[Tweeters] A Gnawing Question

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Sat Aug 30 10:11:59 PDT 2014





No, this is not a question about one of our many growing environmental problems. It's just about gnawing.
Walking through the fine forest at Fort Townsend State Park (just south of Port Townsend), I stopped along the trail when I heard a gnawing sound. "Aha!" I thought " a Chickaree!" because there were plenty of Douglas Squirrels around, maybe one was chewing on something.
There was no squirrel, no mountain beaver, no nothing. The forest was very still and quiet so I could hear this gnawing sound clearly - about as loud as a rat chewing through a wood wall (a sound, for better or worse, I have heard before). I looked and looked - nothing. But the sound was right there! A bit difficult to pinpoint. A genuine forest mystery.
A couple of days later I was checking out David George Haskill's blog "Ramble" which is a great nature blog by the excellent author of "The Forest Unseen" and interestingly enough the last entry was about hearing beetle larvae (he assumed them to be some sort of Long-horned beetle) gnawing in a dead pine tree - loud enough to be heard from 12 ft away. I'm sure thinking maybe that's what I heard.
While Mr. Haskill writes from Tennessee mostly, there are some big Long-horned beetles here in the Pacific Northwest. Years ago, working in Stehekin , in the North Cascades, I was reading one hot summer night in my cabin, when I heard a strange sound by the screen door. It turned out to be a couple dozen giant long-horn beetles crawling on the screen - these big beautiful red- brown beetles were two inches long or a bit more, with big gnarly antennae making them look even larger.
What I had heard was the sort of eerie sound they were making, a strange squeaking - it could have made a good soundtrack for one of those horror movies where normal sized insects are soaked in gamma rays or something and, growing ever larger, decide humans are now their favorite food - starting first with the lone guy in the last cabin in town of course.
Those beetles, which I hadn't seen before ( or since) were the California Root Borer, which has really large wood-eatin' grubs. The related Ponderous Borer, also has a big larvae, which according to beetle lore, has jaws that were the inspiration for the design of chainsaw teeth.
Well, don't know for sure if that is what I heard, beetle larva or what. Have any of you naturalist's around here heard such a thing in our local forests? That's my gnawing question.
I went back, after reading Mr. Haskill's account, to check that spot in the forest - didn't hear any gnawing going on.
Jeff Gibsonreporting fromPort Townsend Wa



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