While roaming through the woods last week, a fellow bug geek happened across a remarkable predator dashing along the forest floor. The speed and determination of this six-legged runner and the fact that it was discovered under the trees occasioned the name Forest.
Forest belongs to a group of extraordinarily beneficial insects known as ground beetles. Most members of this clan are predators of other insects including pests that eat our crops, shrubs, and trees. The name Fiery Searcher comes from the habit of this beetle to move rapidly through the forest as it searches for prey. On a flat stretch of land, we clocked Forest running at 0.36 miles per hour. This might sound trivial, but this is equivalent to a six foot human running roughly 17 miles per hour just slightly off the world record mark set by Olympic runner Michael Johnson. In addition to being great runners, Fiery Searchers are great climbers. They are strongly arboreal and regularly climb high in trees to locate prey including their favorite victims – caterpillars of gypsy moths, eastern tent caterpillars, and fall webworms we met in previous episodes of Bug of the Week. After munching hapless victims, the Fiery Searcher lays eggs in the soil. These hatch into hungry larvae that also patrol the forest floor and climb trees in search of prey. This beautiful insect hunts mostly at night and is attracted to light. You may be lucky enough to have one appear at your porch lamp. If you are, please be careful while handling it. Their strong jaws can deliver quite a pinch and their other end can emit a rather unpleasant odor.
We thank Paula for spotting Forest and providing the inspiration for this Bug of the Week. To learn more about Fiery Searchers, please visit the following web sites.