean (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) (fs.fed.us)

Metallic wood-boring beetles, Florida Chalcophora (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) (ufl.edu)

Woodborer, Metallic Woodboring Beetle (tamu.edu)

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