Bugs are our friends – Red Flat Bark Beetle
While walking along a trail at Leesylvania State Park yesterday, a half-inch long, curiously flat bright red insect caught my eye. The Red Flat Bark Beetle, Cucujus clavipes, is typically found under the bark of ash and poplar. Its flat shape allows it to easily move around under bark, and sometimes even into the tunnels of destructive wood borers and bark beetles, which it likes to eat. This is beneficial, as it helps limit wood borer and bark beetle damage to the tree.
The larvae overwinter from North Carolina to as far north as Alaska. Scientists have been studying the Red Flat Bark Beetle to determine how the larvae survive such cold winters. Beetle larvae produce glycerol, an anti-freeze protein, that enables them to survive to temperatures as low as -100C. The concentration of glycerol in larvae in more southerly climates is less than in larvae in Alaska, so the temperature that they can withstand is different. Alaskan larvae have a higher concentration of glycerol because they undergo more dehydration than southern larvae. According to scientists at the University of Alaska’s Institute of Arctic Biology, knowledge of glycerol could be used to create a solution to cool human organs in order to preserve them, to create a non-toxic de-icing solution for aircraft, or a concrete that will set in colder temperatures. For you ice cream lovers out there, it might even be able to be used as an ingredient that could prevent the crystals that form inside an open carton of ice cream.
What a beneficial insect, and it’s pretty too.