Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Haley Reading Group: “Attack of the Killer Beetles”


[The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2016)]

Cynthia A. Campbell

Maddie Oatman’s article “Attack of the Killer Beetles” highlights bark beetles’ destruction of trees. Oatman illustrates the combined factors that have led to the proliferation of bark beetles and their ability to thrive for longer periods of times. Ultimately, the article speaks to the important issue of climate change.

Oatman’s discussion of how climate change contributes to the destruction of trees was especially enlightening. At one point, Oatman notes that “Prolonged droughts and shorter winters have spurred bark beetles to kill billions of trees” (217). This point indicates climate change has contributed to bark beetles increased devastation of trees.

After reading Oatman’s article, what was one point concerning the characteristics of bark beetles that caught your attention? Why were you most interested in that point? Please provide a page number citation.

61 comments:

J'kolbe Kelly said...

What caught my attention about the about the bark beetles is how wide of an attack range they have. On page 215 Oatmen states,"Bark beetles have chomped 46 million of the country's 850 million acres of forested land, from the Yukon down the spine of the rocky mountains all the way to Mexico. This is almost the length of the united states.

Kenisha Townsend said...

While reading this article, I found it very interesting that it is possible the bark beetles assist in natural selection pertaining to trees (p.219). I found this very interesting because I believe everything in nature occurs for a reason. The world we live in is a complex system that is beautifully designed. Every organism has a special function on this earth whether or not we know of it now. Think of how bees pollinate flowers. Without mankind constantly altering things in the environment, it would be a more beautiful place to live. Therefore, I agree with Six, "I think it's time to stop thinking change and try to hold on to what beauty and function remains."

Asher said...

First off, the whole concept of the bark beetles was so interesting to me, but I think the most interesting thing was they lay their eggs in tunnels (217). And not only that, before they fly away after their eggs hatch, the older beetles spread a certain kind of fungus that turns the tissue of the tree into nutrients for themselves. So, they really do use up their resources in the best way they can.

- Asher Denkyirah

Peyton D. said...

The bottom of page 216 and into 217 was very interesting for me. Bark beetles are a complex part of the ecosystem and have been for a long time without issues. They help ensure the groves don't get overcrowded by utilizing the frail tree to lay eggs. The beetle will give a chemical signal to the other beetles and they dig through the bark of the tree to the sugary layer and lay their eggs there. The most interesting part of this is during this process, the beetles also spread a special fungus in the center of the trunk that allows the tree to be used as a nutrient source. The fungi and beetle have an evolutionary marriage, the fungi lives inside the beetles mouth.

Jaleelah Muhammad said...

What most interested me is at the bottom of page 221 where Six says, "I don't want to change the world. we have changed the world to a point that it is barely recognizable. I think it's time to stop thinking change and try to hold on to what beauty and function remains". I think she's right. God created everything for a reason and they all have a purpose. These beetles could very well be helping the forest in ways that we have yet to understand and they could very well be helping us too. We could end up "outbeetling the beetles"(216); who, then, are we really helping?

Sierra Taylor said...

I really love TED talks and that caught my attention at the end. Her answer to a question asked at TEDx was, "I don't want to change the world. We have changed the world to a point that it is barely recognizable. I think it's time to stop thinking change and try to hold on to what beauty and function remains." This points back to a concept called sustainability which urges that people living now be conscious of how they use the Earth for future generations. The Earth will restore itself when we're gone. Humans are the ones who are responsible for the damage done to the Earth.

Xavier Jefferson said...

One characteristic about the bark beetles that caught my attention is the fact that when a female beetle locates a tree, she emits a chemical signal that tells other beetles in the area to swarm the tree(216). I found this interesting because this method of chemical signaling to attack another organism is used by bees as well when their hive is threatened.

Xavier J.

Aleeya Barrolle said...

After reading Oatman’s article, what caught my attention was that the bark beetles swarm to the female beetle when she finds a frail tree. I was interested in that part because I remember learning about something similar in my biology class. "Together they chew through the bark until they reach the phloem, a cushy resinous layer between the outer bark and the sapwood that carries sugars through the tree" (216).

Aleeya B.

JaLeah M . said...

