How a Half-Inch Beetle Finds Fires 80 Miles Away

Jennifer Frazer in Scientific American:

The fire chaser beetle, as its name implies, spends its life trying to find a forest fire.

Why a creature would choose to enter a situation from which all other forest creatures are enthusiastically attempting to exit is a compelling question of natural history. But it turns out the beetle has a very good reason. Freshly burnt trees are fire chaser beetle baby food. Their onlybaby food.

Fire chaser beetles are thus so hell bent on that objective that they have been known to bite firefighters, mistaking them, perhaps, for unusually squishy and unpleasant-smelling trees.

They have descended on at least one UC Berkeley football game at California Memorial Stadium — rather unfortunately situated in the midst of some recently burnt pine hills — at which an estimated 20,000 cigarettes were being smoked. The beetles’ disappointment on discovering the source of the “fire” was probably only matched by the irritation of the smokers swatting confused beetles attempting to bite their necks and hands.

More here.