February 20, 2009

Long horned beetle

Long horned beetle, La Ceiba, Honduras
Long horned beetle
(maybe Orthomegas cinnamomeum?)

I was so impressed with the long antennas on this beetle. The beetle body was about 2 1/2 inches (6.4 cm.) long and the antennas were about 6" (15.2 cm.). This photo was taken a long time ago. A worker who happened to be here at the time wanted to kill it but I said no.

Later on I looked up this beetle and discovered that maybe I should have let him kill it. It seems that this bug chops down trees, believe it or not! Hacienda Guáquíra has more information about this beetle, in Spanish, but with several photos, including an example of a large branch downed by the bug.

We have had several trees fall down behind our property. It is pretty stunning to hear that loud "craaa-ack!!" and then the slow crash to the ground of a 30-40 foot tree. Many of the trees around us are guarumo (cecropia), a tropical type, very tall and slender with few branches. So tall and close together, in fact, that they sometimes take other trees down with them when they fall. Thankfully there are none of this type close enough to fall on our house!

I couldn't get a good photo of the guarumo tree but Mary in Panama (A neotropical savannah) has some good photos and discussions of the guarumo tree on her blog in My crecropia and Decapitated cecropia.

You might think that a falling tree is a rare occurrence. Not where we live. I've heard two fall last week. Every rainy season, we hear several fall behind our property in the jungle area. I don't often go down to investigate anymore because I've gotten a little more afraid of what snakes might be down there. This is a good example of how knowledge changes your attitude.

Originally I thought that these falling trees were a result of the ground being saturated during the rainy season or a tropical root rot. The ground water doesn't have anywhere to go because the creek behind us is stagnant and doesn't flow anymore thanks to human intervention in the way of construction and destruction. Technically, I suppose it would now be better described as a swamp. :-/

damaged cecropia (guarumo) La Ceiba, HondurasThese are photos of both ends of a large branch which fell a few days ago, when there were no winds or rains as a likely cause. You can see in the photo below that the other end is still alive and healthy looking so I think that this may be that beetle damage.

cecropia (guarumo) La Ceiba, HondurasA couple of years ago when two trees on our property fell and we had a closer look, I thought it may have been the result of an ant infestation. A certain kind of tropical ant does cause destruction like this.

But, maybe the problem is this giant beetle. Or maybe this beetle is more like to only cause the limbs to fall. We hear plenty of that happening, too. Is it now obvious that I have no idea why these trees fall down? ;-)

The loss of a 30-40 foot tree is a sad thing, but it is amazing how quickly they are replaced by another tree in this tropical environment.
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