The most interesting point to me concerning the beetles was how they have structures in their mouths that have evolved to carry certain types of fungi that convert the tree's tissue into nutrients for the bugs (217). This shows how evolution takes a role in the adaptive functioning/nature in organisms. This passage also illustrated just another way of how climate change is negatively affecting parts of nature.

Trevon Bosley said...

What interests me most about this article is the facts that the beetles ,"The insects that have wrought this devastation actually know more than we do about adapting to a changing climate."(218) The beetles only taking down the most fragile trees in nature is an extremely interesting. Also learning of the fight between the beetles and the trees was interesting.

Kelsey W said...

I am still in shock that this chapter was about the issue of bark beetles. Who would have thought that beetles could effect the forests so much? On page 217 it was mentioned that in the span of 12 years these beetles took down enough trees to cover the state of Colorado. That is huge! I'm wondering how many people research these bark beetles and are trying to come up with a solution because I had never even heard of them.

Kyla Tinsley said...

Before reading this piece, I had no idea what bark beetles were. However, after reading, the part that interested me the most was on page 221: "I don't want to change the world. We have changed the world to a point that it is barely recognizable. I think it's time to stop thinking change and try to hold on to what beauty and function remains." The environment has been changed to the point where it's practically unrecognizable in pictures from the past. Perhaps we should stop making changes in order to preserve the little good that's left.

Paris Smith said...

The question at the end of the chapter caught my eye, "I don't want to change the world. We have changed the world to a point that it is barely recognizable. I think it's time to stop thinking change and try to hold on to what beauty and function remains." That statement can be applied to different aspects of the world. We try to always change things because we think that we are making it better, but sometimes we makes things worse. It goes back to that old saying, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality and sometimes we just need to stop trying to change things and just appreciate what we have in our lives and the world that we live in.

Deborrah Blackburn said...

One of the points on page 216 that caught my attention, was that these beetles were actually very important for the environment by preventing groves from overcrowding. It's interesting how climate change can so drastically affect the roles that certain organisms have in an ecosystem. What used to be beneficial could now lead to a significant reduction in the amount of trees in these areas.
Deborrah B.

Aja J said...

One interesting point concerning bark beetles was that the fungi they carry in their mouths create blue-gray streaks in the trees. “Blue-stain pine has become a specialty product, used to make everything from cabins to coffins to iPod cases (217).” I found this fact very interesting because the beetles are actually destroying trees, but by doing that they are also contributing to making other products such as coffins and iPod cases.

Jasmin Smoot said...

I am very shocked that I have not heard any news on this topic until now. On page 217, the author stated that the bark beetles began to make their way to a new species of trees, ones that cannot defend themselves. It’s almost nerve wrecking to know that on top of humans cutting down trees for their own personal use, so are some these insects. It makes you wonder what our future holds for trees.

Mike Dade said...

What caught my attention about the about the bark beetles is how little coverage they've gotten, despite their huge impact on the environment. Oatmen says, "Bark beetles have chomped 46 million of the country's 850 million acres of forested land, from the Yukon down the spine of the rocky mountains all the way to Mexico." (215) You'd think some sort of media outlet would have at least mentioned these beetles by now, especially since they've destroyed so much, but this is my first time even hearing about them and what they do.

Naomi Olsson said...

After reading this passage I was very surprised by all the information. I was not aware of the problem of trees being killed off by beetles. Or that global warming was making it easier for such beetles to survive longer causing more devastation. The part that caught me off guard the most was "they concluded that 'even after millions of dollars and massive efforts, suppression . . . has not effectively been achieved, and ,at best, the rate of mortality of trees was reduced only marginally." this comment was very surprising to me. that after all the efforts that had been made to change the course of events, there wasn't much that was happening.

Jazsmine Towner said...

What caught my attention about the article was the sentence on page 216 that read "Yellowstone's grizzly bears have run out of pinecones to eat because of the beetles". This stuck out to me the most because the beetles can be contributing to the extinction of forest animals and it's also ironic that these small insects are having such a huge impact on our forest. This single sentence made me read more closely because it is amazing how small insects can be destroying an environment so quickly. If the bears can't eat pinecones they could face a more serious crisis with food availability.
-Jazsmine Towner

Jordan R. said...

Before reading this passage i had no idea about bark beetles and their effect on trees and the environment. On page 216 it states "bark beetles have been a key part of conifer ecosystems for ages, ensuring that groves don't get overcrowded". This points to the important work biologist do in taking note in key species like the bark beetles.

Nia Piggott said...

I found this article to be very interesting. I never thought of animals besides humans killing off or being harmful to the environment. A point that stood out to me was on page 217 where it states " A healthy tree can usually beat back invading beetles by developing chemical defense and flooding them out with sticky resistance.Heat and drought impede a tree's ability to fight back. From 2000 to 2012 betteles killed enough tree to cover the entire state of Colorado." These points stood out to me because they showed how much of an impact bettles have had in the killing of trees. This issue can become a really big problem if it is not resolved soon.

Mikaela S said...

One point concerning the characteristics of bark beetles that caught my attention can be found ob page 216. In the passage, the author states,"But Six believes that the blitz on the bugs could backfire in a big way...What i the insects that have wrought this devastation actually know more than we do about adapting to a changing climate?" I am most interested in this point because it is amazing how so many people think that the bark beetles are doing forests such a disservice, but in all actuality they are helping the environment. The intuition of living things is amazing.

Jasmine Williams said...

I was surprised when page 216 states that the United States Forest Service "has launched a beetle offensive, chopping down trees to prevent future infestations." It seems kind of counter-intuitive to destroy trees to prevent the beetles from destroying them. It is also shocking that this issue has been going on for years, and nobody has come up with a solution that actually works.

Jasmine Williams

A. Robinson said...

A part the caught my attention was that these bark beetles, "kill billions of trees in what's likely the largest forest insect outbreak ever recorded, about 10 times the size of past eruptions." This surprises me because it is intriguing and disturbing that these tiny insects can amass such destruction.

Olivia Slater said...

"I don't want to change the world. we have changed the world to a point that it is barely recognizable." (pg. 221)
This was the most thought provoking statement of the passage. The brutal honesty regarding the environment and what man kind has done to it is relevant to everyone. We have all taken part in destroying the ecosystem/environment. We may recycle, become vegetarian, give money to foundations that aid in improving the environment, but we also drive cars, use electricity, etc. Man kind is destroying the earth with little regard for the increasingly nearer catastrophic consequences. This statement perfectly encompasses all of that in to one powerful sentence.

Andre Valentine said...

I was very surprised when on page (217) Oatman said that " From 200 to 2012 bark beetles killed enough trees to cover the entire state of Colorado." That is just crazy. It really shows this problem is something we should pay attention to. If we don't try to fix the increasing rise in climate it could become fatal to many species

-Andre Valentine

Anonymous said...

A point of interest to me is, "Structures in the bark beetles' mouths have evolved to carry certain types of fungi that convert the tree's tissue into nutrients for the bug." I find this interesting because it shows that two different types of living things can live together in a way that allows each other to live and take in nutrients in a way that we as humans wouldn't normally even imagine.

Joshua Jones said...

One interesting point about bark beetles is that they "have been a key par of conifer ecosystems for ages, ensuring that groves don't get overcrowded," on page 216. This is a common functionality of small insects in ecosystems and people overlook it. The bark beetle needs more attention because without them, there would be too many of one species and could eliminate an entire ecosystem, which would affect humans obviously.

Jeremiah T said...

On page 216, Oatman states that "When a female mountain pine beetle locates a frail tree, she emits a chemical signal to her friends, who swarm to her by the hundreds. Together they chew through the bark until they reach the phloem." This was interesting because I didn't know beetles were capable of eating trees and it is kind of unfathomable without seeing it with my own eyes.

Kathryn Hatches said...

In Oatmen's article, she discusses the effect of bark beetles on the environment. She writes, "bark beetles have chomped 46 million of the country's 850 million acres of forested land, from the Yukon down the spine of the Rocky Mountains all the way to Mexico" (Oatmen, 215). I think it's insane that an insect could be so catastrophic to our ecosystem, especially since I always think of humans being the biggest threat to the planet. It also makes me wonder why this isn't getting more news coverage.
-Kathryn Hatches

Natasha said...

Page 215 states, "Bark beetles have chomped 46 million of the country's 850 million acres of forested land." I found this interesting because you don't think of bark beetles as playing much of a role in regard to climate change and deforestation. I assumed they were pretty insignificant until reading this article. It just goes to show how many animals and activities impact climate change that we are unaware of.

Anonymous said...

The most interesting thing that stuck out to me is the symbiotic relationship the beetle has with the fungus it carries (p. 217). It reminds me of all the bacteria we carry in our stomach that helps us break down our food. It's amazing how complex such small creatures can be. It's also sad to think of all of the trees that die to these bugs, but it also important to realize that this is just natural selection at work. The culling of weaker individuals makes the surviving population that much stronger (and possibly less diverse).

-Que'rra Mason

gabby said...


In this short excerpt about black beetles, I was very intrigued by the impact that these beetles have in our environment and in the ecosystem. This led me to wonder why I haven't been aware of these bark eating beetles! Page 217 mentions that these bark beetles are starting to feast on a new species of trees, that can't defend themselves. I thought this was highly interesting because we often hear about humans and how they are damaging forests' by cutting down all the trees, but yet, there is another species that is also damaging our forests.

- Gabby Wimes

Kaelyn Blunt said...

"I don't want to change the world. We have changed the world to a point that it is barely recognizable. I think it's time to stop thinking change and try to hold on to what beauty and function remains" (221). This is the quote that stuck out most to me for obvious reasons. It is true in every sense of the world, no need for examples. However, the most interesting fact about these beetles to me was how easily and quickly these things tear down trees. I once watched something about insects like this in a science class, and one of the things I remember is that they have one of the strongest jaws of all insects. So it is no wonder there are so many trees destroyed by these things. It is just really terrifying to think about the damage these little bugs can do.
Kaelyn Blunt

Crystal Rice said...

One point concerning the characteristics of bark beetles that caught my attention was when the article talked about how they could chop down trees instead of the beetles getting to them. The article says, "...the United States Forest Service,...deal with beetle outbreaks," (216). They believes by "cutting down the trees would help stop the beetle infestation. But the downside is, as entomologist Diana Six said, cutting trees "quite often removes more trees than the beetles would"-effectively out beetling the beetles. All in all this basically is saying that this will eliminate more trees than the bees themselves would which isn't good for the environment in the end. This caught my attention because although it might help with the beetles problem of eating a lot of the trees, it will only make it so many more less trees in the environment.

Crystal R.

Victoria Wright said...

The most interesting point of this article to me is the fact that the trees that these beetles invade can fight back "by deploying chemical defenses and flooding them out with sticky resin" (p. 217). I found this interesting because to think that things that I think are as simple as trees can fight back beetles that are invading them is amazing.


Victoria Wright

Tatyana Curtis said...

What caught my attention while reading Oatman’s article was, "Bark beetles have chomped 46 million of the country's 850 million acres of forested land, from the Yukon down the spine of the rocky mountains all the way to Mexico." (215) I was shocked to see how much destruction the beetles have caused.

Brandon Nichols said...

I find that the politicians willingness to the thinning of forests was the most interesting part to me. It shows the potential corruption that politicians have, who are willing to kill the earth in order provide money for the timber industry. What surprises me is that this type of stuff is allowed. This is something you would see in a movie. Makes me sick to see just how greedy people can be. (220)

Brandon N.

Aliyah Johnson said...

One thing that stood out to me is when it says that "When a female mountain pine beetle locates a frail tree, she emits a chemical signal to her friends, who swarm to her by the hundreds. Together they chew through the tree"(216). it's interesting that the beetles' behavior is similar to predators and prey in the wild. if the prey is weak or sick, the predators will work together to take the prey down.
--Aliyah Johnson

Bianca w said...

One thing that stood out to me was that thin warm weather the bugs thrive(217). Warm weather can make the bugs mature faster and lay more eggs then their babies could mature and lay eggs.This means that more trees could be infested and that would be bad.

Marcus Barnes said...

One thing that caught my attention was the fact that they have had such a major impact on our world and no one really knows about it. They have changed landscapes and not once have I’ve ever even heard of them and that probably goes for many others as well. On page 215, it gives examples of the impact they have had. “Bark beetles have chomped 46 million of the country's 850 million acres of forested land, from the Yukon down the spine of the rocky mountains all the way to Mexico” (215). That is insane to even try to imagine, and it’s outrageous that only very few people even know they exist. You would think with what they have done, everyone would already know about them.

~ Marcus B.

Sandra Yokley said...

One point concerned the characteristics of the bark beetles that caught my attention was the span of their influence yet they are virtually unknown. Their ability to alter landscapes, such as devouring 46 million of 850 million acres of land from the Yukon to Mexixo (page 215). 46 million acres destroyed seems to be something people would notice and make public.

Nyla Gantt said...

The bark beetles were interesting to me, because of the things they do. It's like they are just like other animals and insects who use groups to get information about certain trees, or other organisms. On page 216, I found out that when a female beetle comes upon a tree, she secretes a chemical signal that relays the message "our tree!" To other beetles. This reminds me of the way larger organisms work as well as smaller insects.
- Nyla G.

Anonymous said...

To me it is just absolutely mind boggling hwo much damage these little beetles can do. And for them to contribute to something so disasterous is absolutely crazy. On page 215 it says,"Bark beetles have chomped 46 million of the country's 850 million acres of forested land, from the Yukon down the spine of the rocky mountains all the way to Mexico.” 46 MILLION acres of trees have been destroyed because of these beetles. It just makes me wonder what it is we can do to maybe lower the population or take better oreventive measures when it comes to the trees. Also, the fact that global warming encourages these behaviours is interesting to me.
-Kytela M

Sydney Oats said...

Bark beetles have chomped 46 million of the country's 850 million acres of forested land, from the Yukon down the spine of the rocky mountains all the way to Mexico." (215) Nothing has been done about it because nobody really knows about it which is ridiculous. It's sad that it's been kept tat way because politicians don't really want anyone to know.

Anonymous said...

In the article, the author spoke about the effects that climate has on the trees and the beetles' attack. On page 219 the trees that were adapted to the colder climates had a different success rate than the trees that were adapted to the warmer climates, "this second group mounted a much more successful battle against the bugs"(219). This was interesting to me because I didn't know that the way trees adapt in certain climates also affected the way that the beetles would attack.
-Brandy C

Brianna Reed said...

A characteristic that I found interesting about the pine beetles was how the female beetles locate weaker trees and then through a chemical signal, notifies other beetles who then all flock to the tree to feast on it and then to lay their eggs to produce more beetles(216). It reminds me of the concept of survival of the fittest because in the text it said usually stronger tress can fend off the beetles. I also thought it was interesting that we also profit off of the destructive process because when the hatching beetles produce the fungi and the pine becomes stained with a blue-gray pattern, we use that to make products.

Breanna B. said...

There is undoubtedly a hidden beauty in the story of the bark beetle. While often recognized for their destructive nature, they are not credited for the amazing aspects of their existence. On page 217, it mentions the process of laying eggs and spreading a fungus which breaks down the tree tissue. The nutrients are then available for consumption. This is an ability which allows them to survive and thrive.

Maya Searcy said...

On page 216 where it says "Yellowstone's grizzly bears have run out of pinecones to eat because of the beetles" I found this interesting because bark beetles used to have an important role in the ecosystem, but because of human intervention the bark beetles are now doing more harm than good.

John Kriha said...

After reading Oatman's Article, one characteristic of bark beetles that caught my attention was on page 217 "From 2000 to 2012, bark beetles killed enough trees to cover the entire state of Colorado". This quote shows the devastation impact the beetles have on the environment an unhealthy trees.

Anonymous said...

One characteristic of bark beetles that caught my attention was on page 217 "From 2000 to 2012, bark beetles killed enough trees to cover the entire state of Colorado. It is crazy to think that little bugs can cause such destruction to nature. Humans are destroying the Earth on their own and the beetles are just assissting in the job.
Sydney j.

Donovan Washington said...

One quote that stood out to me after reading Oatman's Article states, "Mountain pine, spruce, pinion ips, and other kinds of bark beetles have chomped 46 million of the country's 850 million acres of forested land". This shows how invasive these beetles are and how they can quickly become a major problem.

- Donovan Washington

Anonymous said...

One point that caught my attention about the characteristics of bark beetles that I found interesting was on page 217. The text states, "Structures in bark beetles' mouths have evolved to carry certain types of fungi that convert the tree's tissue into nutrients for the bug." I think its cool how bark beetles have evolved to be able to do this. This shows how adaptive the beetles are.

Tiera W.

Persephone Cole said...

After reading the passage the part that stood out to me the most was the last paragraph of page 216. It reads "when a female mountain pine beetle locates a frail tree, she emits a chemical signal to her friends... they chew through the bark." I find it interesting and cool how the women specifically are able to signal all of their friends.
The beetles are portrayed as a bad insect who's killing off trees, but it seems as if they are killing trees that were going to die soon anyway. Humans kill trees, whether they are frail or not, by cutting them down daily to make houses, furniture, paper, and other items, so I do not see the issue with the beetles picking frail trees to prey on.

Zaria Whitlock said...

One of the interesting facts I found was on page 215, "Mountain pine, spruce, pinon ips, and other kinds of bark beetles have chomped 46 million of the country's 850 million acres of forested land..." (Oatman p. 215). I found this interesting because this is a significant amount of trees that are being harmed and because trees have such an important role in an ecosystem, it's important that something is done about the beetles harming these trees.

Zaria W.

Cheniya Alston said...

There were a lot of things about the beetles that caught my attention, one of them being how they have taken down enough trees to cover the state of Colorado. Besides that though, there was something that really made me think, the author wrote, "I don't want to change the world. We have changed the world to a point that it is barely recognizable. I think it's time to stop thinking change and try to hold on to what beauty and function remains" (221).
This spoke to me because as human, evolution and development are, partly, what we pride ourselves on. New inventions, discoveries, and products make life easier for us, but are horrible for the environment. And while we "watch our carbon footprints," it doesn't have a fighting chance because there are still so many resources being utilized, which outpace these efforts. This comment made me realize how, in the face of evolution, we also regress in other ways.

Anonymous said...

One point concerning the characteristics of bark beetles that caught my attention was on page 215 where it talks about how bark beetles have chomped 46 million acres of forested land. I don't really think that this is really all that big of a deal considering humans chop down trees to make different things all the time anyway. Besides like it says on page 216 the females locate weak trees. So really they are helping out rather than destroying.
~Tashawna N.

Fiona Hill said...

(215),"Bark beetles have chomped 46 million of the country's 850 million acres of forested land.." The most interesting aspect of this article is how wide spread the range of the bark beetles affect are but no one is talking about them at all. Other ecological/environmental problem such as climate change and the decrease in monarch populations are frequently discussed but I've never even heard of these insects.

Jazmyn Maggitt said...

The passage that stood out to me was, "'I think about what it means to be a tree [...] Trees can't walk. Trees can't run. Tree's can't hide'" (218). Statements like that really make you stop and think and it puts everything in perspective. We all depend on tress for our survival on this planet but yet most of us take it for granted. We just expect them to always be there, never really thinking about what could be happening to them with climate change. These beetles are affecting us in a way most wouldn't even consider and it's because most of the time we aren't faced with the reality of our situation here on Earth.

Xavier Morrison-Wallace said...

I am very interested in the way six thinks. Despite the beetles tearing down trees, she is passionate enough about the beetles to see beyond that. The trees being mostly affected by the beetles are the ones that are better suited for colder conditions. natural selection (219) is evolution in the process. She is seeing these bark beetles are cutting down trees that are not well conditioned for the surrounding environment. On page 219 she questions the method of beetle management. Her thinking also makes me question the purpose of the bark beetles. Of course the beetles must be controlled still, since over population can also harm the trees that are actually suited for the warmer environment.

Bryce Barker said...

On page 219, when the researcher Constance Millar came to find that only the trees that were growing in the 1800s were dying and the ones that started to grow in the 1900s were the ones surviving it was interesting to see notice that the tree were adapting. This showed me that even though trees don't have the ability to move or hide themselves, they can adapt as time moves forward. This is something the bark beetles don't have the luxury of because the bugs can't survive in winter environments. This shows that the trees can protect themselves from beetles as time continues to move forward.